I was surprised to find that some of these Norwich State Hospital properties are now owned by one of its neighbors, who introduced himself on my return visit. Mark did give me permission to wander around (though a bit grudgingly), with the caveat: ” If you need me to call Rescue or the police, I will, but will tell them I don’t know you and that you were trespassing..” Fair enough.
He told me that the House of Lords, a rock band associated with Gene Simmons, recently made their music video “Harlequin” on the grounds, and hinted at something paranormal captured in the video. A couple of tradesmen who had joined us concurred. Check out the video here, with the “paranormal” bit circa 3:22, in the shaft of light at the back of the room.
Not intending to have the backstory take away from the photo itself, which very much stands on its own for me.
You would think this frosted glass – in a corridor at a long abandoned state psych hospital – would have been much too stimulating for residents walking by, but who knows?
There may have been some who actually looked forward to the view, if only to bring a little magic into the oppressive realities of institutional life.
Myself, I can’t stay with it long, which is one of the reasons I shot it with a lot of black on the bottom and side.
I remember that evening in the small one room cabin, probably an old sugaring house in another life. A wood stove kept us warm. It was late winter.
Four, maybe six of us, tucked into the “living room”, communing with spirits that rose up in the stories and songs and laughter we shared deep into the night.
We were young, and locked in tight to “being here now”. Who knew the season would pass? Who knew there would be other, different ones, to follow? Who knew back then there was a future?
Norwich Hospital opened its doors in October 1904 as the “Norwich State Hospital for the Insane”, and remained operational until October 10, 1996. At its height, the patient population, individuals who were deemed “mentally ill”, reached 3184 in 1955. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988, with over forty contributing buildings.
Many community based agencies picked up the task of caring for these individuals as treatment philosophies (and medications) shifted over the years. Sometimes, a court order was necessary for the states to begin “deinstitutionalizing” patients, that is, providing the resources to effectively treat mental health issues closer to home.
I was with one such CT agency in the 1990’s (and also did similar work in MA in the 1980’s), that helped some of these Norwich Hospital residents settle back into their home towns. It was oftentimes difficult work, made easier by incredibly talented colleagues, and in the end, richly rewarding.
So here I am, driving by this hospital today, and of course I had my camera, so I visited some of the buildings. Might be worth the effort to continue photographing there, though I’m sure many people have recorded the fallen grandeur of the place. Matthew Christopher for one has some amazing images at his website here, which are also compiled into one of his books here.
This was a day that hit 60 degrees, and, not coincidently, ushered in the beginning of mud season. Another harbinger of Spring – when the sap starts running – began a few days earlier. That usually happens in mid to late winter when daytime temps move above freezing.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the living room: a rustic bookcase with classic editions of English literature. I never actually opened any; the muted colors of the bindings were enough on this day.
The portrait on this living room wall is of the poet F.D. Reeve, who lived here with his wife, the writer Laura C. Stevenson, from 1994 until he passed away in 2013.
By way of comparison (and to illustrate how good smartphone cameras are), this was taken at about the same time as the previous shot, but on a Samsung Galaxy S4, which by no means has a top of the line camera. But the shot holds its own with the previous one, taken with a good Canon camera and a very good Canon lens (except perhaps in making a large print).
I like how this photo gives you more ready access to the buildings, even though I didn’t think I stepped in closer than on the other shot. Could just be that the Samsung has a 31mm lens, which brings you closer than the Canon lens, which was set at 26mm.