228 High St, Hanson, MA 02341, USA
Owned By: Town of Hanson
A rare glimpse of Hanson’s agricultural past. A half-mile woodland trail leads to a large open meadow. Additional trails on site traverse what was once the location of the Plymouth County Hospital.
Beginning in the 1690s, the Bonney Family and other farmers cleared Hanson’s fields for agriculture. They grew hay, produce and other crops, and grazed their animals in places like this.
In 1920, the Plymouth County Hospital purchased this land and continued its agricultural use, to provide food for its patients. Many outbuildings still exist, and have been repurposed by the town. Portions of the property were leased back to local farmers until 1980. Now they are maintained as open space and wildlife habitat.
A little history: Known as the Hanson Tuberculosis Hospital, the facility was constructed in 1919 as a sanitarium to treat tuberculosis patients from Boston and Plymouth County. When the TB epidemic passed, the institution was given to a more general purpose, and named Plymouth County Hospital. In 1982, its purpose shifted again, providing long-term care to patients with chronic and terminal illness, such as muscular dystrophy. The 68-bed chronic care facility was known as Cranberry Specialty Hospital.
In 1991, all 60 patients were transferred to a new building in Middleborough; the following year, the old hospital was shuttered. The Town of Hanson purchased the property in 1999. Development plans fell through and vandalism and arson became large enough issues that demolition of the main hospital building was required (2017). Design has been approved for the Town of Hanson to reconfigure much of the hospital property into public space, including a playground, a concert pavilion, and the headquarters of the Hanson Historical Society.
In 2020, the Town of Hanson received a MassTrails grant to create a new recreational foot trail here. It will enable to relocation of a section of the Bay Circuit Trail from a busy roadway into a much more welcoming woodland. Future plans include extending this trail to Wampatuck Pond. The adjacent swamp and cranberry reservoir are privately owned. Please respect private property.
Prior to European contact, the Mattakeeset band of the Massachuseuk (or Massachusett) Native American tribe lived for thousands of years in the North River watershed. Their village included most of today’s Pembroke and Hanson as well as parts of Duxbury. The word “Mattakeeset” means “place of many fish.” Wampatuck Pond is named for the Chief Sachem of the Mattakeeset, Josias Wompatuck (also spelled Wampatuck).
To travel between the North River watershed and the Taunton River watershed, the Mattakeeset followed a trail that extended from today’s Indian Head Pond (on Main Street) to Crooker Place and today’s Indian Crossway Conservation Area, through the great Cedar Swamp (today’s Burrage Pond Wildlife Management Area), through today’s Smith-Nawazelski Conservation Area (Elm Street, Hanson) to East Bridgewater and the Taunton River watershed.
Turn away from High Street and look for the water tower. Beside it, to the right, is a paved roadway that leads down a steep hill. Follow the road to the bottom, and then turn left. The road continues for about a half mile, along a fence, bordered by wetlands and forest plus occasional grassy areas. It eventually opens into a large meadow. At about 0.55 miles, you’ll find a small informational sign. The out-and-back trail loops around the perimeter of the meadow. Total distance is 1.2 miles. A few circular green metal hiker signs are posted along the way.
An additional, shorter, trail begins halfway down the hill at the entry point, and extends across the top of a ridge, through the woods. Along the way you’ll find the remains of a house (basically just the hearth and chimney). There are also some paved roads on the property. The stone gate at 132 High Street, and the roadway that passes through it onto the former hospital property are open to the public, but the lands that surround the road are private. Please respect all “private property” signs.
Habitats and Wildlife
This property provides valuable habitat for birds, butterflies and other wildlife. The woods are primarily maple, oak and beech, with some black walnut, sassafras, pine and hemlock. There are several open fields, some cultivated and some currently growing wild.
Wampatuck Pond is nearby. It was created by the damming of Wampatuck Brook (also known as Indian Head Brook) in 1695. Streams and wetlands on this property drain to Wampatuck Pond. Indian Head Brook flows through Wampatuck Pond and eventually into the Indian Head River. It is part of the North & South Rivers watershed.
Historic Site: No
Boat Launch: No
Size: 56 acres
Hours: Dawn to Dusk
Parking: Limited on-site parking at 228 High Street.
Trail Difficulty: Easy, Medium
Boat Ramp: No
ADA Access: Yes
Scenic Views: Yes
Waterbody/Watershed: North & South Rivers watershed