A State Hospital Farm


The Arboretum is currently composed of 224 acres of land with a long history of farming use. In the early 1800s, this area was owned by several neighboring farms.
 
From 1835 to 1905, the State Hospital (now Riverview Psychiatric Center) purchased and consolidated these farms. For more than a century, the hospital farm provided crops and livestock as well as occupational therapy and exercise for hospital patients.
 
During the 1890s as part of the belief in "moral treatment" of psychiatric patients, it was considered desirable for patients to benefit from being outdoors and involved in farming activities.  The thinking being that this led to a cure and good health.
 
The history of the old State Hospital Farm can be seen throughout the 224 acres which now make up the Viles Arboretum. At the top of the Hosta Collection trail, you can see the valve station used for controlling water flow from the earthern cistern (now the pavillion) to the hospital below. The granite quarry just beyond the Rock Garden is one of the areas where granite was cut from a quarry deposit and used for various projects including foundations.  A network of ponds, canals and other earthen structures can also be observed at various locations on the Arboretum property.
 
The historic reports to the Maine State Legislature are quite interesting to read.  These annual reports track the rise and fall of this amazing undertaking and they are quite entertaining.  One can easily read the politics of the times in these reports as the writers attempt to put a rosy picture on things in terms of results and income.
 
The picture here depicts the old piggery which burned down.  One can see the remains of the stalls along the trail which takes visitors to the bridge at Viles Pond.