Friday, October 22, 2010

Pennhurst Asylum

Eastern Pennsylvania State Institution for the Feeble-Minded and Epileptic, better known as Pennhurst Hospital, in Spring City, PA was opened in 1908 to serve as a state school and hospital for the region's mentally and physically disabled.

In 1987 the hospital was forced to close following allegations of abuse. During this time many of the nation's largest state mental hospitals began releasing their patients and closing their doors to the public.

In recent years there has been movement to redevelop the grounds of Pennhurst with sensitive memory to its history. Unfortunately this idealistic move to preserve its memory as a landmark of suffering has insured its ultimate demise.

Currently the property is being operated as a Halloween attraction called Pennhurst Asylum, stirring up mixed emotions and causing me to question throwing parties or even residing in a 209 year old indentured servant house. Ultimately I believe history is history. You can preserve a building with a history of suffering without making everyone who wants to see the building suffer in the process.

Pennhurst opens the discussion of how to reuse architecturally and historically significant properties when the most feasible way of sustaining a property might possibly insult its memory, particularly in a city as old as Philadelphia and a region as old as ours, where our most historic landmarks are from a different place and time.

When activists project a 21st Century opinion on landmarks dating back decades, and even centuries, people wind up protesting events we cannot possibly comprehend and demonizing 15th Century explorers from monarchies that don't exist anymore.

In a time of increasingly irrational political correctness, significant landmarks continue to decay and history is being lost at the hands of overactive sensitivity.

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