Ladd School in Rhode Island – Abandoned Exeter – School of the Feeble Minded

Founded in 1908 as The Rhode Island School for the Feeble-Minded (later changed to the Exeter School, and finally known as the Ladd School) is located on Gaspee Road, Exeter, Rhode Island.

From 1908 until 1920 it was the Rhode Island School for the Feeble Minded. It was originally intended to take in people with disabilities and train them to do farm work and mechanical trades. Though Dr. Walter Fernald, the institutions forefather, was a eugenicist whose goal was to segregate the ‘feeble-minded’ from mass population and cleanse society of ‘defective’ genes.

In 1916 the superintendent of the Rhode Island School, Dr. Joseph Ladd, changed the name to the Exeter School, to abate the public’s dislike of the term feeble-minded.

From the 1920’s to the 1940’s it became more like a penal or custodial institution, segregating its populace from free society. This practice was directed upon individuals who committed petty crimes or no crimes at all, especially women. Women accused of these ‘immoral practices’ including prostitution, extra-marital intercourse, sodomy, and ‘illegitimate’ pregnancy were confined to Exeter until menopause or natural death, some even being forcefully sterilized.

Things continued to become worse until finally in 1955 a 20 year old ward of the state was implicated in the murder of a severely disabled child. At this occurrence Dr. Ladd quickly resigned.

In 1956, Dr. John Smith took over and in 1958 changed the name of the school to the Dr. Joseph H. Ladd School. Though things could never look up, for the next 20 years citizen advocacy groups and employees took to picketing outside the school doors. In 1977 things took a turn as a report of disturbing health violations at the dental clinic of the school were leaked. This lead to an investigation of the school and its hospital which showed a whole multitude of human and health violations and several deaths due to medical malpractice and negligence. Shortly after, Dr. John Smith was fired.

From 1977 until 1993 the patients of the Ladd School were slowly removed from the facility, especially with the rise of the de-institutionalization movement. After countless years of what may have been an uncivilized era the Ladd School shut their doors in 1993. It has been abandoned since.

There are several books that have mentions of the Ladd School on Amazon.

Where is the abandoned Ladd School in Rhode Island located? You can find the Ladd School with these coordinates. 41.556669,-71.542819.

Images from Bing and Google Maps.

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