By David Rogers. January 22, 2017. BLOWING ROCK, NC — You could almost hear the brick and mortar sigh as they turned the final pages of a storied history. It was a building taking its last breath.
The patients were already a couple of weeks removed from the old Blowing Rock Hospital, transferred to the sparkling new Foley Center at Chestnut Ridge Post-Acute Care & Rehabiliation Center. But Friday…Friday was the last day anyone cared so much as a whit about the old buildings, the last day for any of the furniture and equipment that is salvagable to be given away before the building was scheduled to go completely dark.
For a building that served as the iconic anchor to Blowing Rock’s healthcare industry since the mid-1950s, Friday was a sad day, to be sure. Somewhat fittingly in the late afternoon, heavy fog enshrouded the landmark structure with its locked doors, empty hallways, and a few broken windows already allowing the elements to pierce their way into what was once the sparkling, sanitized interior.
Symbolically, a cement planter was knocked over near the main entrance, still within view of a “NOTICE” taped to the front door. At the lower level entry way, a broken secretary’s chair and some cardboard boxes sat in what was once a landscaped flower bed. The emptiness of the moment matched the echoing voids inside the walls.
The structures on this 3.61 acre parcel will not stay empty long. As soon as asbestos remediation is complete, we’re told, demolition will commence. As soon as the grounds cleared and any left over hazardous waste taken care of, the site will be prepared for the new Chestnut Development Partners project, a complex of high-end condominiums featuring million dollar views of Grandfather Mountain and, most likely, the price tags to match.
It’s an age-old story: assets are repurposed. Whether it’s an old broomstick becoming a crowbar, a dirt road becoming a superhighway, or an old hospital giving way to condominiums, successive generations of human beings find ways to use assets differently. Times change and needs — whether economic, social or simply human — change, too. Preservationists delay the inevitable, but their interests are likely to dismissed within two generations as decisions are put in the hands of younger people and their younger leaders. It’s the way of the world. Rightly or wrongly, repurposing assets is part of the human condition.
New architectural icons will come and go, but for those who lived, perhaps even made their heydays, the memories are indelible.