easily one of the grandest and most ornate asylums ever built,
algonquin river state hospital was a cause of great local controversy during construction
due to running far over budget. the extravagance is evident in the beautiful masonry,
the ornamental woodwork, the stained glass windows with their decorative yet functional iron grating.
olmsted, the man who designed central park, laid out the grounds and the span of the wings
is half a mile, if you walked end to end.
to do so now is impossible.
in an ironic twist, the much-contested (and extremely expensive) yellow pine floors
fared far less impressively over time than those made of other, cheaper materials.
the epic scale of the structural collapse, combined with a devastating fire last summer,
make algonquin river state hospital quite possibly the most deadly building in existence.
floors like the one shown here
give way into gaping abysses, punji pits full of sharp, splintered boards
fanning out from the basement like jagged teeth in the ever-hungry mouth of death itself.
to take this photo i had to make it from the crumbling doorway on the left
onto the sagging mess in the extreme foreground. the floor shifted beneath my feet
and my added weight sent dust and debris cascading ominously into oblivion below.
it was quite possibly the most frightening moment of my life, second only to the one
where i had to get back into the doorway with no real solid ground to support me as i inched closer.
i may not be terribly afraid of death. i may even frequently wish for it.
i am, however, afraid of being paralyzed, of falling onto a rotted shard of floorboard and
laying impaled and broken for hours, with no real help available. i am not too proud
to admit that i wanted nothing more than to stay in the relative safety of the door frame,
or that i am glad that i will never again have to make the nerve-wracking leap of faith
back to the only exit.
that being said, i would do it again if i had to. there is no better example than algonquin
that all things fall apart, and i feel a certain kinship with it. we are both collapsing inside,
and it is an odd thing to see before your very eyes what you imagine
your own heart looks like.
very odd indeed.
photo taken at algonquin river state hospital. all rights reserved.
more of my work is available on abandonedamerica.org