POST # 34 – HILLSIDE HALL, MANSFIELD DEPOT
This building was erected and donated to the community by Edwin Reynolds for use as a meeting place and social hall. It was dedicated on December 17, 1892. It stood at the northwest corner of what is now the intersection of Route 44 and Route 32. Over the next 24 years, Hillside Hall served as a venue for meetings, amateur theatricals, dances and other entertainments.
In 1909, the Connecticut Colony for Epileptics was established by an act of the General Assembly. At that time, it was believed that people with epilepsy should be segregated in a “colony” where their daily lives would be carefully regulated. Edwin Reynolds’ 200-acre Rock Spring Farm in Mansfield was acquired for the colony site. Kitchen facilities and two ward buildings, each with 40 beds, were completed in 1914 and quickly filled with patients.
By 1915, both the Connecticut Colony for Epileptics in Mansfield and the Connecticut Training School for the Feeble-minded in Lakeville and were filled beyond capacity. After studying the problem, it was determined that merging the two institutions would be the most economical solution. Plans were made to relocate the Lakeville school to the Colony’s site in Mansfield where there would be more space for future expansion.
The Legislature appropriated $200,000 for the construction of new wards and other buildings at the Mansfield site. On May 17, 1917, the General Assembly voted to merge the two institutions, forming the Mansfield State Training School and Hospital.
While waiting for the completion of the new wards, a group of male patients transferred from the Lakeville school were temporarily housed in Hillside Hall. Early in the morning of January 3, 1918, a chimney fire erupted. The 20 male patients and 6 attendants housed there were safely evacuated, but the building was a total loss. Mansfield’s social life was dealt a significant blow with the loss of Hillside Hall.