As another week passes since Project Senium's release and it draws close to 100,000 views it has been cool to see the feedback. It has largely been positive and for that I have been grateful. There has been a few people who didn't enjoy it and let us know that, but they are a minuscule minority.
I love reading feedback. Even the negative ones. I scour them for any morsel of truth. Sometimes they make me laugh and other times they make my blood boil for a good 5 minutes. But I love to see people's reaction, what stuck out to them. As I read so many comments of all these articles, there's one that vastly outnumbers all the others. It often comes in the form of a question:
Why wasn't this place repurposed to be some form of housing, such as homeless housing or a hotel?
This is a good question since, admittedly, we make no mention of this in the Project Senium film at all. The ongoing struggle of the nearby town and many failed proposals is all information that really didn’t factor into what we were trying to do. Again, Project Senium was an effort to preserve the experience of this place, not mention all the information of the place. So basically, it wasn’t a part of the story we were trying to tell. Still, our audience was left with a question.
I’m keenly aware that probably less than 1% of our viewers read this blog, but this might be the only way I am able to offer an answer to that question. It really comes down to one word: Asbestos. I’ve mentioned it in these blogs before in passing, but it is ever-present at the asylum. Coming from the South, I didn’t really know what asbestos was before I first came to the asylum. But I soon learned that it was a substance used as an insulation only to be discovered decades later to permanently lodge itself on your lungs and cause forms of cancer.
If you’ve seen Project Senium and our behind-the-scenes photos, you’ve seen us wear masks. That’s due to…you guessed it…asbestos. Not everyone who goes there wears masks, but for as often as we were there and given the fact that when you find out that you should've worn a mask it’s already too late, I religiously wore a mask for almost all my time inside these buildings.
As you might imagine, given the health hazard and environmental impact, it makes the location completely unsuitable for immediate repurposing or any kind of housing. The asbestos would have to be first removed before it was demolished and, as it turns out, asbestos is quite costly to remove as it is environmentally unfriendly and is potentially hazardous for workers. This expensive removal process skyrockets the cost of remodeling or demolition efforts and essentially thwarts them single-handedly.
So the asylum remains in limbo, impossible to remodel and too costly to remove. Kind of a Catch-22 for the town. It’s kind of fascinating in a way. It makes the very air poisonous but it also keeps the asylum stuck in time, a stalemate of intended purposes, unable to return to it’s original use, but also unable to completely end. It’s likely the only reason it has lingered this long…long enough for us to appreciate it and even for Project Senium to preserve it before nature and vandals run their course.