The Army Veterans Hospital in Broadview Heights (south of CLE proper) opened in 1939 and catered mainly to WWII veterans. After the war, it housed tuberculosis patients. In 1965 the facility was transferred to the Ohio Department of Mental Hygiene and facilitated people with disabilities, many of which were children. It officially closed in 1992.
The City of Broadview Heights purchased the complex from the state in 1996 and moved the municipal administration to the adjacent Thorin Building. The old portion of the hospital was essentially abandoned, with much of the equipment and medical records still inside.
With no heat or maintenance, and area animals finding shelter inside, the vacant hospital fell into startling decay within a few years. To make matters worse, teenagers, homeless and the curious were constantly getting into the building, which was also rumored to be haunted.
Controversy always swirled around the old hospital, from the way it was abandoned to whether or not it contained asbestos and black mold. The building was razed in 2006. I was a local reporter in this area from 2001 through 2006 and the old VA hospital was often the subject of my beat. I had a chance to "tour" the interior of the hospital before the wrecking ball put it in it's grave.
I will never forget the inside of that building. Here are some pictures I took that day. Click on any to enlarge.
I expected it to feel creepy inside--and the space absolutely had a specific energy, but it thrummed with an overwhelming sadness. It was the saddest place I've ever experienced.
Metal cribs were strewn about in one ward. They included locking tops and resembled cages more than anything else.
The exterior of the building was literally falling down before the city could amass enough funds to demolish it.
Many of my best photos went to the publication I was writing for at the time. The industrial kitchen, with its massive mixing machines and ovens, should have been cool, but it just felt empty and sad like the rest of the facility. The operating room was horrible, with decrepit cases of knives and drills lining the walls.
The chapel remained as one of the least damaged portions of the facility.
The curtains were cropped so children couldn't reach and climb them. At some point in the 70s, the grounds surrounding the hospital were opened up as sporting fields for local clubs. One of my neighbors still recalls hearing the screams of the patients through open windows on warm summer days as he played soccer in the front lawn.
It was terrible and dangerous inside the old hospital. There was broken glass and dangling debris everywhere. I had to sign a release and don a protective mask before I could enter.
By the time I toured the hospital, much of the contents were gone, but what was left still told stories ...
... and told and told and told.
I was fascinated with the demolition of the building. On one unseasonably chilly afternoon in September 2006, I watched for a few hours along with a small crowd as two backhoes chewed away at a particularly obstinate wing. A massive steel bucket pounded away on one side of the annex while a giant jaw-like claw bit away at the other.
Just before 6 p.m., a plume of steam shot from one of the machines after a particularly violent fight with a tangle of rebar. The bucket shuddered and clamored to the ground. The huge steel arm curled under and the vehicle retreated, victim to a severed hydraulic line. The claw, however, kept on with the pummeling--at least until one of the crew began yelling at the operator. Something was out of whack with backhoe number two--one of its pins, a 2.5" solid steel rod--had snapped like a toothpick. The crew hung it up for the night.
"Both machines broke," one of the workers told me as he fingered the busted piece of steel.
It was as dramatic and symbolic a fight as I've ever witnessed. It was so real. The men, the hospital, we who watched, the rugged backhoes--we were all involved in the fray. Each of us had a point of view.
I respected the hospital that day, and the way she wasn't going to give up without a fight.
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Another page featuring the old VA hospital with many more photos and pages from patients' records. Whomever took these undoubtedly was in the facility a few years before me.
This slideshow of old asylum images was the impetus of this post.
The Wiki article on the facility.
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