Ohio University is planning to demolish an old hospital that treated patients nearly 90 years ago, but one local group wants to preserve it.
The Athens Lunatic Asylum was built in the late 1870s on a hill overlooking the city.
Building 26 was used as a tuberculosis hospital. Athens County Historical Society Director Ron Luce said patients were treated with sun therapy.
“Part of the philosophy up here was to create a pleasant, idyllic environment,” said Luce.
He still marvels at the wide open porches, balconies and large windows and the groundbreaking treatment of sick patients throughout the last century.
A cemetery down the hill has headstones marked with numbers for patients who died at Building 26.
"We are only beginning to understand the complexity of this whole operation,” said Luce.
Luce said the university has now informed the historical society that it plans to demolish Building 26 with $300,000 in state funds.
The old hospital, which is near an area of Athens known as “The Ridges,” has been vacant for years and has been vandalized and painted with graffiti.
"Why can't we just hold on a little bit longer, look at a comprehensive plan for the Ridges, of which this may be a part!” said Luce.
Luce wants the university to consider a private donor or business partnership to save the building.
"I accept that hard decisions have to be made, sometimes buildings can't be saved. I understand that, but let's not decide it before we even talk about it,” he said.
Luce hopes more buildings don't come down to save costs.
He says the real cost is losing an important part of our past that no one can ever replace.
After the first of the year, Luce said he will participate in a group that will consider the future of other buildings in “The Ridges” section owned by the university.
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