Kirkbride Buildings Blog

February 4th, 2008

Inside Avalon Danvers

Avalon Danvers
My wife and I recently looked at an apartment in what used to be the Danvers Kirkbride. We originally thought we were going to be looking at a condo, but it turns out Avalon only rents the Kirkbride living spaces.

We were shown a model apartment on the first floor of the admin. It was actually reasonably nice for an apartment. The rooms were bright (because of those big Kirkbride windows). The kitchen had the essential granite counter tops, and a seemingly impossible amount of cabinet space. There were also two huge bathrooms you could dance the Tango in. While not exceptional, the construction didn’t seem particularly cheap either. We were told the apartments in what’s left of the Kirkbride are of a higher quality than the ones in the new buildings.

But even though the apartment was more appealing than we expected, we really couldn’t get past the fact that Avalon has erased any sense of the building as an historic structure. There’s zero impression of anything more than just some run-of-the-mill, reasonably nice apartment building. Once you’re through the nineteenth-century front doors and past the semi-arched windows in the lobby, there are no charming architectural details inside. It’s true we didn’t get to see an apartment in one of the wings, but I suspect the story is pretty much the same throughout the building. They did gut the whole thing after all.

Here are some photos I took with a point & shoot.

Avalon Danvers

View into a Bedroom
Avalon Danvers

Living Room
Avalon Danvers

The Lobby Cafe
Avalon Danvers

The Main Entrance
Avalon Danvers

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  1. christina tullo February 4, 2008, 2:47 pm

    this is funny. i JUST saw danvers (or what was once danvers) for the very first time last night. unfortunately i didnt get into urban exploration until right when they started taking the complex down, and being from nj i dont make it up to mass that often unfortunately. however i was up there this weekend, and a friend drove up to the complex. but just like you said, it was amazing. it holds no clue to its past. they did a marvelous job of white washing the entire place (sarcasm).

    i love your blog by the way. i read it every day.

  2. Kerby February 4, 2008, 4:45 pm

    Wow… I’m glad you included some pictures… it is interesting what they have done. I’m a bit amazed by the generic look to the new structures… and the interior shots you included give absolutely no clue that it was once a state hospital.

    Is there any reference to, or memorial type thing anywhere on the grounds that acknowledge it once was Danvers?

  3. Ethan February 4, 2008, 7:07 pm

    I think there’s going to be a memorial outside near where the Grey Gables used to be. They built like a little miniature park surrounded by a low wall. Some parts of the wall are raised and angled as if there are going to be some sort of plaques placed on them. When it’s finished I’ll post about it.

    @Christina: I’m glad you liked the blog. Too bad you didn’t visit a few years ago. It’s sad to see now, even though I’m kind of glad that at least it’s not all boarded up and falling apart anymore.

  4. Zach McCormick February 8, 2008, 3:45 am

    It’s gone from Session Nine to….HGTV!

  5. Brion February 28, 2008, 9:22 pm

    What wonders happened to the surrounds including the graveyard? Is it a Poltergeist moment and just built over or?

    Did you see amy of that evident?

  6. Ethan February 28, 2008, 11:11 pm

    The graveyards are still intact and undisturbed. I’m pretty certain they’re still state property and Avalon doesn’t own the land the graves are on. No need to worry about that.

  7. Brion March 3, 2008, 8:54 pm

    Thanks! Not worried I just feel this whole thing is so bizarre in my mind.

    “Here is your luxury One Bedroom, The Fitness Center, the beautiful landscaped gardens and a graveyard where thousands of nameless mentally forsaken people are buried…”

    I guess people don’t have a problem with it as the apartments are renting well.

    I just might be to sensitive to live there.

    Thanks for the lovely blog about these buildings. They make my head filled with thought and architecture.

  8. Ethan March 3, 2008, 10:04 pm

    Ha. Yeah it is a bit bizarre to think about. But there are plenty of people who don’t mind evidently. Plus, the closest graveyard is still well out of sight. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of residents aren’t even aware it’s there. I’m sure Avalon doesn’t play up its proximity. Glad you like the blog.

  9. Donna May 17, 2008, 3:12 pm

    My boyfriend and I moved into Avalon of Danvers in October 07, what a awesome place to live. It is very quite and reserved. I have walked down to the graveyard and was so very touched. Would like to know where the other two graveyards are though.

  10. Donna May 17, 2008, 3:14 pm

    I meant quiet!!

    By the way, I did a paper on the State Hospital when I was in College what a difference now. I would love to do more research into the history.

  11. Lauren October 11, 2008, 12:24 am

    I’d be very interested in reading people’s research and papers on the subject. I am just beginning to explore these images after having been captivated by the comperable Detroit auto industry history in decay images as well as those of their old great hotels and theatres that are also posted online. The only trouble is that when people speak of not posting an image because it has been seen or taklen so many times before, I have realised that I haven’t come across it yet myself ( ie. the toothbrush reference) so I wish they would be posted anyway. PLus, a series can be very interesting especially when change is evident and signs of differing seasons take their toll. Thank you for posting all of this – and I think you were very fortunate to have been able to see the place first hand. I would love to see more images including the old physician’s office scale from the 1800’s or the turn of the century. I sure hope that someone rescued the last of the relics before it was torn down.

  12. Sarah November 18, 2008, 5:37 pm

    I DO NOT advise living there. Reason being that there have been a TON of complaints about how close “residents” from neighboring lots are dangerous & the police have been contacted many times. They also say they are kid friendly but only for those under 4 & over 16 other aged children are left with nothing to do. There’s also a 10/15 ish mile commute to the city not to metion when it snows you’ll have no help whatsoever digging your car out. There are also complaints about how they have decided it would be best if they cleaned the sidewalks of the complex at 1:00 a.m. The front office isn’t very nice when you have complaints about pretty much anything, so I myself wouldn’t recommend this place. Visit this link to read a few stories some renters have made THEN make your decision.

  13. Ethan November 18, 2008, 5:59 pm

    Sarah, I wrote about the same thing here on the blog: kind of stole my thunder a little there:)

    Feel free to complain about Avalon Danvers on my blog post too.

  14. Corsiva June 16, 2009, 1:00 am

    I was wondering that if you decided to get a place there, which seems pretty spectacular in all to me. Why not just redecorate your living space. So corporate urbanizing junkies messed it up, You CAN reconstruct it yourself. If you get proper consent and such. I don’t know all the things you would have to go through as my parents are the big real estate know-it-alls. I just write. But, I truely am saddened by the fact that Danver’s is completely converted.

    Do you happen to know if the tunnels have been changed too? I can’t find if they got rid of those too.

  15. Reba September 28, 2009, 1:56 pm

    I really like living there. I haven’t met any ghosts or ghouls yet. The cemetary is a beautiful little place – go down the “tractor trail” in front of the main building where the little sitting area is. Cross the field to the stone marker – and enter into a beautiful little tree lined cemetary. Names on most of the stones and a monument is there. Sitting benches. I’m not sure how historical they could make it – white walls or beds with restraints ? lol I have been satisfied with my stay there and would recommend it.

  16. Ethan September 28, 2009, 2:14 pm

    Heh. Yeah, I think beds with restraints would be taking historical acuracy too far, but tin ceilings, hardwood floors throughout, some wainscoating and the original wood moldings around the doors and windows would have been nice, not to mention maybe some of the original antique hardware for the doors and windows. The original hardware was beautifully ornate.

    Corsiva, you probably could redecorate to some extent, but getting your hands on the original items would be difficult and reproducing some of the stuff you couldn’t find would be expensive. Still, even though you could conceivably do it, the rest of the building would still be the same. I don’t have firsthand knowledge of what happened to the tunnels, but I was told that most of them were filled in. There are probably still a few that exist or partially exist, but I doubt you could access many of the remaining pieces of the system.

  17. derrick October 21, 2009, 12:49 am

    Has there been any strange happenings or eerieness within the buildings or apartments in the late hours of the night

  18. Dave October 26, 2009, 4:42 pm

    Hello, I am very interested in this place and I will be touring the place sometimes this week possibly, I just want some more input.

    I am looking on their site now and this place looks like it packs a great deal for the price. Do you have any more additional photos? I am interested in the ones with the loft, 2br-2bathroom.

    Has anything strange ever happen on the property?
    How is the noise? (wall thickness, can you hear people walk/talk)
    Any other info I should be concern, or know about?

    Please reply as soon as possible, very much appreciated.

  19. Erik March 6, 2010, 11:52 pm

    I have been here for a little over 6 months between selling our old and buying a new house and have been very happy. I work in Boston and the commute is comparable to other places I’ve lived in the area. Drive in or take the train, it’s nearly the same.

    For an apartment complex, it’s surprisingly quiet. The quality of the neighbors are generally good with little out of the ordinary noise or lack of respect for others.

    Overall I would recommend it (and have) to others.

    As for the historic preservation side of things, I can speak from experience, being an architect who has worked on reuse of other Kirkbride insane asylums. To achieve some of the suggestions in this thread is impossible since a complete gut and some tear downs are mandatory just to get the building up to code. While I think they could have done a little more to preserve the historic feel of the buildings as well as the campus, they have done a decent job in designing the new buildings, at least from the exterior. The interior is adequate quality and generic, which is appropriate for the price range.

    In the end, it’s very difficult to transform a Kirkbride building into anything usable and profitable (which is always the bottom line for the client)with out major changes from it’s original design. I’d give Avalon a “B/B+” for their overall work on turning this complex from a deteriorating abandoned waste of buildings to something that provides living space that is simply affordable and nice. Plus these are the best non-coastal views of Boston I’ve seen anywhere around here.

  20. jill May 2, 2010, 8:50 pm

    I have to say I am one of the two thumbs up people. I recently moved to Avalon Danvers and so far have been pleased with the decision. I have yet to experience the SMALL pool though. that may be a deal I lived at Avalon crane brook for three years and there I had nothing but problems. VERY noisy neighbors above me (ceilings are much lower there)that made my lights shake and my cat hide, several major water leaks from the ac unit, the apt above me and from the boiler in the room off the deck. they had to gut about 4 feet of ceiling to fix the one from above and did a lousy job of fixing it. There was parties at a new tenant across the hall from me which would create drunk fighting in the hall at 1 am.aahh to be in my twenties again :).. A LARGE pile of feces was left in the hall,that stained all the way thru rug to the base floor underneath (most likely from a dog my neighbor had. i was NOT in a dog building) and my car got broken into. Also I found Peabody water was very irritating to my skin (face) and the water here seems much better.Crane brook is charging me to clean my apartment(i am a neatfreak) which i do not think that is allowed in MA but they gave me a price, i have the paperwork and hope they do not change that amount.THAT ,I will not be happy about. I will find out when they give me my security back which should be anyday. Since I do have that avalon to compare to with Danvers, I like Avalon danvers much better. I think Georgine is a great leasing agent and I have not heard any neighbors at all. I also know quite a few local people that have also moved here. I do not hear the highway at Kirkbride. At crane brook, Peabody you could hear the late night trucks on 95,route 1 and 114 so this place is peaceful compared to that.I know we all have different experiences based on which bldg we are in and our neighbors so I understand both sides. I grew up around here so Danvers state has always been a fixture and it is strange to live here but as long as you respect the history, i think its all good.

  21. Caitlin April 10, 2011, 7:13 pm

    In regards to Erik’s post about the difficulty in turning a Kirkbride building into something profitable without changing it dramatically, take a look at The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, a historically sensitive mixed-use rehabilitation of a former Kirkbride hospital.
    There is always the philosophical quandary of whether it is better to do a bad restoration than let a building just sit there deteriorating but what it usually comes down to is time. Owners taking the time to find the right developer, developers investing the time (not as much the money as it is the time frame to get things done) into the project. Rehabilitation costs will certainly be less than new construction, and tax incentives are available in some cases when the proper standards are followed.
    Never having been inside either while abandoned or after its transformation, I have no way to gauge how bad it was if they chose to demolish and rebuild rather than rehabilitate. But even when things have been rebuilt there are still ways to incorporate some of the architectural features. People want to live in a place like this for its character and architectural uniqueness, so making it look generic is doing a disservice to the history of the hospital and the people who worked or were treated there, and the people wanting to live in a ‘historic’ building.

  22. Mary Ann May 8, 2014, 9:59 pm

    I find all of this fascinating. I have mixed feelings about what they have done to the place. As a child (about age 7), I visited Danvers State Hospital several times with my mother (early 1970’s). My uncle was a patient there. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia. I don’t remember how long he was there, but he did eventually move from there to a halfway house type setting near Gloucester. I became a nurse and have spent several years working in psychiatric and correctional facilities. It is sad that much of the old hospital buildings there in Danvers and many of the other Kirkbride buildings throughout the country have been abandoned and demolished. They were state of the art at the time. The first attempts at actually trying to treat patients more humanely. It is very unfortunate that the buildings could not be saved. I know there are many people that have gotten very angry that they weren’t renovated. But on a practical side, with as huge as the buildings were, and as much lead and asbestos as there was in those buildings, (among other problems) it is almost impossible to do that. And, if left to continue to decay, became a dangerous place. Looking at the pictures of the apartments, I would think that part of the reason that they weren’t left as if still part of the hospital is because not many people want to really be reminded that they are living in a previous insane asylum. Would probably freak people out. Not good for business I’m sure. But, I am glad they left some of the original building. If I ever move back to Mass, I just might rent a place there!

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