For those who aren't familiar with Norwich State Hospital just a quick bit of history for you from an old blog post of mine: The Norwich Hospital for the Insane opened in October of 1904 with one building on a parcel of land on the Thames River just south of Norwich. Renamed as Norwich State Hospital in 1926, by 1959 it sprawled over 900 acres with an average daily population of over 2,700 patients and close to 1,500 employees, over 800 of them being nurses. The peak of the hospital’s use was in 1955, when 3,186 patients were living on premises. In October of 1996, the Norwich State Hospital closed its doors and for the longest time no one was sure what was going to become of the property that the State of Connecticut left in such a hurry that they left behind furniture and paperwork and a lot of asbestos among other things.
The Town of Preston eventually took possession of the property and then the fight was on to try to decide what to do with it. Ideas came and ideas went and the once-beautiful buildings sat there neglected and rotting as it became a popular place for people to try to do some ghost-hunting in. As a matter of fact, the Ghost Hunters themselves came to town a couple of years ago and had the chance to film there. Personally, I think they did an absolutely horrible job with the show that they ended up airing as I think they could have done so much more but what do I know? I'm simply an amateur photographer and historian and love old architecture.
Anyhow, Preston has been working on cleaning up the grounds and tearing down a lot of the buildings and the place looks quite a bit different when I was there taking pictures in October of 2008 as I stayed on the legal side of the "No Trespassing" signs. I thought I'd post a couple pictures from then along with a similar picture of what it looks like now. Granted, I wasn't in the same place for the photos but I think it gives you a good idea of how much brush came down along with some of the buildings, too.
This is the former Administration Building with the Salmon Building (the male forensic unit) to the right. As you can see, things were a bit overgrown.
This is the current view of the former Administration Building with the the brush gone as well as parts of the Salmon Building which is in the process of being torn down. The Awl Building (the female forensic unit) to the right is coming down next. I've been told that there are plans to preserve the Administration Building and I sure hope so, they don't build them like that anymore and it would break my heart to see it subjected to a wrecking ball.
The Lippett Building was where lobotomies were performed back in the early days of mental health care when doctors were essentially grasping at straws as they tried to figure out how to care for the mentally ill.
The Lippett Building as it stands today with most of its vegetation cut down. Surprisingly it's not behind the chain link fence that so much of the rest of the grounds are but it's also slated for destruction soon.
So ... things are definitely changing down at the former NSH grounds but I've got to wonder what exactly it is that Preston hopes to change them to? It's really too bad that the state left the place in such a shambles as it would have been nice to see history - even the not-so-nice history of early mental health care in our country - preserved so that future generations could have seen how far we've come. Plus I'd be willing to bet that lots of people would have been happy to pay for a ticket to tour the grounds but alas, it's all just coming down in yet another attempt to bury the past and cover it with the future. What a shame.