Pennsylvania: Embreeville State Hospital

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Historic images courtesy of AsylumProjects.org.

Once considered a model facility for mental health in the country by the American Psychiatric Association, Embreeville State in West Bradford, Pennsylvania boasted an incredible 100% patient turnover rate at its peak.  Set deeply into a valley of rolling hills and flanked by active recreational areas, the historic landmark is slowly being torn apart by vandals and overgrowth.

The Chester County Almshouse began in 1798 to house the area’s poorest, neglected residents.  Exactly 100 years later, they needed a new location for the growing and increasingly self-sufficient population, and construction on the Embreeville Asylum began.  It had about 1,000 patients at the turn of the century.  Here’s what appears to be a bizarrely honest advertisement for the hospital:

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Near the hospital campus is a Potter’s field from the original almshouse where patients without families or means were laid to rest under unmarked stone tablets.  There are 204 in the field, to which the local government paid tribute with a sign that reads, “Known but to God, respected by us.”

The beautiful original, domed hospital buildings were torn down in the 50’s to make way for the much more modern construction seen on the campus today.

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Embreeville State Hospital officially closed in 1980 in the fallout of a 5-part news story about the abysmal conditions in nearby Pennhurst State, and the hospital grounds cycled through various uses for the next few decades.  An article was written about impending closure of the last group home on Embreeville’s campus in 1997 and the remaining buildings were entirely vacated by 2008.

 

“New Directions” is a logo-style theme throughout a few of the buildings.  I wouldn’t mind knowing more about its application in hospital life.

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Also, there’s a very cool series of paintings and vinyl decals in one building.  I adore this mural:

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Regular readers know I acknowledge graffiti and tagging as part of the natural life cycle of an abandoned building, as well as how much I appreciate it in certain contexts, but some of the tagging in this place was really, really bad.  There were a few interesting pieces, but the sheer volume of childish, outdated, meme-based humor irritated me almost as the blossoms of black mold I was inhaling.  It was like not being able to stop reading your racist, pervy neighbor’s Facebook feed while it was giving you an actual bacterial lung infection, which is a highly disrespectful end for a beautiful campus, considering it’s on the National Register of Historic Places.  But kids will be kids.

A 2013 proposal was made for the redevelopment of the property, but everything was quiet during our 2016 visit.

I think it’s fair to say a lot of the campus could be restored and repurposed, since structurally, most of it seems to be in pretty good condition.  If housing development plans ever came to fruition, it would probably be a really cool place to live.

PS.  I’m not advocating anybody going to visit this place, but if I were to return, I would not go in without gloves and some kind of breathing apparatus.  And I’m not talking about those little paper dust masks, either.  In fact, this place kind of made me realize how important a respirator can be.

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it even comes in my color.

 

10 thoughts on “Pennsylvania: Embreeville State Hospital

  1. Beautifully done! I felt like I’d been right there with you. I especially loved the photos of the decaying pianos and organ, even if they did make me inexplicably sad. Perhaps because they’re such a tangible metaphor for the waste of it all?

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  2. Strange, it’s nostalgic… My brother and I sledded there one winter while my father visited my mother…In warmer weather we had little picnics at the end of a trail which paralleled a stream…

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  3. Hello, I am very interested in checking out this place but don’t know the safest way to get in because the campus is very big and intimidating. Please, if you could email me I would like to ask you some questions. Thanks you!
    – Austin

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  4. I wish I got to explore! I wish they would make it a community college or something more useful! I remember being near there for my brothers baseball games and I swear the one building was like for nursing students! And too bad I would of liked to explore and look and hopefully they saved some of the stuff that was in there lots of remarkable stuff and the books and stuff that was in good condition!

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