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Year In Review: Former State Hospital's Danbury Hall Razed



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Gone from the horizon is one of Newtown’s highly visible, but long empty relics at Fairfield Hills.

Danbury Hall, once home to psychiatric hospital staff, is gone. By late September, heavy machinery was waiting to chew and dismantled the old brick structure located near the corner of the campus’s main entrance off Wasserman Way.

Danbury Hall’s time was dwindling. With big machines at rest around its perimeter, demolitions was slated to begin as soon as Monday, September 29, according to Christal Preszler with the Newtown Planning Department. In days prior, the wood was stripped from the building, she said. Bestech was the demolition contractor.

In the weeks to follow, the corner of Trades Lane and Wasserman Way opened up to offer a new view of soccer fields and a walking path that had been blocked to passing vehicles and passengers by the 1930s brick structure. The building’s footprint is still visible in the large patch of bare, smoothed soil filling in the foundation.

By early October, the building was gone, another main piece of Fairfield Hills razed. Bestech crew member Fred Brace had set aside a few relics, as the building, less that two weeks after demolition began, sat in crumbling heaps behind him.

Reaching into an open dumpster he found the broken wooden siding stamped with the original contractor’s information. Also within reach were some old brass doorknobs that he set aside.

He said he found Danbury Hall’s interior “magnificent,” with “exquisite detail.” He noted the degree of craftsmanship and the attention to detail in the construction. Noting the areas where entrances had been, Mr Brace said they had “beautiful doorways.” Sidelights above and alongside main doors were made of leaded glass.

Turning from the ruined building, and glancing across a soccer field where remaining buildings stand, he pointed out their architecture.

“What possessed people to put such time and money into the cupolas, they’re works of art,” he opined.

And although gone now, the town took steps to remember Danbury Hall through one local researcher.

Noted in her research as the campus’s “most fascinating” building, resident Andrea Zimmermann, a year earlier, had submitted a report to the town, a 39-page narrative and photographs of Danbury Hall and single-family homes located across campus.

The building, which sat to the east of Trades Lane when entering the campus through its main entrance off Wasserman Way, was built in the early 30s for male staff.

“Both Danbury Hall and the houses were built for economy of living,” Ms Zimmerman told The Newtown Bee in late 2013. “It’s interesting to me to think about adults living in these places — especially Danbury Hall, which is akin to a college dorm. Life on campus seemed to demand a communal existence.”

Her research states that “Danbury Hall is among the 16 primary structures built in the early 1930s” on the campus that formerly housed a state hospital.

The town in 2001 purchased more than 180 acres of Fairfield Hills from the state, which included the many former hospital buildings. Plans to revitalize the campus, bring in economic growth, recreation, and municipal uses have included the demolition of structures that could not be reused. Danbury Hall is among a handful of buildings to come down. The removal several years ago of other buildings made room for NYA Sports & Fitness Center and a new baseball field.

Learn more about the history of Fairfield Hills at FairfieldHills.org, which also offers visitors information about the campus’s master plan for reuse.

By early October the longstanding building was reduced to rubble. Today just a smooth swath of bare ground marks where the circa 1930s brick building once stood.
By early October the longstanding building was reduced to rubble. Today just a smooth swath of bare ground marks where the circa 1930s brick building once stood.
A large demolition machine digs into Danbury Hall as a protracted effort to raze the former hospital building commenced in September. Once the building came down, an unobstructed view of Reed Intermediate School was created from the town owned campus. 
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