Friday, February 22, 2013

Photo Essay: Rockhaven Sanitarium, Closed to Public, Exterior

I have been called "crazy" by one of my assistants and one of my bosses, both lovingly.

My parents thought my temper tantrums when I was three were a result of some kind of mental illness, so they sent me to a child psychiatrist. It turns out I was almost blind and, as an educator postulated some ten years later, intellectually gifted but unable to articulate myself, both resulting in screaming and rolling around on the floor.

The psychiatrist told my parents I had a lot of anger.

They were probably both right.

Even a hairdresser told me my hair was crazy the other night, unsolicited. Just because my hair doesn't hold curl doesn't make it crazy.

But whether the crazy was inside my own head or not, I have struggled with a lot of crazy in my life, bouncing between therapists, looking for love and friendship more than a diagnosis. Still, I've always thought I might end up at a place like Rockhaven Sanitarium, a sanctuary for female mentally ill patients.



Rockhaven, located in the Crescenta Valley, and owned by the City of Glendale, is closed to the public now...



...so I probably won't end up there per se...



...but perhaps someplace like it.



Rockhaven was founded in 1923 by Agnes Richards, a nurse who, upon returning from World War I, was appalled at the poor treatment of mentally ill patients at other facilities.



In the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, she found a rock house (eventually destroyed and replaced) which would become a haven for patients with all sorts of disorders...



...until it shut down in 2006, the last operating sanitarium of the Crescenta Valley, an area once full of them.



In the end, most of its patients were of the older variety, suffering from dementia.



Rockhaven provided a gorgeous - and once isolated - setting for them, in a relatively sprawling campus of Spanish Revival buildings (many of which were subsequently purchased by Richards for the ever-growing expansion of Rockhaven)...



...full of statues...



...and fountains...



...but also intricately landscaped gardens...



...which were painstakingly maintained until the end.



Next door to the main house, "The Rose" was a cottage for some of the sanitarium's more affluent residents...



...an example of one of the properties acquired and added to the sanitarium's facilities...



...whose entire structure was actually rotated to face inwards towards the gardens rather than outwards towards the street.



The pathways are relatively simple now, much of the landscaping having been lost without the resources to maintain it.



In fact, most of the maintenance of the property is done now by volunteers...



...who try to protect it from intruders and vandalism...



...as well as do a bit of painting...



...arrangement of furniture, and whatever other simple upkeep necessary...



...until the budget comes through to fully restore it.



The hope is that it will be turned into a public park (instead of, say, condos, or worse yet, demolition)...



...to open it to the public once again...



...since the sanitarium once welcomed visitors of all sorts, from singing chorales...



...to shoppers interested in purchasing the crafts created by its residents as part of their art therapy.



But now, it is protectively locked...



...and many of the uneven walkways are protectively blocked.



The outside of the sanitarium is peaceful...



...recalling the healing powers of sitting in the sunlight...



...and breathing in the mountain air.



But right now, it's not entirely safe to wander around, with many water pipes and electrical and gas lines running along the exteriors of the structures...



...and many more repairs to be made.

From the outside, Rockhaven Sanitarium doesn't seem like such a bad place to be sent, to live out one's final days.

But from the inside, you can understand why some of its residents - including Marilyn Monroe's mother, who famously tried to commit suicide and escape - wanted to get out.

Stay tuned for photos of the interior of Rockhaven Sanitarium.

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