A Visit to the Abandoned Pennhurst Ayslum

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Recently I had the opportunity to participate in a rare late afternoon & night photo shoot at Pennhurst Asylum. Officially known as Pennhurst State School and Hospital, it was originally called the Eastern Pennsylvania State Institution for the Feeble-Minded and Epileptic. Opened in 1903 the institution treated mentally and physically disabled individuals of Southeastern Pennsylvania and was located in Spring City. After 79 years of controversy, it closed on December 9, 1987. Its contentious history are a stark reminder of how a misguided society used to treat its mentally handicapped and disabled members. Safety considerations meant that only two buildings of the extensive campus were open for photography.

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Quaker Hall
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Mayflower Hall Ward
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Mayflower Hall Ward
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Mayflower Hall Basement Corridor
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Mayflower Hall Bathroom
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Mayflower Hall Ward
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Pennhurst Asylum @ Blue Hour
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Chapel, Mayflower Hall
 

Zman

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What a wonderful opportunity to seemingly travel back into time despite the history. It's nice that the organization in charge did their best to keep it in the original state. Abandoned or deserted places are my favorite. Terrific images.
 
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What a wonderful opportunity to seemingly travel back into time despite the history. It's nice that the organization in charge did their best to keep it in the original state. Abandoned or deserted places are my favorite. Terrific images.
Thanks. The site had a very good mini museum detailing the history of the institution with photos and text panels. It was a very sobering experience learning how inmates were treated.
 
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Hopefully they will find a use for the site. Buildings like that are interesting, but it's just being allowed to decay in the same way as establishments like this used to care of their patients. It won't be much of a poignant reminder for too much longer. You were lucky to get an opportunity to photograph it.
 

agentlossing

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I love how Pennsylvania handles some of these sites - visiting Eastern State Penitentiary back in 2014 still stands out in my mind. Controlled chaos of age and disrepair. I wonder if the above site had some of the same Quaker philosophy in its administration as Eastern State.
 

Zman

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Hopefully they will find a use for the site. Buildings like that are interesting, but it's just being allowed to decay in the same way as establishments like this used to care of their patients. It won't be much of a poignant reminder for too much longer. You were lucky to get an opportunity to photograph it.
That is true. Here in Buffalo, NY we had a cluster of buildings from the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane that were built in the 1870's. After a century of service the facility closed and the buildings sat empty for decades. A developer transformed the largest of the buildings into the Hotel Henry Urban Resort & Conference Center and plans are underway to rehab some of the other buildings. A wonderful reuse of the historic structures.
 

sbm

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I’m not sure what I’m more amazed by:
  • the content, which is horrifying to think about, especially given that we’re not so far removed from that time
  • or your portrayal of its remnants, which is terrifically done — your use of light, the colors you captured, and the contrast you use to develop it all serve your end images wonderfully, and capture some of that horror I mentioned quite successfully
thanks for sharing
 
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Excellent series of photos of a bygone era (thankfully bygone)
We stayed in a very well renovated Lunatic Asylum some years ago.

That saying beat the swords into plowshares is so aptly applied in such instances.
I could see this being transformed to a place of beauty.
Too often they get flattened.
 
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That is true. Here in Buffalo, NY we had a cluster of buildings from the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane that were built in the 1870's. After a century of service the facility closed and the buildings sat empty for decades. A developer transformed the largest of the buildings into the Hotel Henry Urban Resort & Conference Center and plans are underway to rehab some of the other buildings. A wonderful reuse of the historic structures.
The upper campus of Pennhurst Asylum has been acquired by the Department of Military Affairs to reuse it as a veterans' home. In 1986, the upper campus cottage units reopened as the Southeastern Veterans' Center. In 1990, renovations began on Horizon Hall, one of the newest buildings at Pennhurst, as part of a project to establish a nursing facility at the veterans' center. It reopened in 1993 as Coates Hall. Some buildings of the lower campus have been reopened to host haunted house tours but given the history of this institution I am not sure I agree with such a repurposing.
 
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I’m not sure what I’m more amazed by:
  • the content, which is horrifying to think about, especially given that we’re not so far removed from that time
  • or your portrayal of its remnants, which is terrifically done — your use of light, the colors you captured, and the contrast you use to develop it all serve your end images wonderfully, and capture some of that horror I mentioned quite successfully
thanks for sharing
Thanks Sam. I appreciate the feedback.
 
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