The Henryton State Hospital complex, comprising 19 buildings, was located in Marriottsville, southern Carroll County, Maryland. It was situated on the main line of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and was demolished in 2013.
In 1918, the General Assembly of Maryland decided on the need to build a tuberculosis sanatorium for local African Americans. Such a sanatorium was initially named the Center of the Henryton State Hospital, but it was also sometimes called the Henryton Tuberculosis Sanatorium.
In 1922, the construction of the sanatorium began, with the project being supervised by the Maryland Mental Hygiene Council.
The hospital was one of the first mental health facilities in Maryland that was built for African Americans and offered them the same level of treatment as white people. However, not everyone agreed that it was beneficial. Some felt that the hospital was used to exile tuberculosis patients rather than offer them suitable treatments.
Six main buildings and one utility factory were opened for use in 1922. However, construction continued even while those sections were in operation and the entire hospital was fully opened in September 1923.
According to Maryland statistics, in the early 1930s, the number of African Americans with tuberculosis was four times greater than the number of white people who were sick. Consequently, the hospital struggled to cope with the growing number of patients and it was necessary to increase its capacity.
In 1938, the hospital was allocated 270,000 US dollars which was used to expand the complex so that the institution could house another 200 patients.
In addition to expanding the hospital and its beds, in the 1940s the hospital added a refrigerated mortuary to its list of services. The reason behind this addition was because hospital staff had cremated an African-American child without notifying his parents about it first.
By the time these extensions had been completed, the Henryton hospital complex had doubled in size.
But construction plans didn’t stop there. In addition to the general expansion, several municipal buildings were built within the complex. These buildings were completed in 1946 and by the 1950s, there was space for 400 patients in the hospital.
By the time all these expansions had been completed, the incidence of tuberculosis has decreased, which resulted in empty beds in the hospital. As a result, by 1963, only 200 patients were staying in the hospital.
In the same year, the Maryland Mental Hygiene Council and the Department of Health merged to become the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene – DHMH.
As part of the establishment of the DHMH, the tuberculosis hospital was transformed into the Center of the Henryton State Hospital. The purpose of the institution changed from being the treatment of tuberculosis patients to educating and rehabilitating outpatients with disabilities aged 18 and over.
As part of its new remit, the hospital launched a rehabilitation program to assist patients with disabilities so that they could adapt to living in their communities and possibly going to work. The program was incredibly successful in reintegrating patients into society.
The hospital would also offer respite care, with admission by special request.
In the early 1970s, the preference began to be for outpatient care and home care. This naturally led to a reduction in the number of patients in the hospital.
In 1984, a decision was made to halt the program due to the low numbers of patients enrolled. A year later, there were fewer than 100 patients in the Henryton State Center; by the fall of 1985, the facility was closed forever.
A few years after its closure, the former hospital fell into an abandoned state and became an object of curiosity among urban researchers and vandals.
Although visiting this property without written consent from the DHMH was prohibited, the doors to all the buildings were broken as people attempted to gain access anyway. The threat of fines and criminal charges did not seem to act as much of a deterrent.
Furthermore, most of the windows were knocked out, littering the site with broken glass, and the facade was covered with graffiti.
Henryton suffered from a large number of fires that were considered to be started in suspicious circumstances. One newspaper reported that there were as many as 70 fires over the course of a decade. The most notable one occurred in December 2007, when the fire raged for over three hours, causing significant damage to the main building.
After that, in April 2011, there was another fire that damaged the roof of one building and required the help of firefighters from four counties to put it out.
Despite the fire damage, there were still a few parties interested in purchasing the property from the Maryland DHMH, including a non-profit organization called Save Henryton. However, all proposals were unsuccessful.
After a third major fire caused damage to other abandoned buildings, the Carroll County government allocated $4 million to demolish the property, including dealing with asbestos removal. They were worried about the deteriorating state of the building and also the cost of putting out the fires as well as the risk to the firefighters.
Demolition of the hospital buildings began in the spring of 2013. By September that year, all 19 buildings had gone, replaced by a small plaque detailing the history of the site.
Currently, plans are underway to transform the 105-acre site back into a part of the Patapsco Valley State Park, and grass has been planted where the hospital buildings once stood.
Robert is a Maryland-based wedding photographer who is very passionate about photography. You should definitely visit his website A Flash Away Photography to check out his wonderful wedding photographs or to contact him with any questions, including a free consultation!