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McLean Hospital (pronounced 'Mc-Lain') is a psychiatric hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, USA. It is noted for its clinical staff expertise and ground-breaking neuroscience research. It is also known for the large number of famous people who have been treated there, including mathematician John Nash, poets Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath and singer-songwriters James Taylor and Ray Charles.
McLean maintains the world's largest neuroscientific and psychiatric research program in a private hospital. It is the largest psychiatric facility of Harvard Medical School, an affiliate of Massachusetts General Hospital and a member of Partners HealthCare, which also owns Brigham and Women's Hospital.
McLean was founded in 1811 in a section of Charlestown, Massachusetts, that is now a part of neighboring Somerville, Massachusetts. Originally named Asylum for the Insane, it was the first institution organized by a cooperation of prominent Bostonians who were concerned about homeless mentally ill persons "abounding on the streets and by-ways in and about Boston." As such, it predates its sibling co-foundation, the Massachusetts General Hospital, by some seven years. It was built around a Charles Bulfinch mansion, which became the hospital's administrative building; most of the other hospital buildings were completed by 1818. The hospital was later given the name The McLean Asylum for the Insane in honor of one of its earliest benefactors, John McLean, who granted it enough money to build several such hospitals at the 1818 cost. A portait of McLean now hangs in the present Administration Building, along with other paintings that were once displayed in the original hospital. In 1892, the facility was renamed McLean Hospital in recognition of broader views on the treatment of mental illness.
In 1895 the campus moved from Charlestown to Waverley Oaks Hill in Belmont, Massachusetts. This was upon the advice of Frederick Law Olmsted, the renowned consulting landscape architect who also conceptualized the Emerald Necklace public spaces of Boston and New York's Central Park. The move was necessitated by changes in Charlestown, including new rail lines and other distracting development. Olmsted, who was eventually treated at McLean, created a therapeutic park landscape around the hospital buildings, which have been on this site ever since.
In the 1990s, facing falling revenue in a changing health care industry, the hospital drafted a plan to sell a percentage of its grounds for development by the Town of Belmont. The sale of the land became the root of a divisive and somewhat baroque political debate in the town during the late 1990s. Ultimately a plan to preserve some of Olmsted's original open space and to allow the town to develop mixed residential and commercial real estate prevailed over a plan to create only high-end residential development. The deal was finalized in 2005 and land development was well underway at the end of the year.
An interesting book on the history of McLean is Alex Beam's Gracefully Insane: Life and Death Inside America's Premier Mental Hospital (ISBN 1891620754). Some memoirs of time spent within McLean's walls include Sylvia Plath's novel The Bell Jar and Susanna Kaysen's Girl, Interrupted (ISBN 0679746048), which was made into a movie starring Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie. The 1994 Under Observation: Life Inside A Mental Hospital (ISBN 0140251472, ISBN 039563413X) by Lisa Berger and Alexander Vuckovic uses some fictional techniques (composite characters, etc.) to describe some of the typical events at Mclean. "Poems of Boston and Beyond: From the Back Bay to the Back Ward," ( ISBN 0967813123) ( Ibbetson St. Press 1998) by Doug Holder, partly deals with the poet's experience as a worker on the inpatient wards. It was a pick of the month by The Small Press Review.
Facts About the Hospital
- McLean ranks among the top 15 hospitals worldwide receiving National Institutes of Health grant support.
- It is home to the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center, the largest "brain bank" in the world.
- The hospital developed and implemented national health screenings for alcohol, depression and memory disorders.
- Musician James Taylor
- Musician Ray Charles
- Landscape Architect Frederick Law Olmstead
- Poet Anne Sexton
- Poet Robert Lowell
- Poet Sylvia Plath
- Mathematician John Nash
- Writer Susanna Kaysen