March 20th, 2012

The fall of the Samuel R. Smith Infirmary

This post is more-so an update on a place I shot a a while back (for my book).
Christina and I always liked this place because of how removed it was from civilization, even though
it sat right in the middle of Staten Island's sprawl. Sadly as of 3/5/2012 this castle is no more...

Established by the Richmond County Medical Society in 1861, the Samuel R. Smith Infirmary was the first private hospital built for Staten Island and its residents.
In its early years, the Infirmary operated out of a sequence of buildings near the present-day location of the Ferry Terminal. It found a permanent home in 1887,
when the Society purchased 6 grassy acres on a hilltop off Castleton Avenue.

The architect, Alfred E. Barlow, gifted the hospital with a strange and vaguely medieval form, cast in red brick. This seemed a suiting design choice,
for what better than a castle to crown an imposing hilltop? A likely inspiration for the unusual design is the then-modern New York Cancer Hospital, built in 1885.
It was a common belief at the time that rooms without corners prevented the accumulation of germs and helped mitigate the spread of illness.

At its opening ceremony, the Infirmary was hailed as the "pride of the island”, and it soon went to work serving those in need. Early in its life,
the hospital hosted the wounded of the Spanish-American War when horse-drawn ambulances carried them to its doors in 1898, from the warships Rio Grande, Leona, and Concho in the harbor.
In 1916, the Infirmary was rechristened the Staten Island Hospital. It continued to serve as the primary medical center for the borough until the end of 1979,
when it was replaced by a modern, infinitely more ordinary structure on Seaview Avenue in Ocean Breeze.

While gaining entry to the hospital was neither easy nor enjoyable, once inside our company was welcomed with beautiful displays of light, dancing in beams
filtering through the branches and decaying walls. It was as if the place was celebrating the presence of people within its walls after an interminable loneliness.
Though standing only a few dozen feet in any direction from a roadway or sidewalk, the old hospital had come to be so overgrown with underbrush, trees, and ivy that it all but disappeared
from the world outside its fenced hilltop, washed over and dissolved by a newly sprouted urban forest. Perhaps it was at least partially because of the greenery
which had come to encompass the old infirmary that it not only faded away from people's daily thoughts, but from their memories as well.

Since its closure, the old hospital sat unused and unmaintained. Slowly this intriguing piece of architecture, and notable piece of Staten Island history was allowed to rot away right under
the noses of thousands of people, many of whom were born within its walls. By the time anyone had come to realize what they and the community as a whole were losing to neglect, it was already lost.
What was once heralded as a great accomplishment had come to be referred to as nothing more than an eyesore. Some private groups did organize in an attempt to save the hospital from demolition,
and though their intentions were well placed, their actions proved to be a case of too little too late. The castle had passed away long ago while it slept, tucked beyond walls of green and forgotten by the world.
All that remained was a decaying husk, one that was far beyond any hope of salvation through reuse, no matter how noble the idea.
The forest was cleared, and these castle walls finally fell to the plow March 5th, 2012.

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Zorak coffee break

Abandoned hotel, Devon, England

I've been meaning to post these photos for ages. This hotel, the Collingwood was meant to be torn down last September so I rushed and took photos. I knew the owners of the place too. It was originally four terraced houses and then they were all connected together to make a hotel. But sadly after many years it became unstable and needed a lot of refurbishment. The owners couldn't afford that so they tried to sell it to new owners. A pair of ladies wanted to buy it but they'd gone bankrupt so they didn't in the end. It was sold to Wetherspoons and knocked down at the beginning of this year. Now it's just rubble and I'm glad I got these photos. This place has meaning to me because my late boyfriend used to work behind the Edwardian bar. You can just about see the door to the bar to the left under the ripped green awning. It was a cosy little bar with regular customers who I used to sit and chat to. I pulled a few pints behind that bar as well. I miss it. The cafe in there did amazing roast dinners. They would bring more food for you when you finished what you were eating and always offered as much as you wanted, all for a cheap price. Especially roast potatoes. I miss that place and everything that happened there. But I have the memories.

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