Preservation of Buildings a Distinct Possibility in Utopia
It is possible several historical buildings on the site of the Norwich State Hospital will be restored if Utopia gets their way.
According to an article in The Day on 11/18/06, Utopia had told the Norwich Hospital Advisory Committee they wanted to “preserve 29 buildings and demolish 30”.
The Committee was pessimistic that such could take place and believed a “mass demolition” is in order.
The committee believes there are only seven buildings of “real architectural value” which include the old Administration and Salmon buildings, located along Route 12 known for their gothic features as well as the Awl, Bell, and Bingham buildings and the campus chapel.
They also favored saving the Pathway Building located on the east side of Route 12 along the pond and several utility buildings and structures would be saved.
Although not mentioned in the article, a grounds plan map of the grounds shows that along with a pump and meter building on the east end of Route 12 which is covered with graffiti, other utility buildings include oil storage, drying buildings, and power house along the Thames River as well as several garages scattered throughout the site.
Previous talk regarding preserving buildings with Utopia several years ago focused on saving the Kettle and Lab buildings, the buildings build on the site in 1959 and notably ones that would cost the least to restore.
Kettle was used until the 1990’s for office space for the Southeastern Connecticut Mental Health Authority along with space used in Lodge.
The Norwich State Hospital campus closed in 1996, a 419 acre state-owned campus is managed by the Office of Policy and Management. The property has access along the Thames River, four buildings, at least 40 buildings of various sizes with most on the west side of Route 12, but features meadows, pathways, and forests mainly on the east side of Route 12 and along Route 2A near the SEAT Bus Facility.
Many of the buildings Utopia wants to preserve would require asbestos abatement, removal of lead paint, feature water pollution, and need major ADA and fire code upgrades.
However, Utopia has failed to specifically detail how these buildings would be preserved, what purpose they would function, estimated cost of preservation, and what preservation would entail such as whether it is exterior preservation only (which is highly expected) or interior preservation (retain hallways, day rooms, administration offices, patient rooms, bathrooms, etc.).
Interior preservation could happen if the buildings turned into hotel rooms or college dormitory rooms but if such happened, many patient rooms are too small.
In my opinion, buildings featuring the brick architecture of Kettle and Lab should be tore down and emphasis put on those featuring the unique gothic architecture.
It is not too late for the state to step in and setup a museum in one of these old buildings that would tell the history not just of the campus but of mental health and its future.
If Connecticut fails to do this, we owe it to those architects to preserve history in a time when older unique buildings are slowly being demolished.
According to photos I have seen and information on the Internet, while many have been in these buildings since their closure, there is little signs of vandalism and the real challenge to Utopia would be taking care of the animals living in these buildings, falling floors, mold, and outdoor elements which have come through open or broke windows in these buildings.