Thursday, 4:30 PM
Four-alarm fire ravages former state mental hospital
By Allison Mudge, Globe Correspondent
A four-alarm fire at the former Danvers State Hospital destroyed seven buildings and shut Route 1 down temporarily early this morning.
The buildings, currently undergoing renovations, were empty. The facility is being renovated into apartment buildings and condominiums.
State police also briefly evacuated 20 people living in neighboring, already-completed buildings as a precaution. Six firefighters were treated for minor injuries.
The fire, which began around 2 a.m., took several hours to bring under control.
AvalonBay Communities Inc. is handling the renovations. The plan is to build 433 luxury rental units and 64 condominiums on the site's 77 acres, the Globe reported in February.
The project is also to include amenities like an indoor sports court and a cyber cafe, a far cry from the building's dreary past.
The hospital, abandoned since 1992 in response to accusations of overcrowding, abuse, and neglect, was primarily used to treat "spiritual maladies."
After being closed, the hospital quickly became a hot spot for thrill-seeking ghost hunters who believed the grounds to be filled with troubled spirits. The high level of curiosity and trespassing forced to the state to employ 24-hour security guards for a time.
The 2001 film "Session 9," about an asbestos cleaning crew working in an abandoned mental hospital with a suspect past, was filmed at Danvers State and also brought attention to the facility.
Danvers State is not the only former mental institution undergoing a facelift. There's a growing trend toward renovation of the facilities abandoned since the 1980s, when mental health care was de-institutionalized.
The Globe reported in February on the plans to transform the facility. Check out the slideshow of the buildings accompanying the article.