December 21, 2015

Photo Essay: Retreat to Rockhaven Sanitarium

[Last updated 10/13/20 12:44 PM PT—video added at end of post]

I guess it's not surprising that one of my favorite places in the LA area is an abandoned sanitarium.

But the thing is, it's not like those haunted house insane asylums. Thanks to its founder, Nurse Agnes Richards...'s quite calm and serene.

Agnes literally turned the Rose Cottage so that it would face the gardens instead of the street or the neighbors...

...and gave her residents (not "patients") plenty of pretty flowers to look at while they were inside, too.

The only thing really creepy here at Rockhaven Sanitarium is its emptiness.

People should be able to enjoy this place.

But the costs to make it ADA-compliant outweighed the benefit of keeping it open as a long-term care facility for seniors, so it had to close.

No one seems to know what to do with it now.

Its residents and staffers never wanted to leave Rockhaven, which was outfitted with so many small touches like a patio water fountain...

...and a bathing beauty...

...but now, hardly anybody can get in.

And there's so much to love about Rockhaven.

We should all be lucky enough to end up at a place like this when our time comes...

...where we'd be celebrated...

...and remembered...

...and encouraged.

Still, it's hard to shake the feeling that people died here.

People were really sick here.

But at least they weren't alone.

They had each other...

...even if no one came to see them.

The non-profit that's taken over stewardship of the sanitarium, Friends of Rockhaven, have done a ton of work to clean the place up.

But the genius is in what they haven't cleared out.

Furniture is in place, neat and tidy...

...but on your exploration of the place, you come across these tiny remembrances...

...of those who ate dinner here, and those of those who lived out their last days here.

Although public access to Rockhaven is extremely restricted...

...there's one group that gets to come and go more or less as they please:

...the Glendale Police Department K-9 unit.

The dogs come here for their police training and sometimes tear the place up.

Those aren't fingernail scratches from a patient trying to escape; they're from police puppy paws.

I think for most of the early residents of Rockhaven, it didn't feel so much like they were being sent away (although that's most certainly what was happening)...

...but rather, as though they were coming home.

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