By Mike Allee
The vacant hospital sets off the main highway that leads into town. It is a large complex, the initial structure built in 1905. Multiple additions of conflicting architecture have been added over years as the health care industry grew into what it is today. What hasn’t been destroyed inside by vandals, or gutted by looters has being eaten by decay. Town residents and local newspaper articles call it an eyesore.
Since its closure in the early 2000’s the hospital has been bought and resold by a parade of investors, each one promising big plans and ideas for the facility, none of them ever bearing fruit. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in back property taxes are now owed by the current out of state owner who city officials have been unable to locate. To make matters worse, a recent environmental study found unusually high levels of toxins and contaminates in the soil surrounding the facility and under the parking lots that will require costly cleanup before it can be considered for any type of public reuse. As old Reid Hospital currently sits, it would cost more to refurbish than to tear it down and rebuild new. And it would cost more to tear down and decontaminate than the ground and all the buildings that sit on it are worth.
Doors to the main lobby, employee and previously secured entrances are propped open, many marked with crude graffiti and spray painted swastikas. Nine foot plate glass windows framing the seven story Leeds Tower have holes broken in them large enough to walk through.
Every room in every hallway on every floor shows damage, much of it considerable. Peeling paint appears to drip from the ceilings and forms large blisters along walls. Fixtures and any salvageable metals have been ripped from the drywall leaving large gaping holes. Trash is everywhere. The basement level is flooded in eight feet of rancid water.
Several times we found ourselves lost or turned around as we navigated through the building’s multiple wings. Arrows have been painted on some of the walls, no doubt to help those before us find their way although where they were leading to proved unclear. Some areas were easy to identify by the remnants left behind. Sagging half curtains hanging from hospital racks were determined to be patient rooms. Outdated monitors and floors covered in faded charts designated previous office space. In one room we found a framed medical diploma still hanging on the wall. Most rooms were nothing more than crumbling dust.
The large first floor cafeteria area looked out through a long bank of floor length windows onto what likely was once a manicured outdoors seating area with walkways between buildings. The area is now covered in broken glass, busted computer monitors and more graffiti. Some areas are black and scorched from the effects of small fires set by vandals or homeless to stay warm or to cook from. We came across evidence of beds and temporary living areas multiple times. For those, like myself, who come to shoot the ruins, there is potential. There are photo opportunities everywhere. For those less fortunate, the rotting, mold ridden hospital provides shelter.