I previously admited my fondness for old cemeteries, in this blog. It should come to no surprise then, I am also fond of abandoned hospitals, asylums and sanatoriums. Not quiet for the same reason though.
To me, abandoned medical institution, introduce an entirely different level of curiosity and intrigue compared to regular abandoned house, as they symbolise brief moments of passage in people’s existence. Almost an obligatory transition in the course of normal life.
Maybe also, because as R.W. Emerson once stated “Society is nothing but a hospital of incurables.“
Historically, hospitals were often founded (and funded) by religious orders or by charitable individuals. The medieval concept of Christian care evolved during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries into a secular one. The word “hospital” comes from the Latin hospes, signifying a stranger or foreigner, hence a guest. Another noun derived from this, hospitium came to signify hospitality. That is, the relation between guest and shelterer, hospitality, friendliness, and hospitable reception. In accordance with the original meaning of the word then, hospitals were originally “places of hospitality”. This meaning is preserved until today.
However, many hospitals, even those considered “modern”, are the product of continual and often badly managed growth over decades or even centuries, with utilitarian new sections added on as needs and finances dictate. As a result, Dutch writer Cor Wagenaar (Happy) has adequatly described hospitals as : “… built catastrophes, anonymous institutional complexes run by vast bureaucracies, and totally unfit for the purpose they have been designed for … They are hardly ever functional, and instead of making patients feel at home, they produce stress and anxiety.”
While the abandoned houses are small, with two-three floors and a handful of rooms –hospitals, asylums and sanatoriums are vast and often grandiose. Built with multiple wings, several buildings, dark creepy basements and usually at least three stories of rooms to explore.
The best, are hospitals built back in an age where seemingly no expense was spared on details and architecture, grand staircases, tall pillars that grace the façade, large and spacious balconies attached to each room from a time when it was determined that rest, fresh air, good nutrition and isolation was the cure to tuberculosis and other chronic deseases.
In fact, century old hospitals were built much different than the sterile and generic looking places built nowadays. Spiral staircases, decorative wrought iron railings, brick work, a domed cafeteria topped with a stained glass oculus, long brick arched tunnels that connect the many buildings on site.
Most of the time, the inside of these buildings, while hidden from the outside elements have succumbed to the elements inside. Slouching floors, crumbling ceilings and heavy medical equipment that has fallen from one floor down to the next and soon to fall into the basement — one must use extreme caution while navigating abandoned hospital rooms. Just like life then. Water damage, mould, heat and humidity has peeled every later of paint, smashed floor tiles, holes in every wall, almost every window smashed — it would cost millions to preserve those places.
There are also deep and dark secrets to be found in abandoned hospitals. Much more so, then with abandoned houses, every derelict hospital, institution or asylum has a particular story.
A hospital morgue, for exemple, would have processed the bodies of an average 25,000 patients who died during its time. A few centuries ago, hospitals were the last destination of the ill. More than half of the patients admitted to hospitals would be buried in unnamed graves, marked only by a number. Most patients arrived with their suitcases full of personal possessions and belongings – suitcases that would end up forgotten over time, only to be found decades later in an attic where they were left.
Urbexer’s paradise then.