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December, 2005

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

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

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

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

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

We remember, and so will they!

John C. Archer


 

 

 
 
 
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