I just visited the Pennhurst State School, a former institution for physically and mentally handicapped people outside of Philadelphia that has been closed since the 1970’s. My friend Sarah O’Donnell told me about it, emphasizing how huge, creepy and awesome it is. I’ve been doing a little bit of ‘urban exploring’ (extreme!) recently and I enlisted my friends Ed and Erik to come along and check the place out.
The facility is at the end of a wooded private road, with many abandoned and currently-used industrial buildings lining its length. There is actually a pretty large composting operation that is active on the property so while we were ducking in and out of crumbling disused buildings there was the constant noise of a backhoe turning pungent black compost in the background. We did our best to remain inconspicuous, which wasn’t too difficult since much of the campus is heavily overgrown with brush and thick, tangled vines that worked their way up the hulking brick buildings.
We were able to work our way around a few of the buildings and climbed into open windows. Most of the buildings were picked clean of any haunting relics of former residents, but most were well-stocked with piles of furniture and equipment in a state of advanced decay.
There was one huge pile of colorful polyester dresses that was quite creepy.
The structures of most of the buildings we accessed were very good, with solid concrete floors and brick walls. Some roofs seem to have faired much better than others, however, and the attic of one building looked like a greenhouse with many healthy weeds thriving on the sunshine and rain that the bare framework of the roof allowed inside. It was quite lush, and a strange contrast to the rotting plaster and peeling paint.
We found a couple of forlorn old wheelchairs also.
The paint was also very interesting, flaking off in huge quantities and littering floors in many places.
We eventually did get caught by one of the compost guys, but he only wanted us to leave, and we obliged without a fuss. By then we had seen quite a bit and were satisfied climbing back into the car to head back to the city.
There are many more pictures at my Picasa Album.