Sunday, April 29, 2007

I was up in western Massachusetts today. One of the things I did was take a drive to Northampton. There are two places I make a point of visiting when I'm up there. My father's grave in Westhampton and the grounds of the former Northampton State Hospital.

The hospital grounds are a fifteen minute drive north of the cemetery. For the past few years the grounds have been " in transition. " Developers have attached themselves like leeches to the land on which the severely mentally ill once " were housed. "

As I approached the grounds, drove up the hill, I saw that about half of the old hospital buildings had been torn down. Most of the torn down buildings were the ones in which the patients lived.

What's going up where the buildings went down? Condos.

It's a great spot for condos. High on a hill. Great view of the Mount Holyoke Range in the distance. Overlooking one of the Seven Sisters colleges: Smith.

A short walk to downtown " NoHo. " There's a golf course or two or three within a few miles of the condos.

When I was a kid growing up in Easthampton, the " State Hospital " was the one part of the town of Northampton that didn't get talked about much. The department store, McCallums, Ann August, Jack August, The Vermont Store, and, of course, Smith College. That's what got talked about.

The state hospital was up there, up there on that hill. Overlooking everything. And overlooked itself. And now, thirty years after " deinstitutionalization, " it's buildings are being torn down. To make way for condos, in which so called normal folks will live.

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