domingo, 10 de octubre de 2010

Danvers State Hospital

This country has a wealth of imposing, lavishly constructed State Mental Hospitals from around shortly before the turn of the century, unfortunately as time goes on and these structures fall into increasing disrepair they are torn down completely and the land is chopped up for condos. 

One of the greatest tragedies of these is Danvers State Hospital, in Danvers, Massachusetts. 

It was designed by architect Nathaniel Jeremiah Bradlee.
Danvers is a magnificent building and was really seen as a triumph of architectural skill and design in 1874 when it was erected. 

Around this time in U.S history, these Asylums were intended to be just that, and to bring a sense of peace, calm and quiet, as well as community and security to those who were deemed "incurably insane." 
Before the discovery of anti-psychotic drugs, there was less of a emphasis on curing mental illness, but rather allowing those suffering from mental illnessness to live out their lives with a sense of calm, safety, and also purpose, as all of these hospitals had jobs for almost every resident.

It was because of all of this labour that these gigantic institutions were able to run self-sufficiently. 
Danvers is one of the most famous historic asylums in this country, and has a reputation for being haunted, which I think few will deny. 

This Asylum does indeed have some dark chapters in it's history, particularly after the discovery of both anti-psychotic drugs, (which changed the face of these institutions forever) shock therapy, and frontal lobotomy which is said to have been pioneered here.

In an institution built to house 500 patients, in the 1920 over 2000 patients were held here and overcrowding was immense, with patients even being housed in the basements.

As with any institution that is understaffed, underfunded and overcrowded, horrendous abuse of the vulnerable invariably occur. 

After patient labour was outlawed, patients were no longer free to roam the grounds doing occupations such as gardening, sewing, carpentry and others, and were instead confined to their rooms often heavily sedated and shackled.  

The Asylum was finally closed down in 1992 after a slow decline of patient population due to the increasing popularity of halfway houses and alternative methods of treatment which saw a marked increase in the homeless populations who were made up largely of these previous inpatients who weren't quite ready to self-sufficient  in society (indeed, some of them never would be). For over a decade the mighty structure was left to rot and decay from the inside out, creating a very surreal and somber atmosphere within its walls.

Sadly in 2005 the land was sold to developers and the process of the demolition of this invaluable piece of U.S history was started. By 2007 all that was left was the Hospital cemetery and the underground labyrinth of tunnels and passageways.

For more information on Danvers and other historic State Mental Hospitals I would highly recommend Asylum  by Christopher Payne.

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