Walter E. Fernald Developmental Center

Architectural Drawing

A National Register Historic District, The Walter E. Fernald Developmental Center is the site of the oldest institution for the treatment and care of individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities in the Western Hemisphere. Opened in Boston in 1848, the school moved to Waltham in 1887 under the direction of resident Superintendent Walter E. Fernald. The school expanded steadily over the next century, reaching a population of over 7,000 residents and staff in 1970. During that time, patient advocates and families formed the Fernald League, which pushed for substantial reform at the institution, ultimately leading to its closure in 2014.

 A campus of over 196 acres, the property is one of largest National Register Historic Districts in the United States, with over 75 buildings, many of which retain their original exterior features, and were designed by noted architects William G. Preston and later, Clarence Hoyt. Purchased by the City of Waltham, the property is currently undergoing extensive historic documentation and planning.