Danvers State sold to developers
Kirkbride now belongs to AvalonBay.
state sold Danvers State Hospital to the Virginia-based
developer yesterday in a deal worth $12 million, sealing
22 years of discussions over the fate of the 77-acre abandoned
plans to build 497 apartments and condominiums on the site
and demolish most of the Kirkbride building, a Victorian
Gothic-style, eight-winged fortress stretching for a quarter-mile
that has lured artists and ghost hunters since it closed
yesterday touted the economic benefits of the deal. The
state will receive $3.2 million of the sale money to build
affordable housing for Department of Mental Health clients.
About $6 million will go into the state's general fund.
will receive about $2 million, which will be set aside for
education, historic preservation and affordable housing.
The town will also see a boost of about $1 million in annual
property tax revenues. And 70 units will be added to the
town's affordable housing stock.
good news because it puts to positive use a number of acres
of property that has fallen into disrepair due to lack of
use," Town Manager Wayne Marquis said. "I look
forward to making it a very high-quality project and one
we can all be proud of."
the sale has faced sharp criticism from a group of local
preservationists who have spent more than $25,000 trying
to stop it.
resident John Archer, one of the most vocal critics of the
project, said officials missed a perfect opportunity to
restore a structure with rich history and fascinating architecture.
is an abysmal moment in North Shore history," Archer
said. "To celebrate that building and bring it back
to life would have been one of the greatest things. It would
have put Danvers on the map.
should be ashamed of themselves," he said of the project's
stakeholders. "Their lack of insight is pathetic. It's
devastating to our history."
stalled the sale for two months by challenging it in court,
but both times a judge eventually allowed the transaction
admitted that his group is running out of options.
have nothing else at this point to say," Archer said.
"I wish I had some hope."
Vice President Scott Dale could not be reached for comment
Kirkbride, which once served more than 2,000 hospital patients,
will soon house 61 apartments and a function room. Crews
will add a lounge, fitness center and indoor basketball
court to the rear of the structure.
part of the deal, AvalonBay agreed to create a permanent
memorial honoring the legacy of former hospital patients
and staff and maintain a cemetery just below the summit
of Hathorne Hill.
developer can start knocking down parts of the Kirkbride
and 39 other buildings as soon as it receives a demolition
permit from the town. Building Inspector Peter Bryson said
the town must act within 30 days after receiving AvalonBay's
application. Because of the weakened condition of the Kirkbride,
the portion of the building that will be retained will first
have to be shored up before the wings can be dismantled,
not as simple as tearing down a shed. ... There may be portions
where they can literally push it over," Bryson said.
"There may be portions that will require a more delicate
said he expects AvalonBay to begin demolition quickly.
the sooner they go forward and the sooner they generate
income off the piece of property, the more successful they
are," he said.
developers hope to start construction in early 2006 and
wrap up by February 2008, according to a news release issued
official: Avalon Bay takes ownership of Danvers State
development corporation Avalon Bay Communities, Inc., took
ownership of the Danvers State Hospital yesterday for $18.4
million, according to Avalon Bay spokesman Scott Dale.
official closing on the deal comes 14 years after the state
announced it was closing Danvers State and other state-owned
institutions for the care of those with mental illness.
The 75-acre site is known for its signature structure, the
neo-Gothic building designed by Thomas Kirkbride.
challenges by local preservationists to save the Kirkbride
from the wrecking ball were unsuccessful. A judge in recent
weeks rejected claims by the Danvers Preservation Fund,
Inc. that the Danvers Preservation Commission was unclear
about a crucial vote it took year ago which proved fatal
to the effort to preserve the structure.
the legal challenges cleared, Avalon Bay Inc. needed only
to take title in order to proceed with their plans to erect
more than 400 units of housing on the site, which contains
numerous buildings listed on the National Register of Historic
Scott Dale said security fencing will be erected as soon
as their contractor can get on site, once demolition permits
Beverly Hospital plans Danvers expansion
Hospital plans to build a new $15 to $20 million ambulatory
care facility on the former Danvers State Hospital lowlands
property, and will likely convert its Lindall Hill site
to senior housing, Northeast Health System President and
CEO Steve Laverty said this week.
"We have a longstanding commitment to Danvers,"
Laverty said, noting Northeast Health System’s plan
will also mean major changes for the Hunt Center, the Lindall
Hill facility owned by Beverly Hospital.
"It’s a big investment for us," Laverty
told the Herald.
The investment that comes as great news to Town Manager
"We were glad they decided early on that Danvers is
the place they want to be in the future," he said.
"It’s very good news for Danvers and for the
North Shore," Marquis added.
The news comes within hours of Avalon Bay taking title to
the 75-acre former state hospital property from the state,
a decade-long process which concluded yesterday when the
state released the property to Avalon Bay Communities (see
Avalon Bay Communities spokesman Scott Dale confirmed that
negotiations are under way to sell some of the lowland acreage
to Northeast Health System/Beverly Hospital.
"It’s a good use for the site and a win-win for
all parties," said Dale. He said the facility will
front Maple Street and be visible from Route 1 south.
Laverty said the location offers better patient and physician
access to the current and future ambulatory services Beverly
Laverty said the approximately 80,000-square-foot facility
will offer ambulatory care and specialized services on two
or three floors. Day surgery, cardiac and oncology centers,
diabetes care, breast health, chronic pain management, lifestyle
management programs and services and physician offices will
be on the site, he said. He said Children’s Hospital
of Boston has expressed an interest in leasing space in
the facility for specialty clinics, such as pediatric gastrointestinal
care and pediatric cardiology.
like to think the people in the community will be as excited
as we are," Laverty said. "We’ll have two
well-positioned operations in Danvers that will meet community
needs in a way that’s respectful of citizens living
there," Laverty told the Herald.
Laverty said it’s too early to know whether the Hunt
Center, the former town-owned and operated Hunt Memorial
Hospital, will be renovated or torn down.
Laverty said conversations he’s had over the past
months with Town Manager Wayne Marquis made it clear that
a use with little traffic is something town officials would
like to see.
"They’ve been very up front about wanting to
maintain and expand their presence in Danvers," said
Laverty said Marquis has emphasized in conversations over
a period of many months the need for "senior housing."
Options include congregate, assisted living or 55-and-over
housing, he said, but added it is too early to know exactly
what type of housing will be built. Other Northeast/Beverly
Hospital senior housing operations include Heritage at Danvers,
and Ledgewood and Herrick House, two assisted living facilities
on the Beverly Hospital campus. All are market-rate facilities
with a small number of set-asides for low-income seniors.
Marquis was less specific, saying he’s most encouraged
by Northeast’s "real interest" in working
with the town
However, he said the presence on Lindall Hill of a nursing
home and an assisted living facility makes senior housing
and health services a logical fit for the area.
The plans will require approval from the Planning Board.
Laverty said the pediatric psychiatry program run by Mass
General, which leases space at the site, and Healthsouth
physical therapy programs currently at the Lindall Hill
site will remain.
"It’s a positive development for the residents
of this community and the North Shore, and their success
at the Hunt center is the foundation from which they will
grow the business," said Marquis. Northeast Health
System is a non-profit.
Judge denies move to block demolition Chris
a Superior Court judge paved the way for the town to issue
a demolition permit to AvalonBay, which plans to tear down
most of the 130-year-old former insane asylum to build apartments
group of local preservationists, the Danvers Preservation
Fund Inc. tried to block the demolition, saying the developers
failed to follow local regulations when they sought building
judge's decision appears to clear the last hurdle in AvalonBay's
attempts to buy the property for about $20 million and build
419 apartments and 64 condominiums there. About two-thirds
of the Victorian Gothic-style Kirkbride building, the site's
main attraction, would be demolished.
business once again wins out over preservation," said
John Archer, the project's loudest critic. "The enormous
material waste will be amazing."
James Gilbert, representing the preservationists, said his
clients will meet in a few days to discuss what their next
move, if any, will be.
town attorney Michael Lehane said he was pleased with the
decision and maintained that continuing to delay the project
would further jeopardize the portion of the Kirkbride that
AvalonBay plans to preserve.
"This process has been going on long before the hospital
closed," Lehane said. "There comes a point where
the process has to come to a conclusion."
Vice President Scott Dale said he believes the judge made
the right decision and said the land transaction from the
state to AvalonBay would take place in a matter of "weeks
confident we can move forward on the process that everyone's
already worked so hard on," Dale said.
a hearing in Salem Superior Court yesterday, Gilbert argued
that town officials inappropriately interfered in the work
of the local historic preservation commission. That body,
which could have delayed demolition, never ruled that the
40 buildings on the state hospital land were worth saving.
charged that preservation commission members didn't understand
the issues they were voting on and were "hoodwinked"
by officials from AvalonBay.
had a bunch of very confused people who only wanted to do
the right thing. ... They were under enormous pressure because
of the millions of dollars at stake."
who has vehemently railed against AvalonBay's plans, voted
against preserving the property because he was confused
on the vote, Gilbert said.
system failed in about six different ways," Gilbert
said. "Because of that, we're going to watch as buildings
on the National Register (of Historic Places) get demolished,
and that's just wrong."
Lehane fired back, attacking Gilbert's theory that the decision
was born out of confusion.
your case is that you're clients are stupid and can't understand
English, then that's a slim reed to rely on," he said.
said it was the fourth time the preservationists have sought
a judge's intervention.
shuttered mental hospital has attracted artists, historians
and ghost hunters fascinated with the architecture and design
of the quarter-mile-wide Kirkbride. "Urban explorers,"
an underground culture of thrill-seekers, have risked arrest
by slipping onto the site at night and photographing the
attorney Kevin O'Flaherty said both the town and commonwealth
stand to gain if the purchase goes through.
have a handful of people that think they know better than
everyone else," O'Flaherty said. "They don't represent
the public's best interest."
Danvers State sale on track
Superior Court Judge Howard Whitehead rejected the latest
attempt by the Danvers Preservation Commission to stall
the demolition of buildings at Danvers State Hospital.
In an hour-long proceeding in Salem Superior Court Monday,
Whitehead listened to arguments by Danvers Preservation
Fund Inc., the Town of Danvers, and Avalon Bay Communities,
Inc. before rejecting the plaintiffs' argument that the
members of the commission didn't understand their vote in
2003 against finding the buildings at the former Danvers
State Hospital worthy of preservation. He denied a preliminary
"They weren't a bunch of patsies," Whitehead responded
to Salem attorney James Gilbert, who represented former
commission members Kathryn Morano, John Archer, Wayne Eisenhauer
and plaintiff Richard Trask.
Trask isn't a member of the commission but has since been
involved in the effort to prevent the demolition of the
buildings on the site.
The Danvers Preservation Fund Inc., not to be confused with
the Danvers Preservation Commission at the center of the
legal fight, sought legal action to prevent the destruction
of the Kirkbride and other buildings at the site. Trask
and others have asserted throughout the decade-long process
of closing the former state institution for the mentally
ill that because the buildings are listed on the National
Register of Historic Places they should be preserved.
The state and town disagreed.
Danvers Town Counsel Michael Lehane blasted the members
of the Preservation Fund, calling them a small group of
people who think they know better than everyone else. He
called the legal machinations of the group "a historic
"The best he (Gilbert) can do is suggest his clients
are stupid, that they didn't know what they were doing,
" he said. "Who among us cannot understand?"
he continued. "Look at the bylaw."
In 2003, Lehane said, he advised the commission members
against including all of the buildings in their vote, as
opposed to just 38 of the buildings. They rejected the advice,
letter from the commission inquiring about jurisdiction
was never answered, Archer said after the court appearance.
Judge Whitehead said Lehane might have been wrong on the
issue of how many buildings the commission should have included
in its vote. But, he said, it was moot because the commission
voted against finding the buildings worthy of preservation.
The commission did so by a vote of 5 to 2, with Chairman
Kathryn Morano and member Pete Haynes voting yes, that they
were worthy of preservation. Members have said they voted
no because they believed the application before them was
improper. They believed only the state had the authority
to make application since the state owned the property and
this application had been presented by the would-be developer
Avalon Bay. They wanted to register their dissatisfaction
with a process that left out their input.
said such was not the case, and that Avalon Bay was a proper
applicant. Members who attempted to register their opposition
to the entire process by voting no had engaged in a strategy
Gilbert tried unsuccessfully to argue that Lehane and others
had created confusion among members regarding their vote
as part of a "shell game" by the town to push
the project through regardless of the fate of the Kirkbride
building in particular, an 18th century neo-Gothic structure.
"Everybody knew the members didn't know what they were
voting on," said Gilbert. "They did not ever intend
to vote that the buildings weren't worthy of preservation."
Whitehead was unpersuaded.
suggested it was simply implausible that the same board
which overrode town counsel on the question of the 40 buildings
at the state hospital site - "and I think they were
dead wrong on that" - were somehow hoodwinked when
it came to the vote.
"It was an up or down motion, wasn't it?" asked
Archer said this week that the vote on whether to invoke
the six-month demolition delay wasn't so crucial.
vote that night had nothing to do with Avalon Bay's decision
to tear down the buildings, and all we were asking was for
them to salvage two more wings of the Kirkbride," he
"We gave in on everything; we changed to zoning for
the Kirkbride building to be reused, and they've given nothing,"
Whitehead also rejected Danvers Preservation Fund, Inc.'s
argument that the application for a demolition permit wasn't
valid because the company wasn't yet the legal owner of
"It wasn't their business whether it was an appropriate
applicant," said Whitehead.
He said the state building code specifically allows somebody
other than an owner to apply for a demolition permit.
Whitehead also found that the building inspector had acted
in accordance with state and local laws.
He was unpersuaded by Gilbert's argument that since the
Danvers State buildings are on the National Register of
Historic Places, they were entitled to protection (although
he did ask at one point what the National Register listing
actually states, a query that wasn't answered.)
the spectators in the courtroom Monday afternoon was Joe
Sadoway, who has followed the process and recalls the meeting
at which the commission took their fateful vote.
"This is evil," said Sadoway.
"This is a great disservice to generations to come
and they will ask why did the town allow this travesty to
happen?" said John Archer, who served on both the town
preservation commission and the Danvers Preservation Fund
Inc. "Of course we all think they're historically significant,
" said Archer.
"We were trying to get out of the vote, and we didn't
have anyone there who could help us, so we did botch the
vote. But even if we hadn't, they had already worked the
six months delay into their timeline, " said Archer.
"They do it everyday."
He said they were trying to do more than just give them
the six months.
will ask how could this travesty happen: How could they
have been so shortsighted? This is the poverty of progress;
they should be ashamed of themselves. From Mass achusetts
Historic Commission to the town manager," said Archer.
Avalon Bay Communities spokesman Scott Dale said following
the proceeding that the company plans to file for permits
The company plans to build 466 apartments on the site.
Back to court about Danvers
State Sally Kerans
attorney for the Danvers Preservation Fund, Inc. will return
to court next week to seek another delay of the sale of
the Danvers State Hospital property, this time focusing
on the role of Danvers officials and its Preservation Commission
in the process.
Judge Howard Whitehead denied a request for a preliminary
injunction sought by The Danvers Preservation Fund, Inc.
on Nov. 8. A memorandum outlining the reasons for the denial
has not been issued, the court said.
Attorney James Gilbert said his clients will appear in Salem
Superior Court on Monday, Nov. 21, at 2 p.m. The town of
Danvers will be there, too.
Gilbert and his clients contend that both state agencies
and the town failed to give due attention to the historic
value of many of the buildings on the Danvers State Hospital
property. They contend that the Danvers Preservation Commission
didn't have the authority to act on an application for permission
to demolish the buildings because it was submitted by Avalon
Bay Communities, the developer, which wasn't the rightful
owner of the property.
Furthermore, some involved say that when the commission
acted on the application by Avalon Bay Communities in 2003,
members were confused about the action they were taking
and how it would affect the structures on the property,
including those listed on the National Register of Historic
"It got very complicated and some members didn't even
know what they were voting on, and instead of declaring
they didn't have authority to rule, they declared it (the
property) wasn't significant," said Richard Trask,
the town archivist, who is not a member of the Preservation
Danvers Preservation Fund, Inc. attorney James Gilbert said
this week that all that followed from that action should
be moot because the town violated its own demolition by-law.
"Like everything else with the state hospital, this
is a very Byzantine process," said Trask.
To date, a demolition permit has not been issued.
The closing on the sale of the former Danvers State Hospital
property to Avalon Bay Communities was originally scheduled
for Oct. 21.
Danvers State sale OK'd, but
legal fight lingers Chris Cassidy
judge yesterday ruled the sale and demolition of Danvers
State Hospital can proceed, but local preservationists vowed
to keep fighting.
group incorporated as the Danvers Preservation Fund accused
the state of neglecting historic preservation laws and filed
an eleventh-hour lawsuit to block the sale. But yesterday's
Salem Superior Court ruling cleared the way for the 77-acre
property to be sold to developer AvalonBay.
not giving up yet," said Kathryn Morano, a preservation
fund member. "We still have another ace up our sleeve."
the group will head back to court to try to stop the project,
possibly as early as today, said attorney James Gilbert.
AvalonBay plans to knock down a portion of the Gothic-style
Kirkbride building to make way for housing.
group wants to block the town building inspector from issuing
a demolition permit to AvalonBay, claiming the town violated
its own bylaws governing the demolition of historic buildings,
he claims the town manager "bullied" the local
preservation commission into hearing AvalonBay's demolition
request before it assumed ownership of the property —
a violation of a town bylaw, Gilbert alleged. The preservation
commission can delay demolition of a historic structure
up to six months, he said.
was an abuse of the town manager's authority to force the
preservation commission to act in a manner (it) knew was
illegal," Gilbert said.
Manager Wayne Marquis could not be reached for a response
Kevin O'Flaherty, representing AvalonBay, deferred comment
to Vice President Scott Dale, who did not return a phone
Gilbert hopes a judge will set a hearing sometime next week.
Massachusetts, not Las Vegas," Gilbert said. "We
don't tear down buildings without any thought or consideration
of their historic nature.
isn't Caesar's Palace. This is a historic building that
is entitled to a lot more consideration, both legally and
morally, than what it's received."
its peak, the hospital treated 2,000 patients, even though
its official capacity was just 600.
130-year-old mental hospital has attracted artists, historians
and even ghost hunters fascinated with the architecture
and design of the quarter-mile-wide Kirkbride. "Urban
explorers," an underground culture of thrill-seekers,
have risked arrest by slipping onto the site at night and
photographing the building.
was even the setting for a 2001 horror movie, "Session
the latest court action to preserve the venerable building
won't stop the sale, thanks to yesterday's superior court
decision was a major victory for the parties involved in
the sale. The state and AvalonBay had hoped to finalize
the deal last month.
in the day, Marquis called the ruling "good news"
and hoped it would move the project forward. Kevin Flanigan,
a spokesman for the state Division of Capital Asset Management,
called yesterday's ruling "a very positive development."
said he didn't know when the sale will be finalized.
Judge rules against preservationists
judge has denied the Danvers Preservation Fund Inc.'s request
for injunctive relief in connection with the sale of the
former Danvers State Hospital.
A spokesman for Salem Superior Court Judge Howard Whitehead
said yesterday the motion was denied and gave no other details,
saying a memorandum would follow.
Danvers Preservation Fund Inc. is seeking to re-open the
process which, if not stopped, will lead to the demolition
of historic buildings on the former Danvers State Hospital
and of two-thirds of the signature Kirkbride building.
Avalon Bay Communites had been scheduled to purchase the
property in late October from the state. The developer was
then expected to begin demolition at the site as it began
building 460 odd residential apartments and condominiums.
The preservationists filed their suit against the Secretary
of State as the head of the Massachusetts Historical Commission
as well as the town of Danvers and the state Division of
Capital Asset Management.
They alleged the state and town had failed to consider the
historic value of this site which is listed on the National
Register of Historic Places.
Now that the judge has ruled against them, Jim Gilbert,
the attorney for the preservation group, said his clients
will go to court again next week, this time challenging
the town of Danvers' issuance of a demolition permit, which
the group contends was unlawfully granted.
"The town violated its own by-law," said Gilbert,
referring to the town's historic demolition by-law.
The group succeeded in delaying the scheduled closing on
the sale of the property.
Avalon Bay was chosen to develop the site through a process
involving the state and the town. "We've had 22 years
of process on this," said Town Manager Wayne Marquis
at a recent meeting of the Board of Selectmen.
But Gilbert says his clients weren't included.
"Twenty-two years of flawed process isn't process,"
At issue in the lawsuit brought by Gilbert for Danvers Preservation
Fund, Inc. is whether state agencies took historic value
into proper account during the process. They say a public
hearing on the adverse effect of tearing down the Kirkbride
never happened, as required by law.
State hospital fate still in limbo Chris
State Hospital has dodged the wrecking ball — for
a judge heard arguments from all parties involved in the
pending sale of the 77-acre property, including a preservationist
group demanding it be stopped.
Howard Whitehead will rule on the fate of the abandoned
hospital "in a matter of days," he said yesterday.
Until then, a temporary restraining order blocking the transaction
and demolition of most of the quarter-mile-wide Kirkbride
building will remain in place.
group of local preservationists, incorporated as the Danvers
Preservation Fund Inc., is trying to block the sale, claiming
the state violated federal and state historic preservation
laws by not allowing public input in the process.
about to tear down a building that's on the National Register
of Historic Places," the attorney for the preservationists,
James Gilbert, told the judge yesterday. "It's worth
taking the time to make sure we've crossed the t's and dotted
proposed sale of Danvers State Hospital to developer AvalonBay
has raised questions over which side has the public's interest
at heart: preservationists intent on saving a 130-year-old
former mental hospital's Gothic-style architecture or developers
whose project would create affordable housing units and
add between $300,000 and $400,000 in tax revenues to the
Manager Wayne Marquis has said AvalonBay will also contribute
$1 million to the town for school building projects, $500,000
for historic restoration projects and $500,000 to build
Dolan, the attorney representing the town, said yesterday
that Danvers stands to lose $3 million if the sale is blocked.
Seventy affordable housing units are also expected to be
added to the town's stock.
the transaction isn't completed, the public interest will
be removed by a few individuals who think they know better,"
Collins, the attorney representing the state, said two independent
experts hired in 2002 suggested the building should be razed.
A third expert commended the sale proposal for preserving
even 100,000 square feet of the Kirkbride building. (Under
the current proposal, AvalonBay would preserve a portion
of the Kirkbride).
said one of the experts even predicted the building would
collapse in two to five years.
said more than 30 public meetings about the hospital sale
have been held in Danvers, including some with citizen advisory
committees. The Massachusetts Historical Commission has
been involved in the process since 1982, he said.
Gilbert charged that state agencies either ignored or neglected
required statutes when they approved AvalonBay's proposal
to knock down portions of the Kirkbride. The Danvers Preservation
Fund now stands as the most vocal group opposing the project.
are essentially citizens standing in place of a state agency,"
Gilbert told the judge.
have said they don't oppose the idea of developing the site,
as long as the architecture that has drawn artists, filmmakers
and history buffs is preserved.
suggested additional money AvalonBay has pledged to parties
like the town was really an offer in exchange for their
cooperation in the sale process.
is a company that went around and floated money to everyone.
... If they took that money and put it into preservation,
we could save that structure," Gilbert said.
May, AvalonBay received clearance to build 419 apartments
and 64 condominiums on the site of the former insane asylum,
which closed in 1992. If the sale goes through, the first
apartments could open by the late summer or early fall of
2006, with project completion scheduled for late 2007
10-23-05 Former Danvers hospital sale
stalls Kathy McCabe
preservationists and the developer wanting to buy Danvers
State Hospital will meet in court Wednesday for a hearing
to determine whether the sale should be delayed until a
trial can rule on whether historic preservation laws have
Court Judge Howard Whitehead temporarily blocked the sale
of the 19th-century hospital to AvalonBay Communities Inc.
after preservationists filed a suit arguing that the town
and state have not complied with historic preservation laws
that could save much of the property from the wrecking ball.
Communities Inc., a Virginia company with local offices
in Quincy, plans to build 497 housing units on the campus,
which is listed on state and national historic registers.
its lawsuit, the Danvers Preservation Fund Inc., a nonprofit
formed by local residents, argued that the town and state,
particularly the Massachusetts Historical Commission, did
not allow enough public input into the redevelopment plan,
or consider its impact on historic preservation. Of particular
concern to preservationists is the future of the Kirkbride
building. The Gothic structure, on a hilltop overlooking
Route 1, is one of the most prominent structures in Danvers.
Wednesday, all parties are due in Salem Superior Court for
a hearing to determine whether the restraining order should
remain in place until a trial can be held. If the sale is
allowed to proceed, preservationists say a valuable piece
of architectural history in Danvers will be lost.
don't want people 100 years from now looking at pictures
of the Kirkbride and saying, 'Why did those stupid people
get rid of such an architectural gem?' " said Richard
Trask, the town archivist, who said he joined the lawsuit
as a private citizen.
suit alleges that the Massachusetts Historical Commission
failed to hold a public hearing, as required by law, before
agreeing to the demolition of most of the hospital campus,
including part of the Kirkbride. The suit also alleges the
state Division of Capital Asset Management, which holds
title to all state real estate, allowed the building to
deteriorate since the psychiatric hospital closed in 1992.
for each state agency declined to comment on the lawsuit,
citing a general policy of not discussing pending litigation.
Kirkbride, built in 1874, is a brick-and-granite structure,
standing 3 1/2 stories and running a quarter of a mile in
length. It is considered a fine example of 19th-century
Victorian Gothic architecture and is a key reason the hospital
campus was added to the National Historic Register in 1984,
a gem," said John Archer, a preservationist and critic
of AvalonBay's redevelopment plan. ''Nothing like this will
ever be built again."
has agreed to preserve 100,000 square feet of the Kirkbride,
including the main facade and administration building. The
space would be incorporated into its plan to build apartments
and condominiums on the main portion of the 77-acre property.
not a small amount of space," said Scott Dale, a vice
president at AvalonBay. He rejected the notion that the
public did not have enough say. ''It's been a very long
public process," Dale said. ''I believe there has been
ample input from everyone."
over preserving the Kirkbride has been long running. It
first surfaced in the mid-1990s, when reuse plans for the
shuttered hospital were first talked about with town officials.
Special state legislation placed conditions on the sale
of the property, aimed at preventing a private developer
from snapping up choice state real estate without guaranteeing
has agreed to pay about $2.3 million for education, affordable
housing, and historic preservation in Danvers, and mental
health services in Essex County. Danvers stands to gain
an estimated $300,000 to $400,000 in annual tax revenues
from the site's redevelopment. In addition to housing, AvalonBay
plans 100,000 square feet of commercial development on the
lower portion of the hospital site, near Route 62.
legislation also required that a special citizens committee
in Danvers review plans proposed by developers, and make
a recommendation to the town. The committee three years
ago approved the developer's preservation of 100,000 square
feet of the Kirkbride, as opposed to losing the whole building.
Lehane, Danvers town counsel, said the citizens advisory
committee shows the town did allow for public input. ''The
committee was meant to represent the town's broader interests,"
disagreed, and said they were shut out and have no recourse
but to turn to the courts.
wouldn't listen to our arguments," said Kathryn Morano,
a former chairwoman of the Danvers Preservation Commission,
a town board. ''We believe that much more of that property
can be preserved . . . From day one, they didn't want to
listen. . . . That's why the very issues we raised are now
before a judge."
Arrest Log A 16-year-old boy was arrested and charged
with driving without a license, trespassing and driving
an unregistered motor vehicle after police investigated
a trespassing complaint at the shuddered Danvers State Hospital
property. State, along with Danvers police, intercepted
a group of approximately 15 youths, before they went onto
the property around 10:40 p.m.
Danvers State sale put on hold; hearing scheduled
judge yesterday temporarily stopped the multimillion dollar
sale of Danvers State Hospital, two days before the deal
was set to close.
a reversal of a decision handed down the day before, when
a preservationists group, incorporated as the Danvers Preservation
Fund Inc., failed to persuade the judge to block the impending
Howard Whitehead ordered a temporary restraining order on
the sale of the abandoned former asylum, after the preservationists
revised their legal complaint yesterday. The group changed
its complaint to include developer AvalonBay as a defendant
and to list the preservationists by name.
very pleased," said James Gilbert, the attorney representing
the preservationists Kathryn Morano, John Archer and Wayne
Eisenhauer. "We listened to the judge's concerns yesterday.
We were very quick to address them and get back into court.
... It's an important first step."
hearing is scheduled for next Wednesday, when Gilbert will
ask a judge to prevent the sale until the state complies
with certain obligations, including holding hearings and
examining the sale's impact on historic preservation, he
would anticipate that if the judge issues a preliminary
injunction, it would be quite some time before the transfer
could take place," Gilbert said.
state had hoped to complete the sale of the 77-acre property
tomorrow, according to Kevin Flanigan, a spokesman for the
state Division of Capital Asset Management. AvalonBay plans
to turn the former state hospital property into condos and
declined to comment on yesterday's developments, saying
the office had not yet received court documents and does
not typically comment on litigation.
Vice President Scott Dale said he was disappointed with
the eleventh-hour ruling but remained optimistic the project
would soon proceed as originally designed.
is another hurdle that we'll have to get over to move the
project forward," Dale said.
said several parties tied to the project have worked together
for years to devise a concept they could stand behind.
the process, everyone has compromised to get to a solution,
to get to an economically viable development proposal,"
Dale said. "That's the way things get done. People
hospital, closed in the early 1990s, has long been the fascination
of fright-seekers and so-called "urban explorers"
who break in to take pictures in the eerie, abandoned building.
officials long ago warned conditions inside the hospital
are treacherous: Ceilings have collapsed, and floors have
the sale would further jeopardize the portion of the property's
flagship structure, the Kirkbride Building, that AvalonBay
plans to maintain, Dale said.
and elements of the environment are taking their toll on
the building week by week, and another winter of the building
being exposed to the elements will not help," he said.
an outspoken critic of the AvalonBay project and member
of the Danvers Preservation Fund, said he was "thrilled"
with the ruling.
you fight a huge corporation like AvalonBay, you're dealing
with some extremely bright, clever lawyers who are responsible
to their stockholders. ... We are not driven by a monetary
gain as they are. We're truly an altruistic group."
said his group isn't against the idea of creating housing
on the site but would like to see the architecture of the
130-year-old, Gothic-style Kirkbride building preserved.
Its eight wings stretch a quarter-mile across the crown
of Hathorne Hill and can be seen from Route 1 and Interstate
right and wrong, and we're right," Archer said.
yesterday afternoon, Town Manager Wayne Marquis said his
office had not received notice of the restraining order.
But he said town attorneys would be present at Wednesday's
hearing and remained confident the sale would proceed.
this point there have been so many ups and downs and twists
and turns, I'm not surprised by anything," Marquis
town stands to benefit from an estimated $300,000 to $400,000
in additional property taxes that will come with the development,
developer has also pledged another $2.3 million to the town,
including $1 million for school building projects, $500,000
for historic projects like the restoration of Town Hall
and $500,000 to build the town's affordable housing stock.
remaining $300,000 is expected to be spent on the renovation
of playing fields behind the Thorpe School.
Sale of Danvers State Hospital
stopped by Sally Kerans
attorney for Danvers Preservation Fund, Inc. won a temporary
restraining order Wednesday morning halting the sale of
the former Danvers State Hospital to Avalon Bay, a developer
of apartment complexes.
Salem Superior Court judge Howard Whitehead yesterday granted
a temporary restraining order sought by Danvers Preservation,
Inc., which prohibits the sale or transfer of the property
at least until Wednesday, Oct. 26, said attorney Jim Gilbert,
attorney for the group challenging the legality of the process
leading to the sale of the former Danvers State Hospital.
The sale had been scheduled for tomorrow, Oct. 21.
The multi-acre site in the Hathorne section of Danvers contains
40 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic
Places, in particular, the eight-winged Kirkbride building
at the summit of the hill.
The suit names the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' Division
of Capital Asset Management, Massachusetts Historical Commission
and its chairman, Secretary of State William Galvin, and
the Town of Danvers. It alleges that laws protecting historic
structures were ignored in the decade-long process of disposition
of the property.
Gilbert said Judge Whitehead ordered all parties back in
court next Wednesday, Oct. 26.
"At least we got over the first hurdle," said
Hospital suit goes forward
By Sally Kerans
Danvers Preservation Fund Inc. will file suit in Essex Superior
Court as early as tomorrow in hopes of delaying the scheduled
Oct. 21 sale of the Danvers State Hospital to developer
Avalon Bay, their attorney said yesterday.
"We're definitely going forward," said Jim Gilbert,
attorney for the non-profit group which has hired Gilbert
to press their case against the state agencies charged with
safeguarding the historic buildings on the site of the former
Danvers Insane Asylum.
The Danvers Preservation Fund Inc. last week asked the Division
of Capital Asset Management (DCAM) to impose a voluntary
delay of the sale in order to review the process.
This week, DCAM told Gilbert they saw no reason to postpone
the Oct. 21 closing date.
Gilbert said it was a typical response from a government
agency that has no interest in working with historic preservationists.
Gilbert and his clients contend that Massachusetts Historical
Commission failed to carry out its duties as the historic
preservation guardian of the state's important historic
assets. Specifically, the agency failed to follow statutory
requirements for public input in determining that demolition
of the buildings listed on the National Register of Historic
Places would have an adverse effect.
That charge was disputed by Secretary of State William Galvin's
"Of all of the parties that were involved, my greatest
disappointment was with the MHC," said Richard Trask,
who is not a member of the Danvers Preservation Fund Inc.
but has made a financial contribution to the fund. Trask
is the Town of Danvers Archivist and is careful to separate
his official duties from his personal historic advocacy.
"When they're talking about taking a national historic
area of 40 buildings, destroying 39 of them, and then destroying
two thirds of the 40th, including not keeping the roof and
the first 20 courses of bricks, then if that's historic
preservation, I'm in the wrong business," said Trask.
Trask said he was not aware of a single time anyone local
was asked by Massachusetts Historical Commission for input
or comment on Danvers State Hospital.
The hospital was closed in 1992. It is listed on the National
Register of Historic Places. A multi-year process resulted
in rezoning the property for residential development on
top of Hathorne Hill, where the Kirkbride building, chapel,
and other buildings are located, and commercial development
at the bottom. The developer finally chosen for the project
is Avalon Bay Communities.
Demolition of buildings would occur in the first phase of
Trask says interest in Danvers State among people who contact
the Archives has surpassed geneology over the past year.
The witchcraft hysteria and subsequent executions is still
the top topic of interest.
State suit on hold By Sally Kerans
took the threat of legal action, but local preservationists
may finally be heard on the fate of the majestic Kirkbride
and other historic buildings at Danvers State Hospital.
The state agency in charge of selling Danvers State Hospital
has asked the attorney for the Danvers Preservation Fund,
Inc. to hold off filing suit so the agency can review the
pending sale to Avalon Bay, signaling a possible delay in
the sale, set for the end of this month.
The citizen-led non-profit preservation group informed the
state's Division of Capital Asset Management (DCAM) and
the Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC) last week
they will file a law suit if necessary to ensure that the
process for demolishing historic buildings spelled out in
state law was followed in the Danvers State Hospital deal.
state hospital is listed on the National Register of Historic
Places and under the purview, therefore, of the Massachusetts
DCAM is in charge of all state assets, including their maintenance
as well as their disposition.
"At the end of the day, nobody is ever going to hold
up the Danvers State Hospital process and say, 'this is
how we do historic preservation,'" said Danvers Preservation
Fund, Inc. attorney Jim Gilbert this week.
The group is prepared to argue in court if necessary that
the Massachusetts Historical Commission failed to hold hearings
and issue a determination of "adverse effect"
or "no adverse effect" of demolishing the buildings,
as state law says it must for any buildings listed on the
National Register of Historic Places.
"Even if it turned out, at the end of the day, that
Kirkbride couldn't be saved, at least there would have been
a public process," said Gilbert.
That process has been a source of frustration for many.
"We've tried to cover every angle possible," said
Town Archivist Richard Trask in an earlier interview about
past efforts to save the Kirkbride building. With no success,
the local preservationists finally hit upon the idea of
filing suit against the state agencies in charge of the
property, he said. Although he is not a member of the group
suing, he fully supports its efforts, he said
Historical Commission's chairman is the Secretary of State,
William Galvin. His office disputes the charge that MHC
didn't follow the law.
"Massachusetts Historical followed the process to the
nth degree," said Galvin spokesman Michael Maresco.
Maresco said that Massachusetts law provides MHC with a
role that is "consultative" in nature and does
not give the entity veto power.
Maresco said MHC consulted with DCAM throughout the process,
and did, in fact, hold a hearing before it made its finding
of adverse effect.
He said MHC also recommended a developer other than the
one chosen, Archstone, and that Secretary of State Galvin
sent a letter in May 2002 to DCAM commissioner David Perini
objecting to plans to demolish vast sections of the Kirkbride
Only DCAM can unilaterally stop the sale voluntarily, according
A DCAM representative said the agency would respond in writing
about the sale in the near future.
Avalon Bay did not return calls before press deadline.
Police arrest amateur ghost hunter on Danvers State Hospital
grounds By Andy Smith
ghost hunter Matthew X said he heard swirling noises and
faint screams on the grounds of Danvers State Hospital as
he was investigating claims the old asylum is haunted.
he heard his Miranda rights.
X , 33, and two friends were charged over the weekend with
trespassing on the grounds.
said he and his friends never noticed any "no trespassing"
signs when they took a back road to reach the deserted site
of the 127-year-old state psychiatric hospital.
were there to make a videotape to send to the Atlantic Paranormal
Society, which investigates haunted sites for the Sci-Fi
Channel's "Ghost Hunters."
is haunted by paranormal enthusiasts, if not by ghosts.
the hospital closed in 1991, scores have visited the Victorian
Gothic building. At least 20 unauthorized visitors have
been arrested this year alone.
a computer technician, said he and his friends never entered
the building, but did experience strange sensations on the
grounds that he described as "major discomfort."
when we were up there, we got the presence," he said.
"We felt the energy."
police arrested Matthew along with Ross X, 34, of West Peabody
and Matt X, 24, of Salem, Mass., on Saturday about 6:30
police could not provide records on the number of trespassing
arrests they have made at the site. But Danvers police said
they have arrested 17 people for trespassing at the hospital
Robert Bettencourt said the site's popularity was fueled
by Internet rumors and the 2001 release of "Session
9," a film about a haunted hospital that was shot at
the site. The film's star, David Caruso, has said he saw
something unexplainable pass by a hospital window during
the shoot. He called Danvers "the scariest building
has been going on for a few years now," Bettencourt
said of the uninvited visitors. "Danvers people knew
about the place all along, but that movie and the Internet
got the word out there."
said he and his friends often visit sites that are suspected
of hosting paranormal activity. He said they undertake their
visits with a "critical" atitude, never assuming
they will encounter anything unusual.
Danvers State Hospital had an undeniable level of activity.
said he heard faint screaming. Gordon said a leafless tree
was another sign of the supernatural.
the middle of the courtyard, there was one tree that looked
dead, but it wasn't," Gordon said. "And all the
other trees were in full bloom."
men said they are scheduled to be arraigned tomorrow in
Salem (Mass.) District Court.
hospital property is owned by the state and is open for
tours once a month.
a development company, is buying the property for $20 million
with plans to build apartments.
"Ghost hunters" arrested in former state hospital
By Ben Hellman
police arrested three self-styled ghost hunters —
who were armed with a video camera — inside Danvers
State Hospital Saturday night.
charged the videotaping trio with trespassing. Charged were:
Matthew X, 33, of 770 Martin St., North Andover; Ross X
34, of 3604 Woodbridge St., West Peabody; and Matthew X,
24, of 3 Granite St., Salem.
men told police they had seen the building in a horror film,
said Sgt. Robert Favuzza.
you imagine that?" Favuzza said. "They didn't
have anything better to do on a Saturday night."
men were arrested in the Bonner Building by Trooper Scott
Grimes, Favuzza said.
of the old state psychiatric hospital were built in the
Victorian Gothic style complete with spires and towers,
and has remained a curiosity for ghost hunters, artists
and others.. The Bonner Building, built in 1955, appeared
in the 2001 horror film "Session 9," starring
David Caruso. According to IMDB.com, the actor said he saw
something unexplained pass by his window during the filming
of the movie.
in the hospital has increased as plans for its demolition
are finalized. The property development company AvalonBay
is in the process of buying the property for $20 million
and plans to build apartments on the property.
9-30-05 Hospital sale could be stalled
by legal action By
a voluntary agreement to delay the sale of the Danvers State
Hospital, Danvers Preservation Fund Inc. will file suit
in Essex Superior Court next week charging that state agencies
failed to enforce applicable laws.
"While my clients would prefer to avoid litigation
in this matter, the failure of the state agencies ... leave
my clients with little choice but to seek intervention of
the courts," Attorney James G. Gilbert wrote in a letter
dated Sept. 28.
Gilbert specifically mentioned the Massachusetts Historical
Commission, the state Division of Capital Asset Management
and the town of Danvers all had failed their obligations
to preserve "this important historic site for future
Gilbert said this week that his client will not sue if the
state and developer AvalonBay voluntarily delay the sale,
due in late October. If no response is forthcoming by tomorrow,
he said, the suit will be filed.
An anonymous donation of $10,000, to Danvers Preservation
Fund Inc., along with other contributions from people angry
over the possible demolition of two-thirds of the closed
Kirkbride building, has enabled the non-profit to retain
counsel to stop the demolition, said members of Danvers
Preservation Fund Inc., which includes current and former
members of the town's Preservation Commission.
The hospital closed in 1992. It is listed on the National
Register of Historic Places. A multi-year process resulted
in rezoning the property for a two-pronged development,
including residential on top of Hathorne Hill at the hospital
and commercial on the bottom.
Avalon Bay Communites received local and state approval
for 433 apartments and 60 condominiums, but won the ire
of preservationists by proposing the demolition of two-thirds
of the historic Kirkbride building.
The company is scheduled to assume ownership of the property
in October. Demolition of buildings would occur in the first
phase of the development.
Avalon Bay Vice President Scott Dale would not comment on
"The process wasn't right," said Kathryn Morano,
former Danvers Preservation Commission chairwoman.
"All along, people weren't doing the right thing, from
Massachusetts Historical Commission, to DCAM, to the town
of Danvers," said Morano. She said the result is "a
nondescript, overly dense development that wasn't at all
what Town Meeting (members) thought they were voting for
when they approved the zoning changes," she said.
Town Meeting approved zoning changes to allow a number of
uses on the site.
Morano said she and her fellow preservationists aren't happy
about their decision to file suit, but had no choice, since
every attempt to enlist state and local support for preserving
the site was "stonewalled."
"It was like the (Preservation) Commission was an annoying
little wasp that had to be swatted, " she said of the
commission's efforts to preserve the site. "Now the
hive is agitated, and they have to deal with the whole hive,"
Gilbert says the suit will challenge repeated instances
where state agencies, including the Division of Capital
Asset Management and the Massachusetts Historic Commission,
ignored the laws they should have upheld.
"We think there's a significant argument that (these)
state agencies failed to follow the statute, and any time
that happens, injunctive relief is proper, " said Gilbert.
"We think we can convince a judge of that."
If a judge agrees, Gilbert said, development of the site
could be delayed until all applicable state laws were complied
Decision to sue
The decision to pursue legal action is a major step for
the group, which was established in 1994 and is also working
to restore the Danvers Plains Train Station. It includes
Morano, John Archer, Wayne Eisenhauer, Walter Sherwood and
Charles Wilson. Morano said only Wilson opposed the decision
to purse legal action.
The group is counting on the widespread appeal which the
Danvers State saga has attracted will to continue to translate
into financial support of the group's effort, chiefly through
its Web site, www.kirkbridebuildings.org.
"I don't think any of us is happy about this,"
she said. "But there has to be a reckoning."
The Danvers State Hospital was closed in 1992 . Responsibility
for its disposition was given to the state's Division of
Capital Asset Management (DCAM).
After extensive interaction among state and local agencies
and a citizens advisory committee, legislation was passed
in 1997 to allow for its sale. While minimum preservation
requirements were included, along with provisions for re-use
that called for care or housing of people with mental illness,
those were largely ignored, preservationists said.
"They literally just ignored key elements written into
the legislation to preserve the Kirkbride Building,"
said Wayne Eisenhauer, a founding member of Danvers Preservation
Archstone Development won the bid to develop the site in
part because of its stated commitment to preserve the Kirkbride,
the signature, neo-Gothic structure on the 77-acre campus
which straddles Danvers and Middleton. But Archstone quickly
backed away from its commitment to preservation, citing
Avalon Bay was chosen by DCAM to develop the site. According
to Avalon's Scott Dale, 105,000 square feet of the Kirkbride
will be preserved.
Former Massachusetts Historical Commission member William
Tinti of Salem told the Herald, "I think buildings
on the National Register should be preserved and not demolished."
Preservationists look to court to block Danvers State sale
By Andrew Hickey
group of local preservationists is preparing a lawsuit that
could block the sale of Danvers State Hospital to AvalonBay
Communities, a developer.
suit, expected to be filed within the next few days on behalf
of the Danvers Preservation Fund, contends two state agencies
failed to follow the law by allowing a historic site to
be torn down, said Salem lawyer James Gilbert, who is representing
the preservation fund.
completely ignored their statutory obligations and a historic
structure is now designated for demolition," said Gilbert,
referring to the Massachusetts Historical Commission and
the Division of Capital Asset Management.
McNiff, a state Historical Commission spokesman, said yesterday
he couldn't comment until he sees the lawsuit. The Division
of Capital Asset Management could not be reached for comment.
said he hopes the suit will prevent the nearly $20 million
sale of Danvers State Hospital to AvalonBay or at least
open up a line of communication that would lead to preserving
the imposing Kirkbride building.
ultimate goal is to preserve the historic buildings that
are located on this property," he said. "It does
appear our only option at this point in time to save these
buildings is to initiate litigation."
continued: "We think we have a pretty strong argument.
We think we can prevent the sale."
Kirkbride, a quarter-mile-long brick and granite fortress,
is the hospital's main attraction. The towers and spires
— signatures of the high Victorian Gothic architecture
— can be seen from Route 1 and Interstate 95. The
Kirkbride has been a draw for artists, filmmakers and urban
explorers since the hospital closed its doors in 1992.
May, AvalonBay received approval to build 419 apartments
and 64 condominiums on the site of the shuttered former
asylum that has loomed atop Hathorne Hill for 130 years.
Under AvalonBay's plans, one-third of the Kirkbride would
be preserved. The rest of the Kirkbride and the other 39
buildings on the property would be torn down.
vice president Scott Dale said the company is prepared to
close on the 77-acre property by mid- to late October. Demolition
could start as soon as Nov. 1. Some apartments could be
available by late summer or early fall 2006 and the entire
project could be completed by late 2007.
would not comment on the suit yesterday.
said when the suit is filed, he will seek a temporary restraining
order to put all of AvalonBay's plans on hold for a few
days. From there, he will seek a preliminary or permanent
injunction that would halt development at Danvers State
until the injunction is lifted by a judge.
are asking that the commonwealth and the developer agree
to voluntarily postpone any sale of the property until the
government entities have met their statutory obligations,"
Archer, a member of the preservation fund and one of the
most vocal people in the fight to save Danvers State, said
the group's main focus is saving the Kirkbride.
takes an artist to build a building, but it's a jackass
that knocks it down," he said, explaining his group's
Archer said the preservation fund is willing to work out
a deal with any developer that will keep the building standing,
even if the interior is gutted.
said he'd be pleased "as long as you drive up that
driveway and look at the Kirkbride and see that same roofline,
that same masterpiece."
Danvers Preservation Fund, a nonprofit that formed in 1994,
has been receiving donations through its Web site, www.kirkbridebuildings.com.
It has received support from thousands of people globally
and has raised a large amount of money to fund litigation,
including a significant anonymous donation, Archer said.
An online petition to save Danvers State has received nearly
its fight to save the hospital, the group has contacted
the governor, the lieutenant governor, lawmakers, artists,
entertainers and even horror author Stephen King in its
battle to preserve Danvers State. They've tried to schedule
meetings with AvalonBay brass, but have been unsuccessful.
this major part of history is a true tragedy," Archer
said. "We as preservationists are doing nothing more
than that which we should be doing. Meeting in court is
now the only alternative we have."
Four arrested for trespassing at Danvers State
local teens who police say wanted to check out the shuttered
Danvers State Hospital property were arrested late Saturday
night and charged with trespassing. Police believe as many
as six teens were trespassing on the property, but two ran
off into the woods when a patrolman pulled in just before
11pm, said Sgt. Robert Bettencourt, the department spoksman.
teens captured said "they had heard so much about the
place they wanted to see what it was like" Bettencourt
said. Justin X, 18 of Middleton, Kevin X, 17 of Danvers,
Michael X, 17 of Tewksbury and Francis X 18, of Reading,
were all arrested by Patrolman Steve McDonald and charged
the four will be able to avoid a criminal record by participating
in a young adult diversion program and community service,
a prosecutor said yesterday.
a psychiatric hospital, Danvers State has been closed since
1992 and visitors are barred from the property. Security
officers, paid by the state, are posted at the hospital.
Local and state police routinely patrol the area as well.
But trespassers on the property are a constant problem and
officials continually issue warnings about the dangers the
dilapidated hospital buildings pose.
buildings just aren't safe" Bettencourt said. "Ceilings
have collapsed and floors have given away to gaping holes.
Electricity to the buildings was cut long ago. It's not
safe. Someone could get in there and get hurt and we wouldn't
believe the main draw of the former asylum is the mystique
surrounding the now boarded-up, half mile long Kirkbride
building also known as the "castle on the hill"
Kirkbride building was the hospital's flagship structure
during its operation. Development company Avalon Bay is
buying the 77-acre property from the state and transforming
it into a multimillion-dollar housing development. The company
is finalizing traffic plans with the state before it shells
out roughly $18 million for the property.
WCVB-TV Channel 5 Boston ran
a story on the possible demolition of DSH
Surrounds Historic Hospital Renovation Portions Of Danvers
State Hospital Slated For Demolition.
Mass. -- Developers are planning to convert some of the
Danvers State Hospital building into luxury condominiums
and apartments, but some are wondering if the building's
history is being lost in the renovation.
5's Anthony Everett reported that the former Danvers State
Hospital building is one of the of the North Shore's most
stunning and most controversial properties. The massive
structure is known for its Gothic architecture and its treatment
of the mentally ill.
1878, psychiatrist Thomas Kirkbride envisioned it as a respite
for the mentally ill, a town within a town, where patients
worked and the country air would help mend their minds.
are so many levels of sadness losing the building,"
said Danvers preservationist John Archer.
large part of the Gothic building will be demolished, Archer
said. Closed in 1992 due to budget cuts and severe overcrowding,
Avalon Bay Communities plans to develop the property into
500 luxury apartments and condominiums.
are preserving 100,000 feet of what is considered the most
important part, the Kirkbride Building, the original structure
on the site," said William McLaughlin, of Avalon Bay
Communities. "And the first wing, essentially, on either
old state buildings, many built as asylums, and converting
them into housing is a nationwide trend. Archer said saving
only a quarter of the massive building is a great architectural
and cultural loss.
was designed as a quarter-mile building where the sickest
were at the end and would work their way back. Tearing it
down is like taxidermy," he said.
State is more notorious than celebrated to most. It is a
place where lobotomies were once commonplace, the mentally
ill warehoused, and at the end, sleeping in corridors.
keeps the idea of the history of the mentally-challenged
in our mind. If we remember the history, we won't go back
and repeat some of our past mistakes," Archer said.
developers said the cost of maintaining the entire exterior
of the main structure is prohibitive. Avalon Bay has made
concessions,including a walking trail with historic markers.
The company also agreed to make 15 percent of the apartments
affordable housing and offer a few apartments to the mentally
appreciate and respect the passion, but to the extent we
don't develop Danvers State Hospital for an economic use
now, those buildings won't be there, the elements have destroyed
them, they are set to crumble as we sit here now,"
agrees the interior of the entire building, as well as others
on the huge 75-acre property, must be gutted. But Archer
said preserving more of the exterior, while complicated,
should be done. Archer believes that, unlike Europeans,
Americans are not taking careto preserve their architectural
Another view of Danvers State
was the State Hospital, or The Hill, or Danvers State, or
other names that weren’t so nice. But to Fay Clark
Voisine, it was her backyard. Voisine, who still lives in
Danvers, grew up on the grounds of Danvers State Hospital
where her father, Horace Clark, was responsible for nearly
all of the 600 acres of land which comprised the campus
of the hospital.
had 500 acres of playground, except for the forbidden areas,
which we still managed to get to,” said Voisine
and her brother and sister lived with their parents in the
house which now houses the Special Olympics office on Route
62. She and her siblings attended the Hathorne School, a
one-room school house.
playmates were the children of the other hospital staff
who lived on the grounds, physicians Sullivan and Freyer
and the superintendent of the hospital campus, the Bonners.
said they didn’t have many friends over because the
stigma of mental illness made people wary of going there.
reason the graves don’t have stones is because of
the stigma, and their families didn’t want to have
them,” she said. “There were horrors and abuses,
and yes, they did have naked patients because they couldn’t
keep clothes on them,” she said. “So they had
an area where patients could get air,” she said. The
area was called the bullpen, she said.
her memories are happy ones, she said, that’s not
the case with at least one of her siblings.
sure they had some staff members who were abusive, but the
patients also exercised and they weeded and picked or whatever
had to be done,” she said.
loved that farm,” Voisine said of her late father,
particular pride were his champion cows.
that could milk did,” she said. “I have memories
of being in the barn and squirting milk.”
also remembers the underground tunnels built during the
war to transport patientsduring air raids.
said she finds it ironic when concerns about traffic are
raised in connection with the now-abandoned site, considering
that at its peak of operation in the 1950s and 1960s, there
were three shifts of employees coming and going. Of course,
when Voisine lived there as a child, Route 62 didn’t
exist and what is now the state police barracks was the
Online petition has 4,030 signatures
Carey used to drive down Route 1 with his parents and look
up at Danvers State Hospital.
“I was always fascinated by it,” he said Wednesday
morning of the Kirkbride Building that looms tall on Hathorne
Hill, impressing those who pass under it and engendering
questions about its history. “I think its an amazing
He’s not alone, something he found out when he started
an online petition to save the Kirkbride. This 37-years-old
adult who has a responsible job in a bank is also an artist,
he said, with an inclination toward cartooning. But, he
just couldn’t let the building be even partially demolished
without trying to win support for saving it in its entirety.
started the petition, found at www.petitiononline.com/dssehl/petition,
in 2001. As of Wednesday morning, there were 4,030 signatures.
been really amazed by the number of signatures,” Carey
said. They include people from 49 states and 26 nations.
Kirkbride building of Danvers State Hospital is in danger
of being destroyed. Located in Danvers, the Kirkbride building
was built in the 1870s and was in use until the 1980s. The
beautifully gothic building is on the National Register
of Historic Places. It was featured in the film, ‘Session
of neglect have taken their toll on the structure. Now,
several interested parties are pushing to demolish all but
a token section of the building in order to capitalize on
the valuable land on which the building currently stands.
professionals called in by the town historians feel that
at least the outside of the building is capable of being
saved. The professionals hired by the developer claim that
most of the building is beyond repair. Lend your support
to this petition, and show that you believe that this unique
and beautiful piece of history is worth saving.”
of the signatories include the following comments:
should not destroy our history.”
Europe, places that are historical like that are taken care
of. We should do the same.”
should be experienced, not just read about in books that
describe what used to be.”
building of this magnitude should be preserved out of respect
to the past. If not, at least turn it into a hotel so I
can spend a night there.”
want to buy it.”
Preservationists persevere for Kirkbride
continue to hope they can save two more wings of the immense
Kirkbride building at Danvers State Hospital and have taken
their cause to Secretary of State William Galvin.
is the chairman of the Massachusetts Historical Commission;
he’s the man they want to put a stop to the demolition
of two-thirds of the 1870s neo-Gothic building that has
been the subject of books, the setting for movies, a fantastic
landmark for anyone driving along Route 1, as well as a
home both lauded and condemned for the mentally ill.
Wednesday, June 29, local preservationists John Archer and
Richard Trask askedAnnie Harris, director of the Essex National
Heritage Commission, to join them for a meeting in Boston
with Galvin. They met, not with Galvin, to Archer’s
consternation, but with his assistant Michael Maresco and
with Cara Metz, the director of the Massachusetts Historical
is leaving next week, as it turns out, but that agency has
done little to date anyway, both Archer and Trask said separately.
been a flawed process from day one,” said Archer on
Trask and Harris believe Galvin can still make headway with
the Division of Capital Asset Management, which oversees
the disposition of all state land, particularly since their
meeting seems to have encouraged a letter from Galvin to
David Perini, the commissioner of DCAM, Archer said.
letter, dated July 11, asks for an update on the project
status, noting the secretary’s concern about “demolition
by neglect” and the lack of any visible efforts “to
rehabilitate any portion of the highly visible Kirkbride
also mentions in the letter a report resulting from his
earlier inquiries about the building. That report “suggested
that the structural integrity of the Kirkbride Building
was compromised, and that without heroic measures, only
the central portion could be retained.”
Scott Dale, the vice president of the development company
Avalon Bay Communities, was nonchalant in his response during
a phone interview Tuesday about the latest preservationist
has been ongoing,” he said.
expects the latest effort will not affect the date, set
for late September, with the state’s Division of Capital
Asset Management to sign the papers and take possession
of the building for some $18 million.
company, contrary to some fears, will not take down 30 courses
of brick, which would amount to almost a whole story of
the building, he said.
would not remove or replace any brick that does not require
it,” Dale said.
company has conducted extensive investigations of the masonry,
and there is some significant damage in some places, particularly
in some eaves, but much of the brick can be repointed or
are going to do a very spectacular job with the renovations,
maybe not in exact materials, but certainly in the look
of the building,” Dale said about the efforts the
company will make to preserve one-third of the Kirkbride.
and Archer want not just these assurances, but also two
more wings of the Kirkbride saved. According to Trask, the
wing next to one the company has promised to save is actually
in better condition.
feel it’s an important historic building,” said
Harris separately, which was why she accompanied Trask and
Archer to Boston. Had the appraisal process included the
requirement to factor in preservation, it may have ended
with a more accurate and smaller price tag on the property,
since preservation costs a lot, she said.
Bay is not in this business of preservation, she added.
But, she is not without hope.
in there sometimes helps,” she said about efforts
meanwhile, continues to argue that the zoning was changed
in order to ensure the re-use and preservation of the Kirkbride.
a scrappy business,” he said of preservation. “I’m
a realist, however. If a building is lost, it’s lost
and you move on to the next one,” he said.
But, until then, he will fight on.
Wall Street Jouranl article: Yesterday's Grim Asylums,Tomorrow's
Mass. -- Perched on a hill and surrounded by forests and
hay fields sits an imposing brick structure that one visitor
called "the scariest building in North America."
It's the former Danvers State Hospital, the setting of a
2001 horror movie and a painful reminder of the brutalities
of institutionalized mental-health care.
Danvers State is shedding its past. AvalonBay Communities
Inc., a leading U.S. real-estate developer, plans to build
497 high-end apartments and condos on the 75-acre property,
located just north of Boston. The company is building an
additional 387 rental units and a
nine-hole golf course at another former mental hospital
in another Boston suburb.
the U.S. and in Canada, state hospitals that have sat largely
empty since mental-health care was deinstitutionalized in
the 1980s have become a developer's dream in a hot housing
market: huge tracts of land located in or around large cities,
such as New York,
Vancouver and Columbia, S.C.
another example of surplus government property being converted
to commercial use. But these projects are complicated because
of what the state hospitals represent to the mental-health
community and in popular culture.
in South Carolina are planning the redevelopment of a 178-acre
state-hospital campus in the heart of Columbia, the state
capital. They want to save one brick building with the word
"Asylum" chiseled in the facade. The building,
according to some locals, was designed to block out moonlight,
which was thought to exacerbate some mental conditions.
"It's potentially the greatest development opportunity
Columbia has ever seen," says Columbia's mayor, Bob
Vancouver, British Columbia, 1,100 condos are being built
on the site of another former asylum. In rural Dover, N.Y.,
a developer has bought the 850-acre Harlem Valley Psychiatric
Center, a sprawling property located about 80 miles north
of New York City.
And in Detroit, the marketing firm Sperry Van Ness will
auction 414 acres of a former psychiatric hospital campus
on Aug. 30; the property sits directly across from a Home
Depot, and near shopping centers and restaurants.
on, William McLaughlin, a senior vice president for development
at AvalonBay, who grew up near Danvers, wondered whether
the hospital's past would make potential renters and condo
you grew up in Danvers and you remember it as the spooky
place on the hill, it might not be the right place to live,"
says Mr. McLaughlin. "But I think there is a mix of
folks that are going to want to live in a very cool place."
is convinced Danvers State will become a "showcase"
for attractive and respectful reuse. The company plans to
convert about a fourth of the massive, Gothic hospital building
into loft apartments with towering ceilings and exposed
brick. New apartment buildings will surround the original
hospital and condos will line the edge of the property.
At the bottom of the hill, AvalonBay will likely build offices.
All the other buildings will be razed.There will be a pool,
a fitness center and a field for pickup soccer and football
games. Average rents for two-bedroom units will range from
$1,750 to $2,000 a month. Condos will be marketed for $300,000
a far cry from how the hospital appeared one morning last
week: The windows and doors were boarded up, roofs sagged
and the pathways
were overgrown with weeds. It was deeply quiet save for
the rustle of wild turkeys wandering the grounds.
was the setting for the horror movie "Session 9,"
about a worker who goes insane while removing asbestos from
the hospital. "It's the scariest building in North
America," actor David Caruso, who starred in the movie,
told AboutFilm.com. "It was always scary, and you could
really feel the pain of the people that were at Danvers."
Mr. Caruso said.
group of former patients and advocates for the mentally
ill want AvalonBay to construct a museum on the site to
chronicle the hospital's difficult history. "I want
the public to know how cruel some of the treatment was,"
says Judith Robbins, who was first an employee and later
a patient at Danvers.
father was also a patient at Danvers after World War II.
She remembers that he twice broke his collar bone during
his stay there. The hospital explained that he was hurt
playing baseball. "I don't think so," Mrs. Robbins
State -- like many state hospitals -- was founded in the
19th century on the idea that the mentally ill could be
helped by moving out of cities and into more bucolic settings
of farm fields and Victorian gardens.
its Gothic architecture and sweeping vistas, Danvers State
was particularly grand. Over time, conditions deteriorated.
Patients, often misdiagnosed and misunderstood, might be
"people who were homeless or a little odd or children
who were incorrigible," says Richard Trask, the town
the 20th century, patients were being treated with lobotomies,
electric shock and water immersion. By midcentury, patients
were sleeping in corridors because of over-crowding.
of patients were buried in two cemeteries on the hospital
grounds in graves marked with stone cylinders and numbers.
After the hospital closed in 1992, a group of former patients
and advocates used medical records to identify the graves
and put up headstones. But many records had disappeared.
we don't tell this story, we are going to repeat it,"
says Pat Deegan, who helped restore the cemeteries and wants
a museum on the site.
says a museum is impractical. Instead, the company proposes
building an outdoor memorial with a series of plaques explaining
is buying the Danvers hospital from the state for about
$20 million. Of that, $4.2 million is going to pay for housing
for the mentally ill elsewhere in the state and $2 million
to the town of Danvers for local schools, historic preservation
projects and affordable housing around town.
units will be set aside as affordable housing, and 2% of
the total development -- about 10 apartments -- will be
reserved for people with mental illness. The company must
also maintain access to the cemeteries.
preservationists wanted AvalonBay to save more of the hospital
building, which opened in 1878 and is on the National Register
of Historic Places. The company doesn't think there is enough
demand to renovate all that space.
Manager Wayne Marquis praised the developer for saving the
one main building while also maintaining open space. "It's
striking a balance of all interests," he says.
Robbins left Danvers State as a patient in the early 1990s.
She would like to move back to the hill to live in the new
development. She likes the idea of having a pool and the
promise of a nice view. "It's going to be beautiful
and new," Mrs. Robbins says.
7-22-05 Eisenhauer: Historic Danvers, Inc. releases endangered
Danvers, Inc. is a newly formed non-profit organization
established for the purposes of aiding the preservation
of the town’s history and the town’s historical
assets primarily by fostering the education of the public
The history of the town of Danvers and the historic assets
associated with such history;
The importance of preserving such historic assets; and
(c) The preservation needs of, and, threats to, such historic
and slowly, the town is losing the historic structures,
streetscapes and landscapes that are the very fabric of
the town and make Danvers so unique and different from Anytown,
Historic Danvers announces its first Endangered List.
Kirkbride building, Danvers State Hospital
the time of the disbanding of the Citizens Advisory Committee,
the Commonwealth, upon the recommendation of the Citizens
Advisory Board had selected the national, $5 billion Archstone
Communities, based in Colorado, as developer of the Danvers
State Hospital site.
In its submission to the state, Archstone had committed
to the preservation of the entire exterior of the monumental
Kirkbride building that stretches a quarter of a mile and,
at the time of its building in the early 1870s, the most
expensive and lavish edifice ever built by the Commonwealth
commitment to preserve the entire exterior of the Kirkbride’s
exterior was in keeping with the recommendation of the two
town study committees and in keeping with the intent of
the Town Meeting in changing the zoning of the State Hospital
later withdrew as developer. Without any further public
input, the Commonwealth then chose AvalonBay, a $5 billion,
nationwide builder, based in Virginia, as developer -- although
AvalonBay’s proposal commits to saving only approximately
one-third of the Kirkbride.
should be noted that since the time the Commonwealth stopped
using the Kirkbride building, although a $5 million fund
for maintaining and marketing the building and site was
part of the legislation authorizing the sale of the State
Hospital, the Commonwealth failed to take any steps to maintain
the Kirkbride’s roof and, only after a number of years,
even bothered to board up the Kirkbride’s windows.Despite
such inexcusable neglect, the Kirkbride still stands with
practically all its roof intact.
AvalonBay is expected to take title in and begin demolition
The Kirkbride is continually endangered by the state’s
neglect to secure the building, especially its roof.The
Kirkbride may be endangered in the future where it appears
that AvalonBay’s construction expertise is primarily
in new construction and not in restoration of historic buildings.2.
The national register district comprising the Danvers State
The Kirkbride building is only one of the 40 buildings listed
on the National Register that taken together comprise one
of the few National Register Districts in eastern Massachusetts.
In addition to demolishing two-thirds of the Kirkbride,
there are now no impediments to AvalonBay demolishing these
other 39 buildings, some dating to the 1870s, and the expectation
is that AvalonBay will demolish practically all, if not
all, of these 39 buildings.
rest of the endangered list can be seen on the Danvers Herald
6-20-05 Neighbors wary of traffic change near Danvers State
Beauvais remembers when his home was surrounded by wide
open fields and quiet streets.
remember when you could tie a blindfold around your head
and walk across Route 62 with no problem," said Beauvais,
who has lived on the road for more than 30 years.
came Middleton Jail, traffic from Interstate 95, and now
hundreds-more neighbors with the development of the former
Danvers State Hospital property.
what am I going to do? Start a revolution? Tell some friends
to meet me at Concord bridge?" asked Beauvais. "I've
been complaining about traffic for years. But there's nothing
left to do. Change is inevitable."
on the Danvers/Middleton town line are resigned to the construction
at the hospital, which is scheduled to be demolished after
Avalon's purchase of the property in September, and the
traffic it will bring. Plans call for 485 apartments and
condominiums to be built in its place.
Bay's traffic design will shrink the island which currently
separates the traffic traveling west and east on Route 62.
That island will become two turn lanes that give traffic
a separate lane to turn into the state hospital site and
the State Police barracks (see map related to the site).
the changes, neighbors like Rose Foster, who as lived on
Maple Street for 27 years, are concerned about the constant
flow of traffic in and out of the site.
traffic from up there is going to be a major problem,"
Foster said. "We already have quite a bit of traffic
from the shopping malls, from the post office, Hogan, the
detox, from people coming in and out of Middleton, and then
the Aggie consolidating with North Shore Tech, the traffic
is going to be a nightmare on this end of town."
also said the day that Danvers State comes down will be
gong to be sorry to see it go. It's a shame anytime you
lose a building with the history that that building has,"
Danvers State closed in 1992, Foster said she has enjoyed
fewer cars up and down her street. She only predicts problems
from Avalon's plans to revamp the Route 62 and Maple Street
Avalon Bay Vice President Scott Dale said the residents
shouldn't be worried about more traffic. The plan for the
busy throughway will improve a dangerous section of town,
think the residents will be pleasantly surprised by the
lack of traffic," Dale said. "There is not going
to be tons of traffic because of the way that this was designed.
With the breakdown of commercial, rental and sale property,
the traffic is not going to be as much as some people may
think. Town planner Evan Belansky added a lot of hard work
has gone into the traffic design. Currently before Mass
Highway, the state is helping Avalon Bay tweak final designs
before the go-ahead for construction is granted. Traffic
in the area was studied for a year, and seven different
designs were reviewed.
says he's confident the impact will be minimal.
great deal of work has gone on to mitigate the negative
impacts," said Belansky. "Will there be traffic
near Route 95? There's currently traffic there and there
will always be traffic there. But this new traffic design,
the new light at that intersection, is going to make that
the final design is agreed upon - which is expected to be
six to nine months down the read - a public hearing will
be held so neighbors can get a look at the final design.
Belansky says the town's Planning Board has already agreed
upon and approved the design they feel will best serve the
design, Belansky says, ensures neighbors, like Beauvais
and Foster, are not overburdened with new neighbors driving
down their streets.
think that people are aware, and have familiarized themselves
with the proposal. People near that site have educated themselves
about the plan and are comfortable with the work of the
(Community Advisory Committee)," said Belansky. "This
has been a long process. People know that a great deal of
work has gone on here."
concept of this local roadway will far exceed what is there
today," Dale said.
6-14-05 Ex-patients, allies angry over Danvers State memorial
a bright late-September day three years ago, two long-forgotten
cemeteries at Danvers State Hospital were rededicated, giving
proper tombstones to many of the 768 patients who previously
had small, numbered concrete blocks to mark their final
was a rare triumph for a normally quiet and nonpolitical
band of people with mental and emotional disorders known
as the Danvers State Memorial Committee. And it came after
four years of lobbying and pressuring state officials.
members of this informal group say their victory is being
marred by the developer slated to build 419 luxury apartments
and 64 condominiums atop Hawthorne Hill on the property.
say Avalon's plan to memorialize the site's history with
a patio surrounded by stone walls with storyboards is not
want to say it's a slap in the face to put storyboards up.
Because how can you describe 150 years of history with storyboards?"
said Memorial Committee member Sandra Fallman. "People
lived and died there."
a series of meetings with Avalon last year, members of the
Memorial Committee pushed for a "Hall of Remembrance"
— a place with video and interactive displays outlining
the history of the hospital — to be included in the
as much as ex-patients and their allies want people to "never
forget," Avalon is hoping to shake off the image of
an oppressive state hospital, said Avalon Vice-President
Scott Dale. He doesn't want prospective tenants visiting
administrative offices to be confronted with displays of
the site's sometimes-dark history.
State has its share of dark history. It's operating and
therapy rooms served now-questionable treatments such as
lobotomies, shock treatment and the hydrotherapy that nearly
drowned some patients. At times it was overcrowded. And
some former patients say some staff members were physically
and mentally abusive.
of us who spent time in those places are really fearful
that that is a mistake we, as a culture, might remake,"
said Patricia Degan, who pulled together the Memorial Committee
after stumbling across the overgrown cemeteries. "It's
the fact that these state hospitals and these human warehouses,
all over the United States, represent probably the highest
aspirations and ideas of humanity, but also the evil we
are capable of."
and her peers had wanted to see their hall either in a few
rooms of the Kirkbride — the massive Gothic structure
that for 130 years served as the main hospital building
— or in a free-standing building on the 75-acre hospital
Kirkbride — or at least one-third of it — will
be all that remains of the original hospital buildings on
Hawthorne Hill after Avalon begins demolition this fall.
The central third of Kirkbride will be renovated into high-end
apartments, surrounded by other massive apartment buildings
and a cluster of townhouses for sale.
Dale said a complex "Hall of Remembrance" comes
with too many cost and maintenance questions: Who would
care for it, and who would be responsible if it were vandalized?
would also be a reminder of the property's sometimes-shady
think one of the obstacles that we have always thought about
was there (has been) changing the perspective of people's
opinion of this site and the facility and overcoming the
stigmas of the institution on that site," Dale said.
"And to combine a facility that deals with the history
and the stigma with our efforts just doesn't seem to be
said the patio display, with an estimated cost of $50,000
to $75,000, is in-line with the requirements the state put
on bidders for the property. "We are providing free
access to people who want to visit the memorial, and we
have agreed to maintain the cemeteries on that site, which
is a pretty significant commitment," Dale said.
town green-lighted Avalon's development plans in late May,
and Memorial Committee members only learned of Avalon's
plans for the storyboard display within the past week. Still,
their disappointment will very likely be a featured topic
at the "No Surrender" statewide conference for
the mentally ill and their advocates Wednesday, Degan said.
said she is hopeful the town might be convinced to use a
portion of the $500,000 Avalon will give it for "historic
preservation" to build a proper memorial.
and Fallman never lived at the state hospital, but as people
who've struggled with mental health issues, the fight to
preserve the lessons of Danvers State is personal.
fellow Memorial Committee member Mark Giles, who was admitted
to the hospital in the early 1990s, remembers drug therapies
that left him in terrible discomfort. The drugs also left
his memory hazy, though he said he can clearly remember
some abuses — like the day he watched a staff member
beat a helpless older man.
story of Danvers State isn't an easy or simple one, Giles
said. There were bad staff members, but also many who worked
hard to help patients, he said. They helped him face his
the other four Memorial Committee members reached this week,
Giles said he isn't totally opposed to storyboards. They're
"better than nothing," he said, and at least the
cemeteries will be kept up.
course we'd like to have the whole hall," he said,
"something that could show what happened up there,
so we wouldn't be forgotten."
1878: The "Danvers State Lunatic Hospital" is
built after a similar hospital shuts down in South Boston,
creating a space crunch for hospitals that house the mentally
1960s: Changes in medical treatment cause the hospital's
incoming patient population to decline.
1981: Aware of the hospital's pending closure, local and
state officials begin meeting to plan the site's future.
1992: The hospital closes.
1997: Patricia Degan finds a patient cemetery in a field
so overgrown it "looked like a rainforest."
1999: The state allocates $38,000 to landscape and put names
on graves that could be identified.
2001: Archstone Communities is picked from a pool of 11
developers for the redevelopment project. Archstone is to
pay $21.7 million for the 75-acre site. It backs out in
December 2002, citing rising construction costs and a downturn
in the luxury apartment rental market.
2003: Avalon steps in to develop the site. The state agrees
to sell the property for $18.1 million, in addition to concessions
including $1 million for Danvers schools, $4.5 million to
house the mentally ill, $500,000 for historic preservation
and $500,000 for an affordable housing trust.
May 2005: Avalon finishes the local approval process. The
only hurdle left for the developer is reaching an agreement
with MassHighway for the massive project's access on Route
62. Avalon expects to complete its purchase and begin work
5-27-05 Danvers State developer wins town approval
After two long years of negotiations, the Planning
Board Tuesday night approved a special permit for development
of the highlands at the former Danvers State Hospital, adding
four condominiums to prior plans in exchange for the development
of one lacrosse field.
exact location of the field is still to be determined by
the Recreation Department and town Planning Department.
Bay Communities will build 483 residential units, including
419 apartments and 64 condominiums, rather than 60 condos
for the 55-plus age group. Density at the site will not
change since the 6,000 or so extra square feet needed for
these condos will be lopped off the approved 125,000 square
feet for development on the lowlands. As previously discussed,
the developer will give $1 million to the town for an education
trust fund; $t00,000 to the town for historic preservation;
and $500,000 to the town for affordable housing, Belansky
said Wednesday morning.
Planning Board certificate mirrors the Land Disposition
Agreement signed by the state, which owns the land, Belansky
said. The town will now have to enter a separate agreement
with the state regarding the trust funds, since the state
"has some sort of oversight of the administration of
the (trust) funds," Belansky said.
LDA also included a "recreation component" for
the town, Belansky said, which was why ball fields became
a topic of conversation.
to Town Manager Wayne Marquis in a separate interview, the
old ball field at the lowlands would not be large enough
or meet modern requirements. Therefore, an off site location
is needed. The Thorpe School has been mentioned as a possible
site, as well as other areas, Marquis said.
the area could accommodate two fields, the town decided
to find out how much they would cost, said Recreation Director
David Mountain separately, and received an estimate of $705,000.
But, that included prevailing wage requirements under bidding
laws and other constrictions that the town would have to
abide by, said Planning Department Director Karen Nelson
met with the Recreation Committee and planning staff this
afternoon, and have come up with a pretty creative plan,"
Dale told the Planning Board members. "We have come
up with a mutually acceptable proposal."
Bay will provide their construction crew services, or the
equivalent cost to them of $300,000, to build one field.
and the Recreation Department are very pleased," Mountain
said about the commitment.
offset the costs for this proposal, Dale detailed plans
to add four, two-bedroom units to the existing condominium
housing plan by converting four proposed duplex units to
can add another four units without any significant site
impact," Dale said.
revenue from the sale of these units will provide the funding
for the new field.
permit wording details were raised by the board. Among them
was a concern raised by board member Jim Sears regarding
Avalon Bay's ability to change its design plans during the
project and construct more for sale units than originally
Board Chairman Ronald Baser asserted that Avalon Bay would
have to come back before the board for approval on any site
member Joseph Younger questioned public access hours to
the memorial cemetery and the memorial on the site. Dale
agreed to extend hours during the months of May through
September from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 a.m. to 8:00
and Avalon Bay's attorney, Steven Schwartz of Goulston &
Storrs, reiterated their commitment to the town in the review
and development of the lowlands.
the board and the developer agreed that an on-site recreational
facility would be considered by the developer. Town Manager
Wayne Marquis talked about needing language to create the
walking/bike trail that has been talked about in the past.
Such a trail would encircle the 500 or so acres of the whole
property, which would link to the Horace Clark Conservation
area, perhaps connect with trails near Swingaway on Route
1, over towards the town's canoe launch off Dayton Street
and as close to the Ipswich River as possible.
that language will have to wait until the developer appears
before the town for approval of plans to develop the lowlands,
said Belansky separately.
to Dale, Avalon Bay has signed the purchase and sale agreement
with the state and is scheduled to pass papers some time
in September 2005.Groundbreaking at the site will begin
shortly thereafter he said.
5-26-05 State hospital developers clear last local hurdle
years of political wrangling over the fate of Danvers State
Hospital ended Tuesday night, as Planning Board members
signed off on plans for 419 apartments and 64 condominiums
atop Hathorne Hill. It was the last local approval needed
by national development giant AvalonBay communities. All
that remains is for AvalonBay to work out traffic issues
with the state for an access road on route 62.AvalonBay
plans to begin construction in September, after completing
it's purchase of the 77-acre state property."It means
we can go forward and develop the site and hopefully get
revenues from it," Planning Board Chairman Ron Baser
said of Tuesday's unanimous vote. "The site really
needs development because the state, unfortunately, has
totally disregarded the building and left it in total disrepair."AvalonBay
will need to demolish about 40 buildings on the hill, which
for more than 100 years was something of a self-sufficient
village for the mentally ill. At one point, the hospital
had its own workshops, farm buildings, chapels, offices,
planting fields, houses for doctors and nurses and of course,
rooms for hundreds of patients. At the center is the 130-year-old
Gothic-style Kirkbride building. Its eight bricked wings
dominate a quarter-mile across the crown of Hathorne Hill
and are visible form Route 1 and Intersate 95.
state hospital has long drawn people in search of a good
scare, thanks to the abandoned hospital's reputation doe
being haunted.Over the past two years, there have been two
arson attempts at the site. An effort to save the turrets,
sharp jutting peaks and Gothic angles of this unique building
has remained at the heart of the opposition to the project.
"We continue to be very upset that the very worst preservation
nightmare is about to begin," said local history advocate
John Archer. He has petitioned the governor's office to
intervene and pledged to try to delay the project by "any
means possible." Under the approval granted Tuesday,
Avalon is responsible only for attempting to save the central
third portion of the Kirkbride and can demolish if reuse
Avalon will have to reconstruct a facsimile of the central
portion if it is knocked down, Town Planner Evan Belansky
said.Despite the political fights that swirled about the
project in recent years, nobody was at Town Hall to object
Tuesday night when the Planning Board banged its gavel on
the last in a yearlong series of hearings.The project also
has its local supporters. "I think this is a huge step,"
Planning Board member James Sears said yesterday. "Overall,
I think it's going to be a benefit for the town. I think
the townspeople were concerned about the effects on water
supply, the sewer and schools. We have been assured by statements
from (the state) and town engineers that the town can handle
that site." Sears and other town officials have said
they look forward to the estimated $100,000 in property
taxes that will come with the development, along with another
$2.3 million the developer has pledged to give to the town
before the first homes are occupied.Town Manager Wayne Marquis
could not be reached for comment yesterday. In previous
interviews, he said $1 million of Avalon's money will be
spent on school building projects, $500,000 on renovations
to historic Town Hall and the remainder to build the town's
stock of low-income housing. In an arrangement reached early
this week, another $300,000 would be spent developing sports
fields behind the Thorpe School. For many, the development
is not as objectionable as Archer contends, nor as beneficial
as Baser and Sears say.Town Meeting member Bill Nicholson,69,
was on the task force that, in 1981, began laying the foundation
for local building rules that later framed development on
the hill. For him, the end product is a mixed bag. There
are more apartments and condominiums than Nicholson anticipated.
He's worried about increased traffic, and he had hoped more
of the Kirkbride could be saved. But he also recognizes
the benefits of Avalon's donation to the town."Overall,
I would have to say I'm somewhat pleased it is finally coming
to an end, and I hope they can at least restore (one-third)
of the Kirkbride space," Nicholson said.
active resident John Toomey said many people he's talked
with don't trust Avalon and are upset about the loss of
the Kirkbride. They also worry about the effects on traffic
and schools. Still, he said, they are resigned to the fact
the project will go forward. "At least half the people
I talk to seem to feel the town didn't get a good deal out
of the thing, but there is nothing that can be done about
it," Toomey said. "That's progress, I guess."
included for recreation
Agreement reached this week between the Danvers Planning
Board and developers of the Danvers State Hospital property
will provide the town with $300,000 for much-needed playing
fields."It's welcomed and very generous," said
Elizabeth Klemm, a member of the Recreation Committee. "I
think this will help add fields, because right now we're
maxed out." Development giant AvalonBay Communities
had long promised to offset the negative impacts of hundreds
of apartments and condos it plans to build on Hathorne Hill--increased
traffic, drains on police and fire services, etc.--with
a generous donation to the town. Some of the donations cemented
in this week's deal, including $1 million for local schools,
$500,000 for historic preservation and $500,000 to help
build low-income housing, have long been expected. But the
$300,000 to develop recreational fields is a new element,
reached in negotiations with the town Recreation Committee
within the last week. The unexpected windfall comes at a
critical time, Klemm said. Just last month, the Danvers
youth lacrosse and soccer leagues donated nearly $8,000
to study the possibility of constructing sorely needed fields
behind the Thorpe Elementary School. The donation comes,
in part, in return for the Planning Board not pressing Avalon
on playing fields that had been hoed for in the "lowlands"
section of the 77-acre Danvers State Hospital Property.
Planning Board member James Sears said those hopes haven't
been completely abandoned, just pushed off. Avalon wanted
to secure final approval for construction of condos and
apartments in the uplands first and will return for permission
to build commercial space in the lowlands at some undetermined
point, he said."As far as the neighborhood park, we
could try to get them to agree to that in the future,"
4-28-05 What if the Kirkbride falls down?
a quarter century of trying to decide the fate of Danvers
State Hospital, the end is in sight, and it will include
a "what if" paragraph, positing the inability
to preserve anything at all of the signature Kirkbride building.
The town's principal planner, Evan Belansky, mentioned the
need for such a clause at the Planning Board meeting Tuesday
He had a list of other issues that will need to be examined
for exact language by the town's counsel and AvalonBay Communities,
the prospective developer. All should be ready for final
review and approval at the Planning Board's May 24 meeting.
The list includes water conservation, affordable housing,
and allowances for the town's reservoir, which will stay
where it is, near the old Kirkbride at the new development
called Avalon at Hathorne Hill.
That is, if the old Kirkbride still exists.
think it would be really tragic if it couldn't be saved,"
said Planning Board member Ron Baser about the Kirkbride.
He had been a member of the Citizens Advisory Committee
that spent hundreds of hours trying to ensure some historic
preservation there. And, if the building can't be stabilized,
he said, "I would want it to be replicated."
AvalonBay has said it will preserve one-third, or 100,000
square feet, of the Kirkbride, something the Citizens Advisory
Committee agreed to after much discussion and little support
for any more preservation from the state, which owns the
According to Avalon Bay Vice President Scott Dale, there
has not been enough damage over the two years since its
application was accepted to warrant much discussion about
the "what if" scenario.
The Kirkbride has sat on top of Hathorne Hill since the
late 19th century, a landmark to advancements in the treatment
of mental illness. The building itself, with its eight wings
fanning out, demanded attention, looming over visitors as
they drove up the winding driveway and impressing drivers
along the distant highway.
neo-Gothic structure, with red brick softened by graceful
cornices and pediments, was fashioned for quick response
to appropriate areas and with lots of light from large windows
to encourage more humane treatment of patients. But, that
enlightened period was followed by historic neglect of both
the building and those hospitalized there.
It creaks, now, and its disrepair fosters tales of terror,
so much so that a mainstream movie, "Session Nine,"
was filmed there a few years ago. Urban explorers list it
as a prime location for night-time visits. It has attracted
kids through the years, who rummage in the extensive tunnels
and ramble through the dark rooms. Some have videotaped
their journeys. Just over the last two weeks Danvers police
have made a number of arrests of young people from the North
Shore and beyond.
The fire department has responded and put out small, easily
accessible fires. But, Fire Chief James Tutko has said he
will not risk the lives of his men if there are more serious
problems at the site.
Besides vandalism, weather continues to leak through holes
in the roof of the building, which has been empty since
the late 1980s and mothballed, some think unsatisfactorily,
by the state.
Despite all this, Avalon's spokesman Dale thinks all will
be well. Some employees had been at the site on Friday,
April 22, to look at how to secure the central section of
the Kirkbride during construction, he said, and did not
see significant problems.
is our intent to follow through on our commitment,"
Baser wondered where those who care about this place might
be, since none were in attendance at the Planning Board's
hearing Tuesday night.
There had been15 or so members of the First Baptist Church
in attendance to support an application to expand the parking
lot. It had run into trouble because of drainage issues,
among others, but won Planning Board approval this night.
After they left, there were no residents in attendance.
The building inspector has agreed with Avalon's interpretation
of density allowed, despite hearing opposition from former
Citizens Advisory Committee members Bob Pariseau and Bill
Nicholson at the last meeting April 12. This interpretation
will allow about 124,000 square feet of development in the
lowlands, not yet on the drawing boards, and about 113,000
more than Pariseau had thought would be possible at the
combined highlands and lowlands.
Pariseau met with Building Inspector Peter Bryson and a
couple of Planning Department staff Wednesday morning to
discuss the issue, he said.
"I don't know that I convinced them that I was correct,"
Pariseau said after the meeting.
Bill Nicholson decided to give up.
"There's really not much more I can do," he said
4-25-05 Arrest Log Two
Boston area men were arrested Saturday at 8 p.m. for trespassing
on Danvers State Hospital property, which is closed to the
public. Jonathan X 22, of Chelsea, and Jorge X, 24, of East
Boston, were arrested and charged with trespassing and illegal
possession of burglarious instruments. One man was also
charged with providing a false name to a police officer.
4-15-05 Danvers State density dispute
could be as many as 113,000 more square feet developed at
Danvers State Hospital than members of the citizens advisory
group who crafted the new zoning ordinance intended, according
to information presented at the Planning Board Tuesday night.
would be an abomination to the Town Meeting members who
voted on that warrant article," if that much more density
is allowed, Town Meeting member Bill Nicholson said.
is one of the members of the old Citizens Advisory Committee,
as well as a Town Meeting member in Precinct 8, the district
in which the state hospital sits.
came in support of the former chairman of the Citizens Advisory
Committee, Bob Pariseau, who told Planning Board members,
"There was not to be created on that hill any greater
density than there is now."
difference seems to be a matter of definitions.
to Scott Dale, a vice president for developer Avalon Bay
Communities, the density allowed per the zoning ordinance
is 2.5 percent of the total land area, which is 75.5 acres,
he said. That would allow the company to develop 822,981
to Pariseau, there are just 710,000 square feet available.
land area was always in dispute, he said, because the state
had given away various parcels - some for mental health
facilities, some to Middleton, some for other purposes.
The state did not give the Citizens Advisory Committee a
definitive plot plan. Therefore, the group decided to measure
density based on the building area in place on the hospital
grounds at that time.
group presented that density in the request for proposals.
They measured about 574,500 square feet of building space
on the highlands and approximately 101,000 square feet in
the lowlands. They rounded up, to a total of 677,000 square
committee then decided to provide an incentive of .5 percent,
or 33,000 square feet, to a developer for providing low-income
housing and for preserving a significant portion of the
would bring the total to 710,000 square feet, which is 113,000
square feet less than the developer's figures.
that the developer has presented plans for the highlands
portion alone of 699,000 square feet, the difference is
even more problematic. It would leave the company only 11,000
square feet in the lowlands, versus its own calculation
of 124,000 square feet.
discussions in town have always mentioned 100,000 square
feet in the lowlands for commercial space.
developer Tuesday night presented modifications to building
plans on the hill that increased the number of apartments
by eight, to 493 total.
Dale said, that number is still 30 below the 526 approved
for development by the Citizens Advisory Committee.
argued that the quality of the plan and the number of units
should be the overriding concerns. He also believed that
his interpretation of density, based on land area, should
Planner Evan Belansky agreed with Dale's interpretation
of the density formula. "(It) applies to total land
area," he said. "Town Meeting could have decided
what the bonus was; it could have deviated (from the usual
agreed that the committee's calculation was not usual. But,
there were 11 companies that responded to the request for
proposals, based on those specific density figures. Some
of those companies might be upset if they found out now
that they could have presented proposals allowing for an
additional 100,00 square feet of development, Pariseau said.
am quite surprised," Planning Board Chairman Ron Baseur
said about the discrepancy. He had also been a member of
the Citizens Advisory Committee and had been asking for
the density figures from the developer through the planning
the zoning ordinance, as voted, may actually allow the broader
going to have to be guided by the building inspector,"
board had additional questions about the proposed memorial
for the Danvers State Cemetery on site as well as placement
of a possible cell tower and details resulting from some
planned building changes presented to them that night. The
board will meet again on the issue April 26.
the meantime, Pariseau and Nicholson intend to take their
complaints to the building inspector, looking for a narrow
reading of the zoning bylaw.
they win the point?
would be a significant issue that we would have to deal
with," Dale sale.
4-12-05 Cops nab 9 for hospital trespass
arrested nine people this weekend after they were found
on the grounds of the shuttered Danvers State Hospital,
a popular site for "urban explorers" hunting for
a good scare or trespassing tourists hoping to admire the
19th-century Gothic architecture. And the arrests have prompted
police to warn potential visitors of dangers of the crumbling
old hospital at the junction of routes 1 and 62, which could
cave in at any time. "It's just a matter of time before
somebody gets hurt," Danvers police Sgt. Paul Stone
said. Around 11pm Sunday Danvers Patrolman Scott Frost was
sent to the state-owned former psychiatric hospital to investigate
a call for "suspicious persons." Sunday night
Frost arrested 4 people ages 18 to 22 and charged them all
each with trespassing.
night Patrolman Robert Sullivan arrested 5 people ages 18
to 20 and charged them with a variety of charges ranging
from trespassing to breaking and entering in the nighttime
with the intent to commit a felony. Stone said some of five
arrested were found scaling the roof of the Kirkbride building
when police arrived. They were carrying video equipment
and lights to capture their adventure on film, police said.
The Danvers Fire Department sent a ladder truck to aid police
in looking in the windows and on the roof for trespassers.
State Hospital which has been without electricity since
it closed in 1992, has fallen into a dangerous site of disrepair,
town officials say.Ceilings have collapsed, floors have
given way to gaping holes and at least two fires have erupted
there since last fall. Police and firefighters have been
advised not to enter the building.
security guards monitor the site 24 hours a day in an attempt
to keep out intruders. However, dozens of visitors sneak
onto the sprawling 130 year old, 77-acre campus each year
despite countless "No Trespassing" signs dotting
the property. Stone said some go to great lengths to avoid
capture by parking their cars miles away and trudging through
the woods. But neither police nor town officials can say
what lures people to explore the grounds. "It's an
obsession," Stone said, adding that warm weather brings
more trespassers. Most of the visitors are so called "urban
explorers" groups who illegally tour mysterious, abandoned
and deteriorating buildings across the country and post
pictures of them on the Internet.The main draw of the former
asylum is the once-majestic, now boarded up Kirkbride building
also known as "the castle on the hill." The Kirkbride-
an imposing, half mile-long tower of brick and spires- was
the hospital's flagship structure during its operation.
trespassers away from Danvers State Hospital is nothing
new to the state and local police. Back in February, state
police summonsed eight people, ages 15 to 22, and charged
them all with trespassing after they were found there. And
last November, three Malden teens were arrested by Danvers
police after they were caught at the hospital. Those three
said they had recently watched "Session 9" a horror
movie filmed in part at the site, which piqued their curiosity.Whatever
the draw, Stone said Danvers and state police will continue
to patrol the property and prosecute trespassers. "If
they're on that property they're going to be arrested and
they're going to court and they're going to have some kind
of record" he said.
Avalon Bay wants to buy the old hospital from the state
and transform it into a multimillion dollar housing complex.
The company is still trying to acquire the proper permits
before it shells out roughly $18 million for the property
which is plans to purchase this year.
4-11-05 Arrest Log
Five people, ages 18 to 21 were arrested at Danvers
State Hospital property Saturday night. Charges range from
trespassing to breaking and entering in the nighttime with
the intent to commit a felony.
3-25-05 Developer presents traffic
Bay Communities presented conceptual plans for road improvements
in front of Danvers State Hospital, a necessary step on
their way to redevelopment of the property, winning praise
from the Planning Board Tuesday night in a resumption of
the long-delayed local permitting process.
Bay also said the state Highway Department will take another
six to eight months to approve final engineering designs,
which will delay the transfer of title from the state to
the private company and the resulting tax dollars for the
town had expected the developer to take ownership of the
property last autumn, which would have meant real estate
taxes and other fees of close to $1 million this fiscal
permits still an issue, Avalon Bay may purchase the property
this fall, Vice President Scott Dale said Wednesday morning.
hopeful," he said. The road improvements caused a six-month
delay, but the building remains stable, he continued, despite
two small fires and another winter of snow and rain seeping
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 also be a new traffic
light to ease traffic patterns, Dale said.
would be another light at Route 95, at the northbound off-ramp
onto Route 62, which would tie in to the existing lights
at Stop & Shop, the developers said.
existing geometry there is less than ideal," Dale elaborated
Wednesday morning. "We've heard a lot of comments from
residents about the difficulties," he continued. The
developer expects the redesign will be welcome.
thrilled with the plan," Planning Board member Kristine
Cheetham said during the meeting.
Margaret Zelinsky talked about how difficult it can be now
to make a left turn in that area, expressing the belief
that this plan will ease that problem.
noted there will be more room to park at the local post
office branch, and the fire station should see improved
Evan Belansky, in an interview Wednesday, said the lights
and reconfiguration as planned will improve safety.
further explained that the additional light on Route 62
will, of course, cause some backups. However, with computer
sensors in Hathorne Road (the name of the long access road
to the hospital) and across the way at the State Police
barracks entry, such delays will be minimized. The default
timing of the lights is overridden when four or five cars
are stacked up, he said.
approvals in hand from the local Police and Fire departments
as well as the Danvers Traffic Advisory Committee, the developers
will begin final designs on the roads and continue the local
permitting process for building designs, Dale said.
developer had not appeared before the Planning Board since
September, a "significant hiatus," as Dale described
the details to be presented in future meetings will be a
redesign of the four-story building around the central Kirkbride
tower building. The exterior will still mirror the neo-Gothic
monolith, which is on the National Registry of Historic
Places, as is the entire site. However, the interior apartments
will be reconfigured, Dale said.
developers may choose to build a cell tower to house the
many local and regional police and safety communications
apparatus, as well as the cell company equipment currently
on the existing water tower. The new cell tower would probably
be situated on the left of the property as one climbs the
hill, where it would be obscured by existing trees, Dale
said. If the separate tower is not possible, the developer
may have to scale down communication services, since there
is too much for the Kirkbride building, which had been previously
company will also bring plans for the Danvers State Hospital
Memorial to the next meeting, April 12. They continue to
plan for a small structure and kiosk, Dale said, which will
"pay homage to the particular site." The Danvers
State Memorial Committee continues to advocate for a more
substantial, enclosed building.
Board member Joe Younger expressed concern about the whole
area, given this development and also the nearby Route 1
Swing-away development of 258 units, recognizing that such
concern was beyond the subject of the meeting.
Dale said that two fires at the hospital over the winter
were, luckily, near the door and fairly easy for the Fire
Department to extinguish. In addition, he said, "the
building is very, very wet," which kept the fires in
snow and rain that entered through holes in the roof continued
to rot the interior wood, but since it is all being ripped
out, didn't matter too much, Dale said.
brick facade appears to be very stable. We're hopeful that
when we get in there next fall, it will be in reasonably
good shape," Dale said.
3-3-05 Letter to the editor of the
Danvers Herald: More to the fires at old hospital?
To the editor:
and other trespassers are apparently being allowed nearly
unlimited access to the abandoned Danvers State Hospital
buildings. This failure to secure the property can only
be deliberate: too many people have an incentive to allow
an actual conflagration to take place. The principle of
Cui bono? (i.e. “Who benefits?) suggests the following:
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, so as to transfer title
that much sooner to the developer, receive the proceeds
and dismiss its ineffectual pro forma security detail;
State and Danvers police, in order to be free of the nuisance
of patrolling hospital property where the state security
Danvers firefighters, so as to be able to watch the conflagration
in confidence that they need never again fight fires inside
those hazardous buildings;
The developers, to be rid of the obligation to renovate
an existing Kirkbride Building; and finally,
Danvers town government, to expedite receipt of the property’s
real estate tax and the developer’s lucrative “donations”
to the town.
a wealth of accomplices for the serious arsonist to depend
O. Leach II, Maple Street
Remembering Danvers State Hospital: A nurse tells her story
her career as a nurse, Angelina Szot had seen it all. She
witnessed shock treatments, as well as the mistreatment
and abuse of mentally challenged patients. Now Szot and
her daughter Barbara Stillwell have just completed a book
that is slated to hit stores within days.
"Danvers State," Szot narrates her daily experiences
as a licensed practiced nurse during her 24 years working
on site. A one-time mental health facility located right
off of Route 1, Danvers State Hospital housed a variety
of patients, from those suffering with dementia, to others
who suffered from depression, as well as alcohol and drug
abuse. Opened in 1874, the institution played a key role
in the state for 117 years.
was unbelievable back in those days,'' said Szot, who worked
there from 1948 to 1972. "The conditions were terrible
and the patients weren't treated right. No one had any idea
on how to treat them, and often they were treated very awful.
I used to come home every day and tell my family how thankful
I am. Once you were sent there, there was probably no chance
you were able to come out of there alive. Some of the patients
spent the rest of their lives there."
now 78 years young, recalls some of her experiences as a
nurse during her time as a nurse. Since her first day in
1948, Szot estimated that she witnessed nearly 10,000 patients
who were abused during her 24 years as a member of the Danvers
State nursing staff.
remember times when they used shock treatments for the patients,''
said Szot. "No one really knew how to handle them at
the time. Often times, they were either left alone or if
they acted out on the staff, the doctors would come in and
(throw them down) onto the beds. There were even times when
they used frozen bed sheets to hit the patients in an effort
to calm them down."
would recall the days and nights when Szot would arrive
home with stories about the job.
just remember my mom coming home and telling us all these
stories about the patients and what they (staff) were doing
to them,'' said Stillwell. "We all used to shudder
at the thought of how they were treated. But back then,
I don't think they really knew how (doctors) handled such
cases. Now things are so much different, and there's counseling
as well as medication to handle such problems."
leaving Danvers State in 1972, Szot elected to take a position
closer to her home in Hempstead, New Hampshire. It wasn't
until nearly a decade after her retirement in 1983 when
the ideas of writing a book entered Szot's mind.
mom really wanted to write a book about her experiences
as a nurse over there at (Danvers State) and I wanted to
help her out,'' said Stillwell. "So she told her experiences
and I recorded them on tape. After that we transcribed that
onto chapters and that's how things got going with the book."
nearly three years, Stillwell would document all the stories
told by Szot. And when the original copy of the book was
finished, Stillwell submitted the manuscripts to over 50
book publishers throughout the country.
was a long and drawn out process,'' said Stillwell. "We
had to go out and get an agent to help us out. We sent out
so many letters and we got some interest, but in the end
we had so many people reject our ideas. It was a lot of
hard work, and we weren't even sure if we were going to
get any publisher to take on the project."
months of trying to locate a publisher, Author House, a
book publishing company out of Illinois, finally decided
to take on the project.
been great to work with,'' said Stillwell. "They seemed
really interested in what we had, and they wanted to work
with us. It's been a joy to work with them, and they're
really helping out with the marketing and promotions of
with the book completed, Stillwell acknowledges that it's
only the beginning of the process. While people may purchase
the book on both Amazon and the Barnes and Nobles' Web sites,
Stillwell knows that book signings and promotional tours
will be essential in the coming months.
mom's just enjoying the ride right now,'' said Stillwell.
"She loves getting all the attention she's been receiving
on the book. We have a couple of book signings coming up,
and we're working on some appearances on local radio shows.
We're working with Barnes and Noble about possible dates
and times for book signings and we'll just see what happens.
But so far, things have been going great."
Security a concern after fire
responding to the second fire in five months at Danvers
State Hospital, public safety officials are again raising
concerns and offering a chilling premonition about the abandoned
been saying it for 10 years, it's only a matter of time
for that place," Fire Chief James Tutko said yesterday.
"It's just a horrendous area. And the time is coming
that we're not going to send our guys in because it'll be
small campfire, discovered early Sunday morning, was confined
to the first-floor auditorium of the Kirkbride Building
and was extinguished in 15 minutes.
is the second time since September firefighters have entered
the dilapidated structures off Route 62: The first fire
was on the third floor and started with a pile of old patient
records, fire officials said.
fires were arson, Tutko said, and both raise major concerns.
only need to think about the Worcester fire (in 1999) to
see what can happen with abandoned buildings," Tutko
said. "And we're not going to have a Worcester-type
fire here. If it's a big fire, then my men will not go in.
in 1992, the state hospital buildings have fallen into dangerous
disrepair. Ceilings have collapsed, and floors have gaping
holes — calling into question the buildings' structural
guards are posted on the state-owned site 24 hours a day
in an attempt to keep intruders out. But with a sprawling
130-year-old facility that totals more than 300,000 square
feet across 77 acres, the job is just too large for two
people, local officials said.
not sure if you increased the (number of) guards patrolling
that you'd be able to stop people from getting in there,"
Tutko said. "It's a huge site and if people want to
get in and cause trouble, they're going to get in and cause
of those guards sat at the entrance of Hathorne Avenue yesterday
and declined to provide any information about the fire.
He was preventing vehicle access to the site, he said.
Chief Neil Ouellette has forbidden any police officer from
setting foot into the abandoned buildings, citing safety
concerns for the officers.
have been instructed to not go into those buildings under
any circumstances. They are not trained to respond to that
kind of situation," Ouellette said.
Danvers State continues to be a favorite site among "urban
explorers." Various groups, who explore abandoned and
dilapidated buildings, enjoy taking pictures and posting
them on the Internet. Homeless people and drug users have
also been known to use the abandoned hospital as a shelter,
a hard place to patrol, but we do make our presence known,"
said Ouellette, who noted officers drive around the paved
section of the hospital several times a day. "But until
those buildings are knocked down, it's going to continue
to be a problem no matter how many people patrol that area."
and future owners respond
McMahon, spokeswoman for the state's Division of Capital
Management — who owns the site — said changes
will be made.
light of recent events, we are in the process of evaluating
security there," McMahon said.
was the same thing state spokesman Kevin Flanigan said five
months ago. McMahon said yesterday that she did not know
if security has increased since September.
Bay, a company planning to transform Danvers State into
a 485-home development, is also concerned about the incidents.
Avalon Bay will purchase the site for about $18 million
within the next year after acquiring the proper permitting
from the state and local boards.
he was unavailable for comment this week, Scott Dale, vice
president of Avalon Bay, has said in no uncertain terms
that the hospital is a hazard.
day that goes by, the risk that something may happen increases,"
said Dale at a Planning Board meeting in November. "As
soon as we take control of the building, we will have security
on the premises 24-7. It is a huge liability, both the way
it currently stands and through the demolition and construction
said an anonymous caller who alerted firefighters of the
blaze was most likely inside the building at the time of
was someone who knew what was happening, most likely someone
inside that knew what could happen," Tutko said. "Thankfully,
we were able to stop it before something major happened.
But make no mistake about it, something major is going to
happen. That's just a matter of time."
2-22-05 Danvers FD puts out small "campfire" at
went inside shuttered Danvers State Hospital again this
weekend to extinguish what appeared to be a "campfire"
left unattended in an auditorium on the dangerously dilapidated
The blaze, discovered at midnight Sunday, was put out in
15 minutes and no one was injured. But Danvers Fire Capt.
Douglas Conrad said he fears it's just a matter of time
before firefighters encounter a major fire on the former
psychiatric hospital property, a haven for fright-seekers
and those hoping to admire its 19th-century gothic architecture.
"It's a big sprawling area," he said. "There's
no way they can stop people from getting in there."
The fire was located about 50 feet away from an entrance.
Empty beer bottles, trash and graffiti surrounded the blaze
at the state-owned property.
"It looked just like someone was having a campfire,"
A similar fire was discovered on the hospital property late
last September. Conrad said he "definitely" thinks
both blazes were "suspicious in nature," intentionally
set by people trespassing on the hospital property.
"If nobody was in there, there would be no fire,"
he said, noting electricity to the building was cut long
Two security guards were on the hospital property, which
sits on the junction of Routes 1 and 62, but they are not
allowed to enter any of the hospital buildings, Conrad said.
"It was really the same as the last fire...People were
inside there doing their thing, walking around," Conrad
Officials long ago warned conditions inside the hospital
property, closed in the early 1990s, are treacherous. Ceilings
have collapsed and floors have gaping holes, said Conrad.
Unrelated to the fire, eight people were summonsed Sunday
for criminal trespassing at the property at 3:40 pm yesterday.
The flagship structure on the property, the Kirkbride building,
measures a half-mile long.
As firefighters walked inside the hospital this weekend,
they quickly discovered every surface was coated with ice.
"It was like a skating rink inside. Snow gets into
the building and then it freezes over," Conrad said.
The area where the fire was set was on hardwood floor, buckled
in many areas by water, snow and ice.
The fire remains under investigation by Danvers Fire Lt.
Developer Avalon Bay wants to buy the old hospital from
the state and convert it to a multimillion-dollar housing
complex, Avalon at Hathorne Hill.
The company is trying to acquire the proper permits before
paying $18.1 million for the property.
Arrest Log Eight people, ages 15 to 22,
were issued summonses for criminal trespassing after they
were allegedly caught trespassing on Danvers State Hospital
property at 3:40 Sunday afternoon. Formerly a psychiatric
hospital, Danvers State has been closed for more than a
decade, and visitors are barred from the property. Trooper
Sean Reardon Investigated.
holding bag after hospital-land permit delay
years in the making, the redevelopment of Danvers State
Hospital will have to wait at least another eight months,
as a developer has pushed back its purchase of the 75-acre
property, depriving the city of $100,000 in tax revenue.
the original sales agreement, real estate development giant
AvalonBay Communities was suppose to buy the property from
the state for $18.1 million by the end of January. However,
it's taking Avalon longer than expected to obtain needed
state and local building permits, and the company doesn't
want to spend its money until the permits are in place.
the state has agreed in principle to delay the sale until
September to give Avalon the time it needs, said state Department
of Capital Asset Management spokesman Kevin Flanigan.
are an excellent developer and remain committed to the project,
so we felt it was definitely the right thing to do,"
director of development Scott Dale said the company expects
to close on the property in September and then begin demolishing
old hospital buildings and preparing roads the next day.
Three months later, the site should be ready for construction
of buildings that will hold 485 condominiums, he said.
the delayed sale will cost the town an estimated $100,000
in property taxes and also force other special-interest
groups to wait for money promised with the sale since the
state will own the land longer, thus remaining tax-exempt.
had offered concessions to several groups and stakes in
the property, including: $1 million for Danvers schools;
$4.5 million to be used by the state for housing the mentally
ill; $500,000 for local affordable housing assistance trust;
and $500,000 for local historic preservation group.
tax money was supposed to help the town pay for the coming
years' debt payments on its new middle school in the newly
reconstructed Holten-Richmond building. Now, the money will
have to be found elsewhere in the budget or pulled from
the extent the money doesn't materialize, it will take away
some of our flexibility in meeting next year's Holten-Richmond
costs," Marquis said.
Danvers officials, the loss of the tax money is the most
troubling, because unlike the delayed concessions, it's
money the town loses forever, explained Planning and Human
Services Assistant Director Susan Fletcher.
other money will come, it will just come later," Fletcher
and state officials first began discussing the future of
the hospital property in 1981, 10 years before the last
of its patients were bused away to new homes. That was followed
by a series of committees studying and plotting sale of
the property. After much discussion and political wrangling,
AvalonBay Communities was chosen by a local oversight group
and the state to develop the property.
plans have been held up as the Massachusetts Highway Department
studies traffic-calming measures for the development's main
entrance along Route 62. After months of waiting, the company
and state are close to an agreement that would narrow the
median strip of Route 62 by the project entrance, and place
a new traffic light there, Dale said.
the delays, Dale said, "There has been no decrease
in our level of excitement for the perceived opportunity
1-21-05 Town's revenue stalled in traffic
that currently stands between developer AvalonBay Communities
and the sale and renovation of Danvers State Hospital are
a handful of state-issued traffic permits and an estimated
$21 million dollars - but Town Manager Wayne Marquis is
getting a bit anxious, since the tax revenue will help pay
off the Holten-Richmond reconstruction project.
Tax revenue from the Danvers State Hospital project, even
without redevelopment, is expected to be $725,000 for fiscal
2006 if the sale to a private corporation goes through.
Meanwhile, the town has been figuring on that tax income,
and an estimated $1 million a year once the 486 apartments
are built in Phase I, to help finance the reconstruction
of the Holten-Richmond School as a modern middle school.
The town expects to pay $500,000 to $600,000 in interest
on the Holten-Richmond School, scheduled to re-open in September,
during fiscal 2006, which begins July 1, 2005, Marquis said
"We've been talking about selling that property for
20 years," Marquis said. "Show me the documents.
Show me the money."
Of course, even without a firm sale date, the budget will
be balanced and presented to Town Meeting in May, Marquis
said. However, "it will not be an easy year by any
stretch," he said. (See related story.)
Kevin Flanigan, a representative of the Massachusetts Department
of Capital Asset Management, the state agency engineering
the sale, said Tuesday that AvalonBay must receive all its
permits before the state will sign over the 75 acres made
available for private development. The sale was supposed
to happen in the autumn of 2004, then this month, and still
has not happened.
MassHighway needs to issue permits for the state hospital
project, since it impacts surrounding roads and includes
a reconfigured main entrance on Route 62.
In 2003, Avalon Bay proposed a development plan for the
hospital and its grounds, with apartments and condo units
on top of Hathorne Hill and another 100,000 square feet
of professional space on the lowlands, to be developed later.
The developers also promised to preserve one-third of the
Kirkbride, the hospital's central building.
Avalon Bay Vice President Scott Dale said this week he expects
construction - and the sale -sometime this calendar year.
He expects the state to issue the last of the permits within
the next 30 to 60 days. He will then present these plans
to the Danvers Traffic Advisory Committee and the Planning
Currently, Avalon Bay is not scheduled on either agenda.