Fort Devens Museum

Redevelopment Claims Hospital Sites

Conclusion of three-part series

By C. David Gordon,
Copyright Nashoba Publications

DEVENS — Two sections of the former Lovell General Hospital (LGH) have disappeared and the third section exists but under entirely different circumstances from those in the 1940s and 1950s.

Once the location of LGH North, the road off Shirley's Front Street leading between the town's new library and new middle school today may cause people unfamiliar with Devens history to wonder why it's called Hospital Road.

Early photo of Camp devens hospital before it became Fort Devens in the 30's.

LGH North would have been on your left, set in the broad flat space beside Front Street. Prior to the base closure, the open space bordering Front Street became soccer fields. In the background was the Army's Shirley Housing Area (on one map of the base also named Harvard Devens Housing), which was also built at least I part on former hospital land.

Today, the housing area is abandoned. What may well have been the in ground swimming pool that graced the hospital turned into the pool that Army housing area families enjoyed as their own each summer. Now, for safety's sake, the pool has been filled in while pool buildings remain intact.

The remains of Perimeter Road, which ringed the housing area, provide some indication of the hospital's size with its 50 buildings that once were sited mostly within the road's confines.

Soil tests prior to excavation for Shirley Middle Schools construction indicated that asbestos used in buildings and along pipes between hospital buildings was in the soil. This required that soil around the immediate construction site be removed and placed in a new state-of-the-art consolidated landfill on a site once used by the former Devens Golf Course. The Army paid at lest $500,000 for this cleanup.

When LGH South was demolished, building materials and construction debris were pushed over a banking from the former hospital and into the floodplain of the Nashua River. This material, some 35,000 cubic yards of debris also had to be removed and taken to the new Devens landfill.

New Station Hospital, Fort Devens, Massachusetts

LGH South was built on a flat area at about the same elevation as LGH North. Traveling along Hospital Road toward the bridge over the Nashua River, drivers move down in incline. Lovell Street on the right continues descending, crosses a tributary to the Nashua River and climbs back to the flat ground that once held this section of the hospital.

Before the base closed, this flat area, divested of its 55 hospital buildings, included the Nashoba Trailer Park for some soldiers' families. Here, the Army built one or more of its last buildings before base closure for the Intelligence School. The Devens Reserve Forces Training Area still uses these buildings.

Some indication of the extent of LGH South could have been gained from traveling around what amounted to the perimeter roadway in the area - down Lovell street, right onto Hoff Street, another right turn onto Gorgas Street, and again a 90-degree turn onto Carroll Street to return to Lovell. Now, however, the Army's perimeter fence surrounding its facilities prevents this.

The buildings for LGH East are, by contrast, fully intact. Area people, however, have known these buildings as the classroom area headquarters of the Devens Army Intelligence School. Buildings in this quadrangle form the nucleus of the Vicksburg Square Historic District.

Revere Hall, on Buena Vista Street, has since become the Devens Commerce Center. It is the Devens headquarters of MassDevelopment. Once the new office building at the Devens Common is built MassDevelopment plans to move its office there.

To put all four of the LGH East buildings, totaling 40,000 square feet of space, in to usable state will require installing completely new mechanical systems and adding elevators as a minimum. They have been the hardest real estate items to market for redevelopment.