A Call for Action
Posted: 09th April 2015
A common misconception people have about abandoned buildings is that with the first signs of deterioration they become unable to be saved. Peeling paint and crumbling plaster are actually fairly superficial wounds; although they may give the room the patina of being terribly aged, it is not that difficult to repair. People also often point to the need for asbestos abatement as a reason to tear down historic structures and build anew, without realizing that the demolition process requires abatement anyway. There is no (legal) scenario in which a building can be knocked down without the asbestos removed first anyway. Even if areas of the building are in terrible shape, facades can be saved or the areas can be rebuilt. So many of places have been saved - places like the museum on Ellis Island, Eastern State Penitentiary, Transallegheny Lunatic Asylum, Traverse City State Hospital, or Danvers State Hospital have all been rehabilitated to serve the public again, and remain proud parts of their communities because of it.
There are also people that seem to take a perverse glee in advocating the dismantling of 'old' things, calling it progress: those who, for example, look at the SS United States (one of two remaining ocean liners from that era!) and cheerfully recommend cutting it for scrap or sinking it as a reef because it's a 'rustbucket', ignoring the fact that it's structurally sound, an irreplaceable part of history, and that the stripped interior makes it an excellent candidate for refitting. When you advocate for preservation, you're up against this baleful destructiveness, the profiteers who would erase our heritage and community identity for profit, those who accuse you of 'making things political' when advocacy of any kind necessarily must be so, people whose lack of understanding leads them to believe the lies that 'if it has aged it can't be saved' or that preservation is whining for government handouts when in many cases the demolition is at taxpayer cost whereas private entities are willing to restore buildings at no cost to taxpayers at all, and those who do care but don't know what to do so they wring their hands ineffectively for a moment then go on to something else without taking action.
My page - much as presumptuous others like to tell me what it is or should be - is not just a collection of abandoned places to idly click through. Love it or hate it, it's about my own reactions to them and how I see them applying to the greater human condition, about our shared history, about what they say about us as a culture in terms of our present and future. It's about this present moment, a critical one, in which we must decide on a day to day basis whether it is worth it to us to fight for the things that our forefathers built and which created our communities. Sometimes those places, in the case of asylums, had bad periods in their past - yet they are priceless in terms of their architecture, their ability to show us in very real terms that the segregation of the disabled and ill was a real thing, and in their potential to be renovated and restored.
The Kirkbride building at Greystone Park Psychiatric Center is undergoing demolition because NJ Governor Chris Christie has blocked all efforts to save it, including those which would have had no cost to taxpayers and would have saved the building. Accuse me of being political all you'd like (despite my criticism of Democrat Mayor Nutter's terrible track record with preservation in Philadelphia), tell me my own advocacy or opinion has no place on my page if you want, but now is the time for those who DO care about these places to fight for them. Once they are gone they can never be replaced.
I urge those of you who do care to visit the following link, sign the petition, follow Preserve Greystone, and come to the rally to save Greystone on Sunday, April 12, 2015. Christie may have his way and it may be destroyed, but at least you'll be able to say you tried to do something about it. Even if you can't make it, reshare it and maybe someone you know will.
Update: Aaaaaaand... It's gone.
Photo of Greystone Park Psychiatric Center (full gallery here), admin section of the Kirkbride building, 2008, by Matthew Christopher. If you're interested in more Abandoned America blogs, follow this link. If you enjoy my writing, check out my books: Abandoned America: Dismantling the Dream (Amazon / Barnes & Noble) or Abandoned America: The Age of Consequences (Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Signed copies).
By Brion K Baker: The demolition of such amazing places is brought to us by the same people that start wars and destroy the world and all life in it.