Known as the Fairfield State Hospital, it came to exist due to overcrowding the rest of the local hospitals were faced with. Its designer Walter P. Crabtree Sr., an American architect who worked in Connecticut, decided to go with a campus-like facility.
Back in those days, it was a common development theme and so the buildings were given a modified colonial style. What this meant was that the buildings were constructed using the famous red brick. The corner stone for the Fairfield Hills Hospital was laid on June 10, 1931.
All of the buildings on the campus as was commonplace in those days were connected with underground tunnels. At one time the hospital reached its capacity and housed around 4,000 patients spread across the 16 buildings that comprised the hospital.
The hospital buildings were surrounded by 670 acres of land which consisted of large farm meadows and a forest. Besides the underground tunnels, the hospital buildings were also connected by a circular network of roads.
The tunnels they were mostly used to move patients and equipment between the buildings especially in those days when the weather was beyond harsh and patients beyond notorious. In times of need, even corpses were transported through them to the on-campus morgue. Sure enough, once the hospital closed, the tunnels were sealed off to prevent vandals and trespassers.
The first patient to walk over the hospital’s doorstep did so on June 1, 1933, and he came there from Connecticut Valley Hospital. Now in its infancy, the hospital had less than 500 patients and only 3 doctors. As mentioned before by the late 1960s Fairfield Hills housed more than 4,000 patients, 20 doctors, 50 nurses, and 100 assorted other employees.
Just like the rest of the mental asylums in those days, Fairfield State Hospital appeared normal and nothing outside the ordinary. But once someone walks through the front door, this person immediately would become familiarized with the horrors that were quite typical for the asylums of those days.
Horrors like the frontal lobotomy, psychosurgery, hydrotherapy and electric shock therapy were found to be the top rated cures and the perfect way to bring back the mentally ill patient among the healthy population. Not to mention the use of the drugs metrazol and insulin, in addition to patient seclusion.
Understandably enough these techniques resulted in unexplainable deaths and a number of suicides. Rumors of patients being neglected and abused were starting to spread which caused the Fairfield State Hospital’s reputation to decline.
This resulted in fewer patients and the hospital realized that the only solution to this problem was to close shut its doors and work no more. And so it happened on December 8, 1995, when Gov. John Rowland closed Fairfield Hills. All of its patients were transferred to the Connecticut Valley Hospital in Middletown, Connecticut.
The records from Fairfield Hills Hospital were placed in the restricted files section at the Connecticut State Library & Archives and organized in three sections: Patients, 1933-1995 admission and discharge records; Personnel, 1934-1943 records of separation; and Medical Staff Records, 1937-1974 records of birth and deportation, autopsies, and medical examiner cases.
Between the mid-1990s up until 2005 the town of Newtown rented out the first floor of the hospital’s Canaan House to the town’s Board of Education, Planning & Zoning, and Fire Marshall.
During this period the hospital was also used for the filming needs of the director of the $165 million dollar movie Sleepers. There was even a plan to film another movie here named The Madman’s Tale, though production was stopped before anything was filmed on location due to complications with the cast.
Given its abandoned state, it became a magnet for all sorts of thrill seekers, adrenaline junkies, urban explorers, trouble makers, and paranormal investigators.
The majority of the old hospital buildings are now abandoned, though there is a constant construction of new structures on the campus such as the Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Corps. worth $4.5 million that opened on October 11, 2014.