Someone told me that the planning department was auctioning off articles from the state hospital, and I should check it out. I looked at all the items and it was damned depressing to see how little had been preserved for public resale. Pieces of iron with no particular usage, a group of broken down old seats, urinals, cigarette cartons, etc, etc and etcetera.
My friend and I were talking about the sale the other day and we both had the same reaction. What happened to all the beautiful antiques in the administrative building and the chapel? What happened to the large beautiful stained glass windows in the chapel? The great chandelier in the old admin building? What happened to the baby grand piano on the stage?
"Well" I said to him, "Maybe I could call Massdevelopment and….."
"And what?" he asked. "In a better world you might get some answers, but…"
"This is not the better world." I said, finishing his thought for him.
We were both part of a group of people that met in the late eighties to talk about reuse of the Old Main. At that time there were still a few patients living in the Haskell Building and Marjorie Senechal and a bunch of our people got the $10.00 tour of Old Main. We saw a multitude of uses for the buildings. Consolidate local state offices up there. The Center for the Arts made a determined effort to use the chapel, but the powers that be probably figured that if anyone got into one part of the building, they would be agitating to preserve more of it.
"The acoustics in that chapel were something," said my friend. "I was standing in the back of the balcony and someone snapped their fingers on the stage, and you could hear it perfectly."
He got to see the doctor's apartments with their fireplaces and views, and was taken all the way up to the top of the old administration building where there were two hatchways opening up onto the roof. He said the views of the valley were breathtaking. There's a painting in the Smith College Art Museum painted from that vantage point.
So I called one of my sources who shall have to remain nameless. He said some of the stuff in the chapel was preserved. He knew that the big pipe organ went to Holyoke Community College, and that the brass railing was saved. Part of the record of what happened to the antiques that could be recycled is probably buried in the records of the State Department of Capital Planning, who had control of the facility after 1975.
"They had a building of their own up on the hill. A lot of the best antiques out of Old Main had been taken out and put in there. God knows where they went."
Put comments here