Butler Hospital celebrates 175th anniversary

PROVIDENCE – As Butler Hospital celebrates its 175th anniversary this month, the facility is also looking back on its history.

Founded in 1844, Butler is the oldest hospital in Rhode Island, as well as the state’s sole nonprofit freestanding psychiatric hospital.

No public events are planned in December, but Butler’s CEO and president, Mary E. Marran, says the milestone is important to her staff.

“Through the hard work and dedication of the caregivers before us, Butler Hospital has become and remains a leader in behavioral health care. Butler has always been and remains a safe place where people can come to receive treatment in a compassionate environment,” Marran said. “Our anniversary holds a near and dear place in Rhode Island history, a history steeped in the health and wellness of mind, body and spirit for all our patients.”

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Built for $89,000 on land purchased for $6,000, the hospital originally encompassed 100,000 square feet. The current facility, made up of 35 buildings, spreads across 110 acres and still makes use of several of the red-brick structures original to the hospital.

Dr. Isaac Ray, Butler’s first superintendent, helped build the framework of the hospital’s reputation for compassionate treatment of the mentally ill by adhering to reformed practices in psychiatry.

Butler Hospital is affiliated with the Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University. Its clinical research trials are a source of information for potential treatments for brain-based diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, addictions, anxiety and depression, and movement disorders.

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