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2006 Danvers State Hospital Chronicles

2008-11 | 07 | 06 | 05 | 04 | 03 | 90's | 80's| 70's | 60's| 50's

8-17-06 Constructing a new Danvers State. Danvers Herald Bella Travaglini

Construction crews from various contracting companies seemed to scatter across 77 acres of the former Danvers State Hospital, working to transform what once was a secluded mental health care city, in itself, into a contemporary prime real estate property on top of Hathorne Hill.

The project is buzzing along on schedule with occupancy to begin sometime in January 2007, AvalonBay Communites vice president Scott Dale said Tuesday during a tour of the campus. The developer expects the units to be fully leased by the spring of 2008.

Residents will receive preference for the 70 affordable housing units at the luxury apartment complex, which totals 433 units in all. The developer agreed to provide this opportunity for residents upon the suggestion of Selectman Bill Clark in June. The 70 units will be dispersed amongst several buildings in the apartment complex.

The massive construction project broke ground in April. The central portion of the historic Kirkbride building was preserved as part of the terms of the sale, including the central main tower and two wings on either side.

A total gutting of the Kirkbride is now complete, with a brick shell remaining. The towering shell, capped off with a half dozen or so cupolas, stands with the support of massive steel beams and rigging, while construction crews work inside prepping the building for the new construction.

"They’re basically constructing an entirely new building within the brick facade," Town Manager Wayne Marquis said onsite Tuesday.

Painstaking preservation of what remains of the Kirkbride has been ongoing, Marquis said, pointing out heaps and piles of brick from the original building that will be used in the construction of the new building inside the historic veneer.

In addition, there are stacks of bubble-wrapped bricks in front of the Kirkbride, which are available for purchase on eBay for those who are interested in owning a piece of history, Marquis said.

Developers are rebuilding a replica of a clock tower over the main entrance of the Kirbride taken down years ago when the commonwealth owned the property, said Building Inspector Richard Maloney, also at the site Tuesday to check out the ongoing project.

One of the Kirkbride cupolas sits on wooden lifts on the ground at the construction site awaiting some finishing touches on its copper flashing, slate shingles and intricately carved wooden slats.

"That cupola was constructed in 1880," Maloney said.

Views from the highest elevation of the property at the Kirkbride are magnificent and far-reaching.

"You can see the towers in Boston," Marquis said, while pointing out the John Hancock Tower on the overcast Tuesday afternoon.

The Kirkbride portion of the complex will house 61 units as well as the leasing office for the property and a poolside clubhouse, Dale said.

With one building, or "flathouse," completely framed and roofed, crews this week finished up with framing a second building. The roof will need to go on before inside work can begin. Each of the buildings will have 24 units consisting of 1,100 or so square feet of living space, project manager Michael Moise said.

Rents for luxury apartments at Avalon will start at $1,400 for a 1-bedroom unit, $1,550 for a 2-bedroom unit and $1,800 for a 3-bedroom unit, Dale said.

Rents for those units which qualify for affordable housing are set by the state.

Those who live at Avalon will have access to many onsite amenities, Dale said, including an outdoor pool, state-of-the-art fitness center, residential lounge and "WiFi" Café, which provides wireless Internet access. There will be a "tot lot," or playground, adjacent to the fitness center and an indoor basketball court and multi-function athletic facility as well, Dale said.

Plans to pour the foundation of a third building had to be postponed Tuesday morning due to rainy conditions, but had been rescheduled for early Wednesday morning, building inspector Richard Maloney said.

Maloney is onsite usually twice daily inspecting the project through each construction phase, he said.

Hospital project

While work ensues at the top of the hill overlooking Route 1, road construction at the base of the hill on Route 62 continues, Maloney said. That work is being done in conjunction with construction of a new $30 million ambulatory care facility going in on the lowlands of the property, which will include the installation of traffic signaling at the junction of Route 62 and Interstate 95.

Northeast Health System, Inc. is expected to finalize the permitting process this summer to begin construction of a new $30 million ambulatory care facility on the lowlands of the property, Dale said. The hospital group, comprised of a network of hospitals and medical affiliates including Beverly Hospital and Addison Gilbert Hospital in Gloucester, is leasing a portion of the property from Avalon Bay.

Groundbreaking for an additional 64 condominiums for sale will begin this fall, Maloney said. The condos are part of a second separate project on a portion of the lowlands overlooking Route 1. Avalon is working in partnership with OHC Development on the condominium project. OHC Development is also involved in luxury homes currently under construction on Folly Hill. Developers have condominiums on the former state hospital property slated for completion in early 2007.

Meanwhile, disassembly of a cell tower on top of the hill is set for the end of October. Antennas used for fire and police communication will be moved to a new tower at a lower elevation next to an underground water supply reservoir at the base of the property.

6-14-06 Kirkbride C Ward demolished.
The last brick structure was destroyed leaving only the water tower to be demolished. The water tower will come down as soon as the new cellular tower is built to replace it. The new tower will be located off site and not on the property. The Building Identification map has been updated showing these current changes. Avalon Bay is predicting that rentals will start as soon as Fall 2006.

5-18-06 Female Tuberculosis Cottage & Surgical Unit demolished.
The 1903 Surgical Unit that once extended off of A ward is demolished along with the 1907 Female Tuberculosis cottage (later used as the arts and crafts cottage). This now just leaves C Ward and the water tower and demolition will be completed on the highlands.

4-28-06 Gymnasium and Kitchen demolished.
The 1932 Kirkbride gymnasium and kitchen additions were demolished. Completion of the demolition process is only a couple weeks away.

4-18-06 Gray Gables and Kirkbride B Ward demolished.
The historic 1898 Gray Gables Building along with Kirkbride B Ward were demolished today. The Gray Gables was a unique building as it was the first free standing residential structure built post Kirkbride. It was used as a residential facility for nurses in the early years and towards the later years, it housed hospital staff that were married. This leaves a handful of buildings left and demolition will be complete on the highlands.

4-14-06 Kirkbride A Ward demolished.
Demolition has begun on the Female side. A Ward which was part of the original Kirkbride structure (1878) has been demolished. Also demolished was the 1897 A-Annex located beside it.

3-26-06 Kirkbride H Ward demolished.
H Ward which was part of the original Kirkbride structure (1878) has been demolished. Also demolished was the 1954 Hydro Unit that extended off of I ward. This completes the Male side demolition as Avalon Bay intends to save G Ward.

3-10-06 Kirkbride I Ward demolsihed.
I Ward which was part of the original Kirkbride structure (1878) has been demolished. Also demolished was the 1912 Laundry Building.

3-10-06 State of transition Sally Kerans

The buildings at Danvers State Hospital are coming down.
The former state hospital property, comprising 77 acres of land and a collection of new-Gothic buildings visible from Route 1, was purchased by developer Avalon Bay Communities late last year following a 14-year process involving the state and the town of Danvers.

The signature building on the site was designed by renowned architect Thomas Kirkbride. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as is the whole site, a designation preservation activists hoped would offer it protection from demolition. Avalon was chosen as the developer of the site and agreed to preserve one-third of the Kirkbride building.

The wings of the Kirkbride will be removed, but its center will remain.

"We know what part has to be saved," said Scott Dale, vice president of development for Avalon.

Avalon Bay obtained 35 demolition permits for work, according to information from the Building Inspector's office at Town Hall.

A fleet of construction vehicles, visible from Putnam Lane, continues the work of emptying the interior of the buildings to prepare the site for the construction of luxury apartments. Some residents have taken note of the activity. In fact, Precinct 2 Town Meeting member and retired firefighter Bob Osgood attended this week's meeting of the Board of Selectmen and asked whether the water being used by Avalon to spray down the dust from the demolition is being charged at a flat rate or on a meter system.

Public Works Director Don DeHart said Wednesday morning that the town charges a flat rate of $200 a month for water to any contractor, adding that it's impossible to put a meter on the multiple hydrants in use by Avalon.

The metered rate is $3.20 per 100 cubic feet.

"That is terrible," said Osgood separately. "They're using a lot of water up there. Why should they be any different than anybody else? They're lugging truckload after truckload of debris out of there and you don't know how many lines they've got going," he said
Town officials had hoped Avalon would take possession of the state hospital site in the fall of 2004, which would have meant what was then estimated as $1 million in taxes.

The tax bill will have to reflect purchase price, Town Manager Wayne Marquis said this week, and it will increase as the site is completed. But, the town can look forward to banking 50 percent of the tax revenue for the High School Stabilization Fund to help pay for a renovation/expansion of the current Cabot Road facility now in the early planning stages.

The road improvements around the state hospital caused at least a six-month delay, Dale said in earlier interviews.

"The existing geometry there is less than ideal," he said.

Residents can expect to see some traffic improvements by this spring, including a traffic light at Route 95, at the northbound off-ramp onto Route 62, which will tie in to the existing lights at Stop & Shop.

The traffic re-configuration calls for reducing the island area between the east and west lanes of Route 62 near the State Police barracks, where there would be a new traffic light to ease traffic patterns.

The road projects will be overseen by the Massachusetts Highway Department, Dale said.

In the meantime, he said, security fencing has been put around the facility.

Dale said demolition should be wrapped up within the next two months, depending on weather.

"Everything is as we anticipated," said Dale regarding the 130-year-old landmark building. Workers haven't found any unexpected materials, for instance, and the condition of the brick and interior walls and flooring had already been assessed.

2-24-06 Demolition pictures

2-23-06 Kirkbride J Ward demolished.
It's official. J Ward which was part of the original Kirkbride structure (1878) has been demolished. Also demolished was the 1906 Male Tuberculosis Cottage (later used as the Music Cottage) along with the 1927 Mechanics Garage.

2-18-06 Final lament for loss of the Kirkbride Building.

To the Editor:

I write to you today with a great sadness about the loss of the Kirkbride Building on the grounds of Danvers State Hospital.

Despite every effort to preserve this national historic treasure, despite its unique place in the history of the area and in the humane treatment of the mentally ill (Dr. Kirkbride's approach of fresh air, good food, gainful occupation, etc., and a limit of 500 patients maximum in the facility, was later distorted by overcrowding in the 20th century, which led to abuse of patients. But that does not negate the benefits of Kirkbride's original vision.), despite the existence of countless and much older buildings in other parts of the world, the Kirkbride has fallen, a victim of shortsightedness and greed.

As I write this letter, the backhoes and bulldozers and wrecking balls are gnawing away at one of the most remarkable architectural treasures of the modern era.

I want future generations to know that there were people who fought bravely to preserve the Kirkbride, including Richard Trask, Danvers town archivist; the Danvers Preservation Commission; Michael Ramseur; Kathy Morano; Wayne Eisenhauer; Charles Wilson; and Pat Deegan (a former resident of Danvers State), along with John Gray and Mike Turcotte, urban explorer-historians). I also want them to know there were those who caved in to the pressure of vision-challenged members of our community, including Danvers Town Manager Wayne Marquis, Massachusetts Secretary of State Bill Galvin, Department of Capital Management members David Perrini and Mary Beth Clancy and the members of the Citizens' Advisory Commission, headed up by Robert Pariseau.

I have no illusions that AvalonBay's creations will stand the test of time as did the Kirkbride.

In 100 or 500 years, when future historians shake their heads over this tragic mistake, let it be remembered that there were those who had a vision of preservation and reuse of the Danvers State Hospital properties that did not require demolition and cookie-cutter concrete construction.

We remember, and so will they!

John C. Archer


2-16-06 The Bonner Medical Building was demolished.

2-10-06 Kirkbride J ward annex was demolished.

2-1-06 Female Nurses Home was demolished.

1-30-06 Our Lady of the Hill Chapel was demolished.

1-12-05 Demolition Has Begun. Male Nurses Home and St. Lukes Chapel destroyed.

The Male Nurses Home (1927) and St. Lukes Chapel (1964) were recently destroyed. The Building Identification map will be updated periodically to show what buildings are standing and what buildings have been demolished.

1-6-06 Abatement Removal Starts

Backhoe loaders, self propelled lifts, generators dump trucks and other construction equipment now occupy the Danvers State Hospital highlands. Traffic up and down the main entrance is as frequent as the traffic on the nearby Route 62. The parking spaces that were once reserved for doctors, nurses and visitors and now filled with automobiles that belong to construction companies and their workers. The red plywood boards that covered the windows are being removed letting in sunlight that the hospital hasn't seen in years. Abatement removal is underway and dramatic changes are happening to the buildings daily as the demolition stage approaches rapidly.







2008-11 | 07 | 06 | 05 | 04 | 03 | 90's | 80's| 70's | 60's| 50's