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(Enlarge) Built in the 1920s and once used as a sanitarium for tuberculosis patients, the former Henryton State Hospital on the southern end of Carroll County in Marriottsville has been closed and deteriorating for decades, and police and fire officials say it’s a growing nuisance. State officials said last week they will explore the possibility of demolishing the hospital buildings and turning it into a park. ((Staff photo by Sarah Nix))

The former Henryton State Hospital in Marriottsville could soon be history after 24 years of deterioration, neglect and crime.

State officials said this week they are working to develop a plan that would see demolition of the buildings in the small area of Marriottsville, and perhaps turn the property into a park. Officials are expected to tour the property on Friday, May 15.

"Basically, it's (a property) surrounded by a lot of our current parkland," said John Griffin, secretary of Maryland Department of Natural Resources, noting that the property is surrounded by Patapsco Valley State Park.

"It seems the best and logical thing to do ... is to see if we can get the buildings torn down and the land reclaimed, then add it into our parks," he said.

Henryton hospital closed in 1985. Opened in the 1920s, it initially served black patients who suffered from tuberculosis, then later served patients who had developmental disabilities.

Over the past several years, local officials have petitioned the state to get rid of the 17 buildings on the 46-acre campus. The property has become popular among trespassers, and was the site of a fire in 2008 that drew response from several area fire companies.

The most recent discussion stems from Gov. Martin O'Malley's April 24 forum at McDaniel College in Westminster -- part of the governor's Capital For a Day visit to Carroll County.

At the forum, State Del. Susan Krebs (R-9B) of Eldersburg told the governor the hospital grounds have become unsafe and draw crime to the area, and she suggested it would be ideal as DNR property.

Krebs said she is glad DNR previously discussed interest in the property.

"I was pleased that the decision has been made, but we have to take care of the buildings -- securing the buildings and demolishing the buildings," Krebs said.

Brick by brick

Griffin agreed the site would be suitable for passive recreation -- hiking, biking, bird watching and other outdoor activities. But he said before anything can happen at Henryton, his department must develop a budget and plan for demolition of the buildings, then submit it for approval.

The state has recommended the property for demolition before, but the biggest challenge is finding money to do it.

That's where the state's Department of Public Safety and Corrections may step in to help. That department has a program in which inmates help demolish buildings, reclaim brick and give materials to nonprofits, such as Habitat for Humanity.

Department of Corrections Sec. Gary Maynard sees that program as a good fit for Henryton.

"One thing I've been wanting to get involved in is some of these abandoned hospitals and other places to tear them down, salvage the brick, salvage some of the materials (and) ... make it available to nonprofits," he said.

Maynard figures having inmates complete demolition work could decrease the expense to take down buildings.

Though a park is an option now, Dennis Beard, public information officer for the Sykesville-Freedom Dist. Fire Dept., which is responsible for responding to Henryton incidents, wonders what might have been possible if officials acted sooner.

"It's sad when we look at Carroll County in its lack of area for business parks, there's a possibility that a business park could have been there," said Beard, who thinks if the buildings were on routes 26 or 32, the state might have tried saving them.

History of problems

The Henryton property has gone through numerous attempts for the state to sell it off to a developer, but those have all failed.

Police say the buildings are unsafe because of gaping holes in floors and protruding metal and debris, but crime is nothing new at the site.

Even though the campus drive is gated, the site is frequented by teens and trespassers. It's also popular with people who go "ghost hunting," and there are numerous videos on YouTube and photo essays online taken by people who have been on the campus illegally.

The hospital suffered a fire in February, was the scene of arrests in July 2008 for burglary and also had the major fire in December 2007 that took more than 80 firefighters to extinguish.

Firefighters and EMTs have long been concerned about the dangers of responding to fires at the dilapidated buildings, fearing someone might become trapped inside, Beard said.

"The smart thing is to get those buildings down before someone gets hurt," he said.

Recently, a Carroll County Sheriff's deputy reported last month an incident in which he cited numerous Baltimore County teens for trespassing, underage drinking and other charges. Both the Sheriff's Office and Maryland State Police share patrol duties at the center.

The Sheriff's Office responded 18 times to the hospital since 2008, all investigations or assisting with the Maryland State Police, said Maj. Phil Kasten, public information officer.

user comments (1)

user mattykins says...

It's a shame that people cannot just humbly admire such an enchanting place, instead it becomes a place of "crime." Vandals and arsonists ruin it for the rest who simply want to explore Henryton, willing to risk potential safety hazards for the experience.




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