More than the sight of my old house, this takes me back. The corner of Peterson and Central Park avenues, the unused service entrance to the sanitarium.
That white square sign hanging on the left-hand side of the gate? Directions to the main entrance, I’m sure of it. A corner of the guard house, pictured in my first post of the series, hidden among the shadows along the right edge of the photograph.
The city removed the sign when they closed the sanitarium in the early 1970s. I received this photograph from a friend last week and it surprised me. The curve of the arch, the simple but lovely type font, the symbol at the top illuminated in pink neon–all exactly as I remembered.
Others, like me, are still haunted by memories of the sanitarium. Some reminiscences appeared in comments to the earlier posts and some I received via email.
Alan Spector also grew up on North Central Park Avenue, two blocks south of my house.
I used to play softball with the Rapoports and the Blacks on the corner of Central Park and Ardmore. We used to see guys climbing (escaping?) over the fence and stagger back a few hours later with a bottle of liquor in their hands. At the time, we were all pretty scared. A few times, our ball would go over that green fence and we would have to go retrieve it. I’m pretty good at climbing fences FAST to this day because of the fright of not returning back to Central Park Avenue in one piece.
I drive past your old house and the new park all the time. I think how different our lives would have been, for better or for worse, if the park was there for us when we were small.
Denise Bell Thomas grew up the same block as Alan.
My parents were only the 2nd owners of their house and lived there for 39 years. I hated it when they sold the house even though all my life–even as an adult I was scared out of my wits by the shadows cast on the front hall walls when cars drove by at night. My sister and I never got over the feeling that when we went up the front hall stairs that something was going to reach out and grab us.
Later on in life in the early 80s I actually worked for the City for the department that took care of the grounds. I was lucky to see the private bird sanctuary areas and was able to actually go into the building –this was before all the renovation was done.
I’ve walked around the grounds and inside the buildings, searched the Internet, and at last I know what was inside the forbidden place of my childhood. But several comments made me realize I didn’t learn anything about the people who had been on the inside. The physician who spoke of his memories of misery. Denise mentioning that directly across from her house, there was a groundskeeper’s house and a child lived there. Another former classmate who wrote that his father had been born at the sanitarium. It said so, my friend wrote, right on his father’s birth certificate.
My interest in the sanitarium’s history is just beginning, but this series is ending. Join me again next Monday as I go back to the West Side.
Credits: Photograph courtesy of Jennifer Stix.
Interested in more photos? Look in the Forbidden Places under the Photos tab on this blog.
—Update! As if the sanitarium hadn’t been frightening enough, this just came in. My thanks to Susan Miller Tweedy for her photograph.