A few years ago, when I started getting a bit more interested in some of the odd stuff around Atlanta, I found a posting on a message board about "an abandoned mental institution in the Druid Hills area" (non-Atlantans: not far from me, kind of nice, leafy neighborhood). The poster said the place was such a treasure that he couldn't reveal its location, etc etc etc. It drew lots of fawning, desperate responses, and I was certainly enthralled, picturing a hidden, mossy building, full of rusted manacles, disused electroshock equipment, the odd leftover patient, and so on.
A couple years later, I figured out why the poster was sort of vague about his hidden treasure: it was taken over by Emory University in the late 1990s, and is about as difficult to access as a Publix Grocery. Once I figured that out, I never bothered going by, assuming that anything interesting was long, long gone.
Wrong, Greg, wrong. This week, I took a stroll up (the fact that I've never been by becomes sillier when you consider that it took maybe 15 minutes to walk over there) and checked out the grounds -- and it's a really impressive site.
This is the main building, and I believe the one that's most used by Emory now (for its Lifelong Learning program). Basically just an example of horrendous architecture, until you look a bit closer and its previous use shines through a bit:
No windows (or if they're there, they're covered up by that weird mesh). It's a rather ominous effect.
Surrounding the main building are a bunch of smaller, office-type buildings -- these were apparently originally "cottages," where some of the patients lived. When Emory took over, they became space for area businesses -- I saw signs for the Georgia Department of Human Resources, and the Junior League. From a distance, they look normal, but up close, it becomes apparent that they sure aren't in use any more.
So, why is that?
Oh, that's why.
No idea how long they've been shut up -- an article from 2004 (one of the few things I found discussing the complex) seems to indicate the cottages had been closed up a while at that point. There's still office equipment and such visible through the doors.
The institute was closed due to expense concerns in the late '90s, and the inmates transferred elsewhere. Another article quotes an official at the Gwinnett County jail, saying that after that closure, the prison saw a spike in the number of inmates with mental problems.
On a more fun note, the article linked higher up discusses some of the urban legends surrounding the GMHI complex -- including one that the former residents occasionally get confused and return in the middle of the night, to prey on students or whatever.
All this is only a portion of the complex, though. The REALLY cool stuff -- stuff that goes back further in Atlanta history -- will come tomorrow.