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Mission and History

Brattleboro Retreat History

The Brattleboro Retreat was founded in 1834 by a $10,000 bequest from Anna Hunt Marsh as attested to in her will.

Born in 1769, Anna was the daughter of Jonathan Hunt, one of the first settlers in the 3-corner area that is now comprised of Northfield, MA, Hinsdale, NH, and Vernon, VT. Jonathan Hunt also served a term as Vermont's Lt. Governor.

The Brattleboro Retreat was the first facility for the care of the mentally ill in Vermont, and one of the first ten private psychiatric hospitals in the United States. Each of these institutions, which included, among others, The McLean Asylum in Massachusetts, The Hartford Retreat in Connecticut, and The Friends Asylum in Pennsylvania, followed the example of the York Retreat in York, England, which based its philosophy on the humane treatment people with mental illness. The philosophy, known as moral treatment, was patterned on a Quaker concept that represented a daring departure in the care for the mentally ill and was introduced in the late 1700s by William Tuke.

The basis of Moral treatment was founded on treating patients with dignity and respect in a caring, family-like environment that included meaningful work, cultural pursuits, wholesome nutrition and daily exercise. In support of this philosophy, and to emphasize the healthful benefits of physical and emotional well being, the Retreat pioneered an impressive list of hospital firsts:

  • first continuous patient newspaper
  • first attendant's training course
  • first hospital gymnasium
  • camping programs, swimming pools and bowling alley
  • first self-sufficient dairy farm.


Brattleboro Retreat Mission Statement:

Inspired by the courage of our patients, the Brattleboro Retreat is dedicated to children, adolescents and adults in their pursuit of recovery from mental illness, psychological trauma and addiction. We are committed to excellence in treatment, advocacy, education,research and community service. We provide hope, healing, safety and privacy through a full continuum of medical and holistic services delivered by expert caregivers in a uniquely restorative Vermont setting.