a sky full of lighters (metafictionally) wrote in abandonedplaces,
a sky full of lighters

06-08-2011: Fairview Training Center

After a sort of unsuccessful attempt to find abandoned places in the urban/metro area of Portland, OR (there are veeeeery few), I found myself down in Salem ready to explore the Fairview Training Center, formerly the Oregon State Institution for the Feeble-Minded. Opened in 1908, the asylum was one of the first quasi-educational insane asylums in the state, and when it was closed in 2000 it was one of the oldest continually-operating. It was also, as far as I can tell, the only asylum in Oregon to practice eugenics.

There are a lot of pictures so I'm placing them under a cut, along with the historical data I gathered along the way!

A little history on the place: Fairview was opened in 1908 as the Oregon State Institution for the Feeble-Minded, as I mentioned earlier. It was the first asylum in Oregon that was opened under the premise of being educational—it wasn't just a sort of "jail for crazies", but a place that provided institutionalized people with the training and skills necessary to make it back out into the world (at least in theory). When the asylum opened in December of 1908, it did so with the transfer of 39 patients from the Oregon State Insane Asylum, which is now the Oregon State Hospital. OSH is still the primary psychiatric hospital in Oregon since the closure of Dammasch State Hospital in 1995 and was also the filming site of the film adaptation of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, for those who are lit/film buffs.

Anyway, when Fairview was first opened in 1908, it was on a 670-acre square plot of land but was comprised only of four buildings: An administrative building (LeBreton Cottage), a dormitory, a laundry and a boiler house. However, by 1913 the asylum had acquired two more cottages for various purposes. They continued to build cottages and other buildings on Fairview grounds until the complex (for lack of a better word) was comprised of at least ten cottages, the laundry, the boiler room, a recreational facility, a chapel, and a school building. One of the cottages, Pierce Cottage, was gutted by a fire just last year, and two men were charged with arson almost immediately following.

In 1923, the Oregon Board of Eugenics was established, and legislature was passed that provided for the "sterilization of all feeble-minded, insane, epileptics, habitual criminals, moral degenerates, and sexual perverts who are a menace to society." By 1929—within six years of the legislature's passing—300 of Fairview's residents had been sterilized.

The asylum changed its name from the Oregon State Institution for the Feeble-Minded to "Oregon Fairview Home" in 1933, and in 1965 it was again renamed to "Fairview Hospital and Training Center." The final name-change to simply "Fairview Training Center" occurred in 1979, and on March 1, 2000, the facility was finally shut down for good after ninety-two years of continuous operation. The land was purchased by a group called Sustainable Fairview Associates, a portion of which was sold for the building of Pringle Creek Community, a sustainable housing development.

Here are some links if you want to read more: Wikipedia, Salem Online History, Freedom Clearinghouse, Oregon Blue Book.

And now onto the good stuff.

I drove down to Salem with a friend who had never even been to Salem before, so it took us a little bit of maneuvering to find a place where we could park and walk up to the asylum without blocking traffic or being too noticeable. I'd heard reports of people being chased off the premises by unmarked black sedans, so I wasn't so keen on the idea of my car being out in the open for everyone to see. Fortunately, we found the aforementioned Pringle Creek Community, where we were able to drive far back into the development and park off to the side near a staircase leading up to the asylum grounds.

In the map to the left (which you can click to enlarge), you can see where there are roadblocks on the roads that used to lead up to the institute. You can also see how much ground there was to cover :)

We started by taking some photos of a couple of unrelated but kind of awesome-looking structures on the Pringle Creek property. A lovely sign next to the structure with the Batman symbol on it informed me that it was an old refueling station for trains that passed through the area. I didn't see any train tracks so it's anyone's best guess why the refueling station was still there, but whatever! As for the tower, I didn't see anything that let me know what it was, but I'm guessing it was also related to the trains somehow since it was in relatively close proximity to the refueling station.

Next, we climbed up a set of very narrow and rickety-seeming metal stairs, partially overgrown, onto what I'm pretty sure was once the main road for Fairview access. Immediately we were confronted with Kozer Cottage. Prior to closing in the summer of 1989, Kozer Cottage served 30 male and female patients ranging in age from 19 to 50 with profound to severe mental dysfunction. They required training in hygiene, education, self-help, domestic skills, leisure time, and vocational skills.

After a quick debate about which direction to go, we took a left and headed down the hill. The next building we encountered was Withycombe Cottage. Just before closing in the summer of 1989, Withycombe Cottage confined 32 males and females aged 22 to 62. They suffered from profound to severe mental dysfunction. Required training included arts and crafts, leisure, communication, relaxation techniques, socialization, and vocational training.

According to Salem Online History, the old well near Withycombe Cottage on Fairvie's grounds is haunted. A Salem resident, who was born on the property during the time his father served as the school's medical officer, remembers the tragedy vividly, even though he was very young at the time. One of Fairview's students went missing in late November of 1923; it was presumed Hollie Pollock had simply run away from the Institution. Three weeks later, his true fate was discovered when bits of his hair and skin came through the water pipes. His body was found in the school’s well, apparently a drowning victim. Of course, none of this has been verified, but it's a pretty creepy rumor nonetheless.

Around this time we took a path heading deeper into the complex, so instead of hitting our next building—Chamberlain Cottage—from the front, we saw it from the back. In 1989, Chamberlain Cottage confined 21 male and female patients between the ages of 31 to 73 with profound to severe mental dysfunction. There was a high prevalence of senior citizens housed in Chamberlain. Activities included crafts, music, and hobbies at the Senior Center and Greenhouse.

Heading back through an overgrown parking lot and a whole lot of tall grass (my friend is 5'4" and the grass came up to her chin), we encountered the first cottage built on Fairview grounds in 1908: LeBreton Cottage. LeBreton was an administrative building rather than a dormitory, so no patients were ever housed inside it. Unfortunately, I didn't get a shot of the front (sometimes it's hard to tell!).

The next building we also hit initially from the back, this one being the Client Rights office, which was established in 1987 after the U.S. Justice Department filed formal charges against Fairview, citing that it had found "life-threatening conditions" in their treatment of their patients. While Fairview stayed open for ninety-two years, that doesn't necessarily mean that everything was peachy for those ninety-two years; one former Fairview resident, who had been there for two years during the mid-sixties, remembers: "My parents took me out to Fairview and it's like a gateway to hell opened up."

After the Client Rights office we walked around to have a look at the building facing it. It was overhung by a lot of trees and very chewed-up, so there weren't many opportunities to take photos. However, after the fact I learned that the building we'd been examining was Holderness Cottage, which opened in 1962 to house "disturbed young men" and patients suffering from severe mental dysfunction. In 1989, Holderness Cottage was home to 26 disturbed and ‘more aggressive’ males aged 24 to 50 with mental dysfunction in the profound to severe range. Training included self-help, socialization, communication, and prevocational.

HOlderness Cottage was also the site of the institution's cemetery, which was used for only five years before being abandoned. Interestingly, no one in a former position of authority at Fairview seems to know what happened to the two dozen or so bodies that were buried in the cemetery—whether they were exhumed to be interred elsewhere, or whether they were just left. However, there have been many reports of strange occurrences around Holderness Cottage, including an apparition of a 30-somethings man walking around who didn't match the description of any of the staff on duty at the time. I didn't see anything, but then again...

After Holderness Cottage, we went to have a look at Holman Cottage. In 1989, Holman Cottage assisted 34 male and female patients ages 18 to 43 suffering from severe mental dysfunction. Some patients required training in self-help, recreation, education, and prevocational while other patients suffered from vision and hearing problems.

Following Holman Cottage was Kay Cottage. In 1989, Kay Cottage confined 39 male and female adults aged 27 to 73 with profound mental dysfunction. These patients required training in mobility endurance, gross motor skills, daily living skills, including kitchen skills, socialization, street safety, and communication.

Next, we checked out a few buildings in quick succession. We started with the Food Services Building, which we thought we might be able to get into but ultimately weren't. Upon closer look the insides were pretty bare; I tried to snap a picture through the glass door but it was so foggy that it didn't work out at all. (Fun fact: In 1964, 320 patients got food poisoning after eating gravy from the food services hall.) We also took a look at Benson Cottage, where in 1989, staff controlled 68 male and female residents aged 14 to 74 with mild to profound mental dysfunction. Many were incapable of walking and required intense care. Training focused on socialization, skill development, and community skills and development. Patients received hydrotherapy, positioning, feeding, and other physical therapy and occupational aid. The cottage also apparently housed the institution's physical rehabilitation center.

Immediately adjacent to Food Services and Benson Cottage were the apartments. As far as I can tell, the apartments—"A" and "B"—were originally meant as housing for the staff of the institution, but were eventually re-purposed as transitional living for patients before they went back into the community. Many of the doors of these apartments were open, so we got to poke around inside. There was, I should note, like a metric ton of asbestos in this place, so it's not really somewhere I'd recommend spending a lot of time.

That last photo is of a child's room. In 1915 the board of trustees for the institution passed a rule/law/whatever that no child under the age of 5 could be admitted to the institution, but that regulation was lifted in 1921. Judging by the skill level of the artwork on the walls, I don't think this was the room of a very young child... What you can't see in this photo is that all of the paintings on the walls are signed with the letters "W.W.", and on the lid of a plastic box on the floor we found the name "Willie Westfall". I can't find any related records that would give a better idea of who he is.

Only four more buildings! The first (1) we checked out after the apartments was the building that used to house the institution's preschool, I assume for those of its patients who were under the age of 6. I couldn't get any pictures of that because it was so dangerous to go near—the wood was very rotted, to the point where part of the roof had caved in. I wasn't really willing to risk it. Next we meandered over to Martin Cottage (2), which was situated right next to the old preschool. According to Salem History Online, "One of the largest cottages in terms of number of patients was Martin Cottage. Residents included 97 males and females aged 8 to 53 with about half being school age children. The patients required specialized medical care, seizure control, hydrotherapy, respiratory therapy, occupational therapy along with physical therapy. Many suffered eating difficulties and needed training in toileting, dressing, bathing, and grooming. Training also focused on education, self-help, communication, community experience, and active stimulation programs."

Following Martin Cottage, we took a look at Smith Cottage (3). 32 adult males were confined to Smith Cottage in 1989. The men suffered from profound to severe mental and physical dysfunction and were aged 20 to 55. They required communication, leisure, vocational, and socialization training.

Another fun fact: Immediately before taking the picture on the bottom, I faceplanted Like A Boss right onto a cement sidewalk. My camera bore the brunt of the fall, including my entire weight (as my sternum is liking to remind me right now). And yet, magically, it still works \o/ HURRAY TECHNOLOGY. I have mad grass stains though.

The final (4) building that we looked at on our Fairview adventure was the laundry building. Among other activities that the residents were encouraged to participate in, the laundry room was operated mostly by residents (as were the 400 acres of field that were sown and harvested before 1977). Now the laundry room is just an empty shell covered in borderline creepy graffiti.

And that concludes the Fairview Training Center adventure. Not pictured here because we didn't have time are:

Lane Cottage: In 1989, served 43 males ages 18 to 58. Mental dysfunction ranged from profound to mild. The majority of the men have histories that include physical, sexual and verbal aggression. Required training included sexuality, socialization, recreation, leisure, community living, behavior management, and vocational training.
Hoff Cottage: An administrative building.
Meier Cottage: In 1989, confined 30 male adults with severe, moderate, and mild levels of mental dysfunction ranging in age from 19 to 53. These patients required a higher ratio of staffing due to tendencies toward physical aggression and self-injury. Training focused on preventing maladaptive behavior, self-help skills, and vocational training.
Magruder Cottage: Opened in 1962 to house teenage boys, in 1989 the cottage held 35 women aged 22 to 51. Profound to moderate mental dysfunction was prevalent. Training focused on sexuality, behavior management, leisure, recreational, community living skills, and vocational training.
Long Cottage: In 1989, provided help to 11 men and women between the ages of 21 to 39 who suffered from a disorder called Pica. Pica, from the Latin word for "magpie", refers to people who ingest foreign objects. Patients would wear a jumpsuit fashioned almost like a straitjacket to keep them from consuming even their own clothes.
Byrd Cottage: One of the more supposedly haunted locations on the Fairview grounds. In 1969, a fire broke out in Byrd Cottage, killing three and injuring nine. Because of disability-related limitations and, in some cases, physical restraints, patients were unable to escape from the cottage. In 1989, Byrd Cottage housed 58 female and male patients aged 24 to 78 with multiple handicaps including mobility, vision, and hearing impairments. Training focused on recreational and prevocational.
Patterson Cottage: In 1989, held 69 males and females aged 25 to 59 who suffered from a wide array of physical and behavioral disorders. Training included daily living skills, personal hygiene, community mobility, active stimulation programs, recreational, leisure, socialization, and simulated work setting. The Patterson Cottage staff focused on each patient's worth as a member of society and assisted them through maximum participation through all phases of life.
The Hospital: The maximum capacity of the Hospital was 29 patients, with an average yearly population of 26 to 27. 15 of the patients were confined to the hospital permanently. Patients suffered from acute illness and injury requiring follow-up care, including various surgical procedures. Nursing care was required for the patients who were incapable of surviving in conventional living arrangement throughout the institution. Many patients experienced feeding and dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) complications while others suffered from seizures. Training included communication and sensory stimulation.
The School: The school at Fairview officially closed in 1990, having sent the last of its students into community homes to attend local public schools.

So there you have it! Fairview Training Center. It was quite an adventure walking around, and even though it was very creepy in some places, it was mostly just a fascinating experience. And to finish off this hideously long entry, here's a video filmed in 1959 called "In Our Care," which was used by the state of Oregon to educate people about what life as like at Fairview.

In Our Care from Oregonian News on Vimeo.

Tags: #photography, expoloration, fairview training center, oregon, psychiatric hospital

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