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all anyone can ask for

'all anyone can ask for', Algonquin River State Hospital | Abandoned America
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It is at times like these, looking out across the husk of a massive, gutted kirkbride, that I can't help but think of the men who built it, who carefully placed the floorboards in their joists, who dutifully laid the slate of the roof beneath me.

I wonder if they ever thought their masterpiece would come to this. Probably not. Most people shut such things out because the hopelessness such thinking invites in is too deep, too powerful. Besides, it must have seemed inconceivable that such a monumental triumph - of will, of architecture, of faith - could ever be reduced to this sad state. This was likely the largest, most grandiose project any of them had ever worked on, dwarfing the great cathedrals of Europe, making even the other state hospitals look amateurish and crude. I like to think as they laid the roof they stood back for a moment and wiped the sweat of the day's labor from their eyes, surveying the vast expanse of Algonquin River State Hospital laying before them, pristine and new in the light of the setting sun. I like to think that beyond the everyday economics of getting paid, there was a certain pride that filled their hearts. Construction workers are not known for their poetic natures, but maybe it occurred to some that they were fighting the good fight, creating a place where the poor and unfortunate, so often exiled to prisons and poorhouses, could finally get treatment and be made whole again. There is an almost palpable idealism to the way Algonquin River was built: why go to such trouble and expense if not to create the noble solution to a great problem in society, one that would stand for centuries as a testament to the benevolence and charity of its creators?

Such was not the case. Algonquin River State Hospital is testament now only to mismanaged hopes, to the wastefulness and neglect of those who inherited her. Still, this would be far from the minds of the workmen. Somewhere far back in time, their vantage point crystallized in the past and nothing that is or will be can ever alter that. Maybe it doesn't matter if you fight the good fight and lose. Maybe you can't even win it. Maybe all dreams end as dust. Maybe the important thing is just that you fight it, regardless of what misfortunes tomorrow may bring, and hope that your actions will matter to someone, somewhere out in the infinite universe of variables and possible outcomes.

Maybe that's all anyone can ever ask for.

Photographs and text of Algonquin River State Hospital by Matthew Christopher of Abandoned America. 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).

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