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Norwich State Hospital (Preston, CT) | we are losing everything

We Are Losing Everything | Norwich State Hospital
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decay is not sudden. it is a series of tiny, tiny changes over time.
a pipe bursts in winter, or
there is the slow drip of rain down a wall and it pools over the years,
seeping through the pores in concrete and leeching out the lime,
forming stalactites and stalagmites in what was once a factory or power plant.
you can't look at a wall and see how the rebar breathes inside,
slowly pushing apart the concrete encasing it, or the way ice widens cracks in winter
and plants force them further in summer. these things happen on a timeline that
we can't perceive with the naked eye, but yet their results, though also gradual,
do become apparent in time.
bits of plaster fall from the ceilings, no more than dust at first,
and maybe the caulking in a window gives way and the pane slips out and shatters.
the wood in the floor becomes softer, spongy almost, and rust explodes across metal
in brilliant orange and red hues in some spots, and muted browns in others.
it is hard to reclaim a structure even at this stage, because the rot has taken hold
and if you merely put on a fresh coat of paint, the process will continue.
eventually the sum of all the small fissures and failures
becomes so pronounced that it is unmistakable. large chunks break free from the roof,
leaving gaping holes, and floors collapse into jagged chasms, leaving areas inaccessible.
at this stage a structure is often deemed irreparable.

and so it is perhaps that when one business collapses, one library closes, we can
tell ourselves it is progress, or simply a shame. but later, when a school on that street
is shuttered too, and the nearby homes enter foreclosure one by one - that too takes time.
the minute processes that lead to those events are veiled, and we busy ourselves with other things
until one day we notice that the whole block is falling apart, then the borough or parish -
and then we notice that the city itself is more dead than alive.
then whole pillars of infrastructure give way - museums are shut, fire and police departments merged
and the process keeps building on itself,
each cataclysm placing the remaining segments under additional strain.
and at last we wander outside, our eyes open in horror and disbelief,
wringing our hands and wailing, perhaps remembering the burst pipe that was the
bankruptcy of the steel mills and auto plants and clothing mills, and wishing
we had known how to fix it, or addressed it before it got so bad.
but there was nothing we could do, even back then. decisions had been made,
things had been left behind, and now all that was left was the ceaseless repetition,
the dumbfounding knowledge:
we are losing everything.
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Norwich State Hospital, Preston CT

Photograph by Matthew Christopher of Abandoned America. If you'd like to learn more about this location, it is a featured chapter in the new Abandoned America book Abandoned America: The Age of Consequences. Signed copies are available through my website, or you can find (unsigned) copies available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and many other online booksellers across the globe.


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