The Dr. Joseph H. Ladd School

Though the Ladd School is often remembered as a kind of assisted-living facility for youth and adults with developmental disabilities, over a hundred years ago it was better known as a feeble-minded school — an institution more closely resembling a psychiatric hospital and reformatory.


The Ladd School Historical Society

We're a private organization dedicated to researching and documenting the history of the Dr. Joseph H. Ladd Center. Our mission is to fascinate and inspire new generations with knowledge in the hope of informing a more compassionate society.


The Collections

Found, gathered, and carefully cataloged over a period of twenty years, this is the largest collection of Ladd School history and artifacts in the world.

Photographs, 35mm Slides

This collection of nearly 1,000 photographs provides a broad, candid, and intimate look at life behind and beyond the walls of the Ladd School.


Glass Plate Negatives

Captured in film between 1920 and 1924, these are some of the earliest known photographs of the Ladd School in existence.


Rhode Island School for the Feeble-Minded

The last known image and only painting of the original Exeter School for the Feeble-Minded


The Ladd School Historical Society
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The Ladd School Historical Society

Exeter, Rhode Island

Misfits for as Long as They Lived.

At last, the words of those who conspired against them betray the reasons why they were called Exeter Girls.


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More to Discover

Books | Non-Fiction

True stories from the Ladd School

Collections | Historical

Over 2,000 collected materials

History | Learn More

About the Ladd School

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the Ladd School still standing?
Two buildings remain. One building is being used by the state as a storage facility and the other is a substance abuse center.
Can I visit the Ladd School?
We don't own, manage, or govern the property in any way.
Can you help me find my long lost relative?
Probably not, but if you provide a name and dates we'll add them to our list.