I know online petitions aren’t as effective as contacting New Jersey’s Governor and Treasurer directly by writing letters or through some other medium—please do that too—but signing the petition will still help build support for the building and it will only take a minute of your time.
Many years ago (more than I care to count), when I first learned about Danvers State Hospital, there weren’t really that many good web pages about it. One of those few quality pages was hosted at danverslibrary.org, the website of the Danvers Archival Center at the Peabody Institute Library. It didn’t have that much information though, and only a few small images. I would still visit the page every so often to look at the pictures and see if there was anything new added, but there never was. I gave up checking on it several years ago.
The other day I discovered the page has been completely overhauled with lots of new text and some really breathtaking photographs, including one of the most beautiful exterior images of Danvers I’ve ever seen. Go take a look, you won’t be disappointed. (Make sure you scroll down to the last major section of the page to see the exterior picture I’m talking about.)
It’s been announced in the press that New Jersey plans to demolish the historic Greystone Kirkbride in spite of receiving six respectable proposals for redevelopment. According to the state, all six proposals left a ”funding gap” of $11 million to $25 million. Since the state is unwilling to spend any money on redevelopment, they claim the proposals aren’t viable.
However, at least two organizations who submitted proposals argue they would not require any assistance: Green Center Acres and Auto Mart, Inc. (the company behind the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, WV).
The process of demolition could begin as early as spring 2014.
Preserve Greystone is vowing to fight the state’s decision. Right now, I’m not sure exactly what people should do to help them. I’ve asked them for the latest information and I’m still waiting to hear back. For the time being, you can like their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter and check out their existing suggestions at preservegreystone.org/support.html. If I find out anything new, I’ll post about it.
Another option I highly recommend (especially for New Jersey residents) is to call or write to both the Governor and Treasurer and let them know the Kirkbride should be saved.
NJ Governor Chris Christie
Office of the Governor
PO Box 001
Trenton, NJ 08625
NJ Treasurer Andrew P. Sidamon-Eristoff
Department of the Treasury
P. O. Box 002
Trenton, NJ 08625-0002
Learn more about this story by following the links below.
Image copyright 1992 Roger Farrington. Courtesy of panopticongallery.com. Used with permission.
In case you missed it on the Danvers State Hospital Facebook page, there’s a small collection of photos of the hospital from 1992 by Roger Farrington available here: Panopticon Gallery: Roger Farrington. Roger Farrington is a professional photographer who was hired by the state to document the closing of the hospital. The photos available at the Panopticon Gallery site are from very soon after the hospital was vacated for good in 1992. Check them out. You won’t be disappointed.
Christian VanAntwerpen had an idea recently to photograph “every inch” of the Fergus Falls, Minnesota, Kirkbride for posterity, and is now working to make his idea a reality. Christian has gathered a group of about forty photographers and cinematographers who plan to photograph the entire building together this year. The end result will be an interactive website that’ll allow anybody anywhere in the world to explore every corner of the Fergus Falls Kirk.
Such an ambitious project will undoubtedly cost a bit of money, so the group set up a Fundrazr page to help offset the cost. Please take a few minutes to check it out and consider making a donation: Help Us Completely Photograph the Fergus Falls RTC »
John Gray is publishing a new edition of his Abandoned Asylums of New England photography book. The original version was self-published and came out a little over ten years ago. This new hardcover version is 220 pages and includes lots more high-quality photos in both black and white and color. It’s being published in connection with the Museum of disABILITY History who provides the text. From the publisher:
“Abandoned Asylums of New England offers the work of photographer John Gray, who has captured the final throes of the once majestic monuments of medical treatment. This photographic journey into the world of urban exploration documents the state of some of New England’s storied temples of control, treatment, and rehabilitation of individuals with disabling conditions. The Museum of disABILITY History provides a historical context for these asylums that heightens the degree of entropy into which these feats of architectural grandeur have fallen. From the gigantic Kirkbride campuses to the airy tuberculosis hospitals, Gray’s photography reveals through its compositions the poignant echoes of the lives lived, and sometimes lost, at these disappearing asylums.”
Ohio University (current owner of the former Athens State Hospital site now known as The Ridges) is set to tear down an historic building at the site next month. Read more about it here: Ridges TB Ward to Be Razed Next Month Despite Historical Society Efforts to Save It. Although the structure being demolished isn’t the Kirkbride, the article also mentions the university’s plans to tear down most of the Kirkbride building’s wings in the future. See this diagram for what will be destroyed: Plans for The Ridges.
The Athens County Historical Society and Museum is trying to get the school to preserve the remaining buildings at The Ridges, including the Kirkbride. To help them, please sign the online petition. Also please consider contacting the university’s president and board of trustees directly.
A friend of mine recently posted photos from a Soundgarden show on Instagram. She was excited to see photos of the Hudson River State Hospital Kirkbride appear on the screen behind the band while they played their new song Been Away Too Long. It turns out the building also makes a cameo in the song’s video. See above. Note that only exterior images of the Kirkbride appear. The interior scenes take place within a completely different building, probably not even on the former Hudson River State Hospital campus.
I like the fact that the Kirkbride’s being exposed to a lot of people who probably don’t already know about it. It’s too bad it’s in such a ruinous state, but I suppose that fits the theme of the video, so it probably wouldn’t have happened any other way.
Colliers International has launched a website as part of their campaign to find a developer for the Fergus Falls Kirkbride: Historic Campus Opportunity. It’ll be interesting to see if Colliers is successful. I believe it’s the first time a Kirkbride has been the subject of such a large scale marketing campaign. Hopefully it’ll result in the right developer finding out about the property and saving it.
If you own a website, or even just a Facebook page, please consider spreading the word by linking to the site.
The New York Times published an article Tuesday about John Archer’s eclectic house in Danvers, Massachusetts: Scrap Mansion. For those who don’t know, John Archer probably did more than anyone to try keeping the Danvers State Hospital Kirkbride intact. Though his mission to preserve the entire Kirkbride wasn’t ultimately successful, Mr. Archer was able to salvage several reasonably large pieces of what was torn down and have them incorporated into a new wing on his home.
The slideshow accompanying the article includes a few photos featuring the “Danvers Room”—both interior and exterior. The exterior isn’t to my taste really, but it’s not bad considering the Kirkbride’s Gothic style doesn’t blend well with the rest of the house. I like the interior a lot though. You might notice a few familiar looking doors here and there. I’m not sure what else came from the Kirkbride, but there are probably a few other items not shown.
It’s good to know somebody who loved the building so much was able to incorporate pieces of the Kirkbride into their home. I’m sure those bits and pieces will be lovingly looked after.