Campus & Community

McLean strives to preserve historic structures

3 min read

In an effort to preserve a number of significant buildings in its plan to develop a portion of its land, McLean Hospital in Belmont is offering five 19th and 20th century cottages to parties who will pay the expenses to relocate them off its grounds.

McLean, one of the country’s oldest psychiatric hospitals, is making the offer in an attempt to preserve the buildings as it moves forward in a collaborative plan with the town of Belmont. The plan would result in the development of approximately 50 of the 238 acres of the McLean campus, the permanent preservation of more than 100 acres of public open space, a new town cemetery, and affordable housing.

The well-kept brick buildings date back to the 1890s and early 1920s, and were designed by leading architects of the time as residences for McLean patients and their families. The cottages, commissioned by patient families, were among the first to be built at a U.S. psychiatric hospital, providing a homelike, rather than an institutional, atmosphere for patients.

“We hope to preserve the historic value of these buildings and encourage serious parties to step forward,” said Michele Gougeon, executive vice president and chief operating officer for McLean Hospital.

The estimated cost to relocate each of the buildings from the McLean property is approximately $800,000 to $1 million per building, with more expense if the distance is great, Gougeon said.

The McLean Land Development Plan, begun with the town of Belmont in 1996 and approved by Belmont Town Meeting and by voters in a special referendum in 1999, will include construction of clustered residential housing, a senior community, and a research and development office facility on three separate parcels of land.

A Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) signed by McLean and the town includes a Historic Preservation Agreement that calls for the protection and preservation of significant historical buildings, landscapes, and landscape elements throughout the campus. As part of this agreement, the Belmont Historic Commission nominated the McLean campus to the National Register of Historic Places. The nomination, approved by the Massachusetts Historic Commission, now rests with the National Park Service in Washington, D.C.

“The effort to save these buildings, all of which are included in the National Register nomination, is one more step in the joint public/private initiative that has succeeded in preserving the vast majority of the historic resources that are present on the McLean campus,” said Richard Cheek, co-chair of the Belmont Historic District Commission.

McLean Hospital is the largest psychiatric teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School and maintains the largest research program of any private psychiatric hospital in the nation. For more information, visit the Web site at