New details on plans for old buildings around Central State Hospital
Images courtesy of Google Earth
The state of Georgia hasn't made the decision to demolish and raze any of the old buildings around the Central State Hospital pecan grove, at least not yet.
Fencing recently was erected around several of the old buildings, piquing local curiosity and social media chatter. A state spokesperson responded to a request for information from Baldwin2k News on Tuesday.
“Asbestos abatement is the only work going on right now, but we are currently in discussion about how to best address the safety risks those buildings present to the community," wrote David Sofferin, the director of public affairs for the Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities.
This is similar to the information that Baldwin County's state representative, Rick Williams, has been receiving.
"There are no plans to start demolition on any of the buildings at this time," said Williams, who added that he's "still concerned" and will "request public hearings before any decisions like that can be made."
The three buildings on the proposed chopping block are the Jones Building, which is the extra large building located down the hill from the auditorium, as well as well as the Green and Walker buildings, located on the opposite side of the pecan grove. For a better perspective, fast-forward to around the 1:10 mark of the video below...
Walter Reynolds is the executive director of the Central State Hospital Local Redevelopment Authority. "In a perfect world," according to Reynolds, the state of Georgia would choose to "clean up the buildings and secure them," essentially leaving the facades. The supersized Jones Building, according to Reynolds, is the only one of the three buildings that would need steel reinforcement beams to stabilize the facade.
"Basically, leave the facades that face the pecan orchard, gut the interior and allow for adaptive re-use of the structures," Reynolds said.
An online petition emerged earlier this week titled "Stop the Destruction of Historic Central State Hospital Buildings. Milledgeville, Ga." The petition was up to 607 online signatures, as of 5:23 p.m. Tuesday.
Reads the text of the petition: "Stop the destruction of Historic Central State Buildings such as the Walker and Jones Buildings and the Steam plant Central State Hospital is of great historical value to the state of Georgia and is the final resting place to tens of thousands of former patients. Some of these buildings could be saved for apartments or offices or historic tours to help the economy of Baldwin county and the state of Georgia. Contact your state senators the Governor's office or Judy Fitzgerald commissioner of Georgia DBHDD to stop the Destruction of these historical buildings or at the very least hear the people out. Some of the artifacts from these buildings could be salvaged and used in other places around the state. We the people of the state of Georgia have the power to speak our mind and let our voice be heard."
Meanwhile, the Georgia Trust, which is the state's largest advocacy group for historic preservation, includesCentral State Hospital on its list of "Places in Peril."
"Central State Hospital was Georgia’s first psychiatric institution, eventually becoming the largest mental hospital in the United States and the second largest in the world. Central State was chartered by the legislature in 1837 with the intent of providing Georgians suffering from mental illness or developmental disabilities with a safe and humane environment. The complex includes nearly 200 buildings, dating from 1842 to the mid-twentieth century, and features a remarkable variety of architectural styles situated on nearly 2,000 acres," wrote Georgia Trust.
CLICK HERE to meet the Williams "family"
However, Georgia Trust admits that there are some serious challenges facing the old buildings, writing that "Central State Hospital has continued to suffer from neglect since its full closure in 2013, leading to further deterioration. A redevelopment authority is working to manage the site, and the train depot is being repurposed into Georgia’s Old Capital Museum. However, the scale of the campus and the current condition of many buildings has made fundraising and investment a daunting challenge. An embrace of the historic architecture and utilization of the economic incentives available to preservation projects could provide further avenues to redevelopment."
Photos by Star Boyle Shaw // M. Starling Photography