Today let's explore Weston State Hospital, now known as the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum! The nice thing about Weston is anybody can go explore it! The different tour options are listed on their web site. Rebecca and the nice folks at TALA are doing great things preserving this important historical structure! They're converting some of the wards back to what they once may have looked like.
Weston State Hospital was built between 1858 and 1881. It was built in the Kirkbride plan. Read all about Kirkbride buildings here! And get some more history about this building in particular here.
I went to Weston in June of 2008. I took too many pictures. The thing about any Kirkbride building is they're huge. No, "huge" doesn't begin to describe it! I could hardly wrap my brain around how big this place was! We spent almost an entire day in there, and still there wasn't time to see it all!
We also saw another ward building behind the Kirkbride, which had the most amazing metal staircases.
And we got to see the cafeteria, which was sadly torn down recently. But it was in terrible shape.
Another building I would have loved to see inside (but it was off-limits) is the TB building. Beautiful, as I think every TB building is! I did get some exterior shots though, and a few of the basement through the windows. And some creepy night shots, too:
So I'm gonna try and find just a few of the millions of photos I took that day, and put them here in this gallery. I hope you enjoy them!
And finally, for those who are into orbs and haunting things, when I was at Weston I took the only 2 photos in which I've ever gotten "orbs" without using flash. I can't say there was anything creepy about this room, or any ghostly presence. The first time the Ghost Hunters did a show at Weston, they were very into this room because a volunteer said she was grabbed by something in there. I only took pics because I was told by our guide that this was the famed "stretcher room" of Ghost Hunters fame. There could have been something creepy there, or there easily could have been dust or a water drop on my lens. So I won't make any judgments. I'll leave that up to you...
Today we're going to go waaaay back in time. Back to the Before Time; back to the days before digital cameras. Back to the days when, despite owning a nice camera (a Pentax K1000, all manual), I shot everything with a $39.99 plastic 35mm point and shoot camera from Target. So these aren't going to be good pictures. I still like them though. Memories!
First, what little history I could find. I couldn't find anything about when the place was originally built. It clearly had many additions to it over the years, but there is almost nothing about it before the year 1947. Before that it was called Oklahoma City General Hospital, and in 1947 it was purchased by the Sisters of Mercy, and the name changed to Mercy Hospital.
It had 85 beds when it was purchased. Here's a neat thing I read about it: "At their newly-acquired hospital, the Sisters of Mercy made a change that was unprecedented in many parts of the country. Almost two decades before the Jim Crow Laws of “separate but equal” were abolished, the Sisters of Mercy integrated the hospital for all people."
In 1974 the Sisters of Mercy moved to a new hospital in Northwest Oklahoma City, abandoning the one downtown.
I first went there in 1993. I didn't know anyone in the area to give me a tour, and I was too chicken to go in alone. So exterior shots are all I have of most of the hospital.
Here is just one interior, taken from a window. Epic ceiling tile failure!
Here it is in March of 1996. I didn't live in Oklahoma anymore, but I would come back and visit from time to time. And I always made it a point to pay a little visit to my old friend, Mercy.
Interior of what I think was a parking garage for doctors, 1998.
Spring of 2000. The crosses were all torn off the tops. I think they were in the process of gutting it to tear it down at this point.
Also from 2000. This is the alley behind the hospital, and the hospital is on the left. The small 2-story building on the right was I believe a building for doctors, with parking in the back and offices and a chapel upstairs. When they tore the hospital down some time between when I went there in 2000 and 2001, they left the parking garage and the small doctors building.
I drove down with some friends in the spring of 2001, finally determined to go inside at long last! But alas, all that was left was the 2-story building on the other side of the alley. What once was a gigantic hospital was an empty field in the middle of the city. Sad day. I snoozed and I losed! But all was not lost - we were treated to a tour of the doctors building by a homeless couple who were crashing there. This is the pretty little chapel.
I went back one last time, in 2002. The parking garage is ahead on your left, and the doctors building is on your right. The doctors building was torn down some time later. Not sure about the parking garage. I heard they were thinking about keeping it there, but seeing those empty fields where that beautiful hospital once was was just to sad to go back anymore.
Here is a gallery of some more of my photos, some good, most not so good, spanning the years from 1993 to 2002. Enjoy!
And one last thing! I'm disappointed by the lack of historical information about Oklahoma City General and Mercy Hospital on the internet. If anyone out there has any additional info, please comment! I'd love to hear more about the history of this fantastic structure!
I've decided to blog about some places I've been. I can't possibly paint them all, but I'd still like to share my adventures! I'm going to start with a recent one, a small tuberculosis sanatorium here in Minnesota that I visited in February of 2014.
First, a bit of history. The sanatorium was opened in 1916. The cost was $7 per week for county residents, and $10 per week for non-residents. Here is a photo from when it opened:
It closed as a TB sanatorium in 1953, and was remodeled and re-opened as a nursing home in 1954. It was closed in 1968. Another small but great photo I found on the web, of patients in their beds in the solarium that was across the south (front - facing the lake) of the building.
This was a place I had tried to get to before. The first time was in January of 2004. But there was a dog. There are lots of dogs there. It's next to a lake, and the lake is surrounded by lake houses, each one of which is populated entirely by dogs. OK there might be people too, but I never saw any people. I took these in 2004, before my friend was chased back to the car by a dog.
So this time I had a better idea. I would approach from the lake. This was a good idea, I thought. It looked good on the map, anyway...
I have a lot of good ideas. I'm not sure this was one of them. First of all, it was a lot further than it looked on the map. Second of all, it was cold. It has to be cold for my city-dwelling bum to go walking around on a lake. People who go walking around on lakes are either very daring, or very insane. I try to be neither, usually. But it was colder than cold. The weather thing said it was zero, but it felt colder than that. I had pockets and boots full of those hand warmer things, and by the time we had trekked across the lake to the spot where we realized getting up the bank would be almost impossible, I already couldn't feel my hands or feet! So like I just mentioned, third of all, not so easy climbing up the bank.
But we made it! Despite the cold and the thigh-deep snow drifts, we made it! And it was everything I'd been waiting 10 years to see! I'm a huge fan of sanatoria of all kinds, particularly tuberculosis. I find the history of diseases and the treatment thereof fascinating! And you probably already know I like lonely, abandoned things.
People always ask me if anything strange or ghostly ever happens when I go to places. The answer is almost always no. First of all, what ghost would be insane enough to be out in that kind of weather? But there was something, this time. Something weird. I can't say it was a ghost; I can't say what it was. But it happened right as I took this photo:
This appears to have been the kitchen. It is straight back from the front door, on the opposite (north) side of the building. As I walked into the room, I could have sworn something flew right past me, from one side to the other. I think it went from right to left, though now that it's been a little over a year, my memory isn't as clear. At first I thought it was a dog. The dogs were everywhere, barking, all around the building, the entire time we were there. They sounded so close at times. With all the windows and doors so open, I thought for sure one would see us and come in. I thought one had come in a door on one side, and run out on the other. Only there were no doors in that room. They were only windows. Couldn't have been a dog. It seemed big though, like a dog, and fast. But there was nothing there. I suppose it could have been a bird. There were no signs of any wildlife except the dogs. And what bird in its right mind would have been out in that? I don't know. Just that when it happened, I admit I got a little freaked out! I mean, more freaked out than I already was, being convinced a pack of wild dogs was about to descend upon us at any moment...
Here is a gallery of some of the photos I took there. I hope you enjoy looking at them from a warm place, as much as I enjoyed taking them and just by a hair getting away frost- and dog-bite free!
I'm one of the emerging artists at the Grand Cities Art Fest this weeked in downtown Grand Forks! It is June 9-10, Saturday 10-6 and Sunday 10-4. I'll be by the big wheel, in booth A-1
Click here for the facebook page for my art show opening on October 3rd in Minneapolis!
I've got a show scheduled next month in Minneapolis! It's at Artifex Manuum in uptown, and the opening is Sunday, October 3 at 7 pm. There will be wine and snacks, and art!
"Weston Skylight" is hanging at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts from now until June 13th! It is one of about 4800 works by Minnesota artists in the once-every-10-years "Foot in the Door" show. There's some really great stuff in the show, and I'll be going back soon to get a better look at everything.