The Razing of the Main Building at Spring Grove State Hospital

The North Wing Bell Tower, around 1880

The North Wing Bell Tower, During Demolition in 1963


Although today it is difficult for some of us to understand why the historic significance and architectural merit of the Main Building didn't save it from the wrecking ball back in 1963, the fact is that, in 1963, the building was structurally unsound, was justifiably considered to have been a "firetrap," and was felt to have been beyond reasonable repair. Its wooden floor joists, some of which dated back to 1853, reportedly were rotten and at risk of collapsing; and it's heating, plumbing and electrical systems were dangerously outdated. Furthermore, its monolithic design was badly out of step with the needs and sensibilities of a modern psychiatric hospital; and, in the days before "condo's" and "loft apartments" it probably wouldn't have lent itself to adaptive reuse.

Much of the rubble of the Main Building is located just under the soil of the open field that lies behind the Jamison Building, between the modern day Spring Grove Administration Building and the Laundry Building, and some of it was deposited as landfill behind the Hamilton Building (which was extant at the time that the Main Building was demolished). Occasionally, even to this day, small subterranean sections of the remains of the Main Building, such as portions of its airshafts or basement rooms, will collapse and cause slight indentations to appear on the surface -- a subtle reminder, perhaps, that the Main Building hasn't passed entirely from our midst.