End Nears for Mayview Barn

The venerable structure seems like an anachronism next to the newer amenities at Boyce Mayview Park.

For the most part, the appearance is pure 21st century.

A brand-new baseball field, built specifically to accommodate children with special needs, greets visitors as they park their vehicles. On the other side of the lot is a multimillion-dollar recreation building that sets the standard for such facilities across the nation.

Viewed from the vantage points of the Miracle League Field of the South Hills and the Upper St. Clair Community and Recreation Center, the red brick barn nearby is a striking anachronism; some might consider it a downright eyesore.

For those who feel that way, don’t worry: The last remnant of the 900-acre farm that once served Mayview State Hospital soon will be nothing but a memory.

Upper St. Clair Township plans to advertise for bids to demolish the century-old barn, and the task is expected to take place in the fall. Efforts to preserve the structure have fallen short, despite pleas from members of the community who respect its historical significance.

For decades, the barn and some of its outbuildings sat unused on property that now is Boyce Mayview Park, across Chartiers Creek from the Mayview hospital, which closed at the end of 2008.

For much of its existence, Mayview was self-sustaining, with patients helping to work the farm, and its produce also going to other state hospitals.

A 2009 article in Pittsburgh Quarterly magazine draws substantially from the recollections of Edgar Krug, who managed the farm for the 20 years before it closed in 1981.

“The main reason for the farm in those days was to keep (the patients) busy and occupied so they could sleep at night,” Krug is quoted as saying. When the farm was shut down, they weren’t particularly happy:

“A lot of them would come to me because they were angry and say, ‘Why can’t I come out to the farm?’ And they blamed me. I’d tell them that was the law, that the social service people just believed they shouldn’t be made to go out and do labor, but it upset many patients.”

In a video produced for the Washington Observer-Reporter, former Upper St. Clair commissioner Preston Shimer, a longtime proponent of saving the barn, talks about its place in history.

“There is no question, that barn will be the last opportunity we as a community, Upper St. Clair and southwestern Pennsylvania, have of documenting and placing a marker that talks about the mental health and way that poorer people were handled in the last century. That’s an important part of history. It’s worth remembering.”

Shimer still was on the board of commissioners when it , citing prohibitive costs of restoring and maintaining the structure. He cast the lone dissenting vote.

Lynne June 30, 2012 at 01:11 PM
Get a few local volunteer fire departments to burn the thing down...it'll be great practice for them and it'll save precious tax money all at the same time!!
Nancy Page June 30, 2012 at 02:59 PM
This action represents a pathetic lack of interest in the history of this part of our township. It may not be the brightest history but it cannot be denied that it is part of our history. Tear down and blot out the history. Those coming later will not ever know the history nor will they ever care. What lesson does that teach? Beyond history it is a structure with the possibility of adaptability but the dollars are not there right now. Oh, yes, we can tear it down and that takes money. Is that a good use of our resources? Gosh, I wonder where the township will store their things that are in there right now! This action represents a sad day for those of us who worked so hard to "Save the Barn". Another Pennsylvania barn gone to demise and the history goes with it. Does no one care?
Jim June 30, 2012 at 05:07 PM
Gail Witenske July 01, 2012 at 02:18 AM
I might have said it another way but it's still very hard to demolish a piece of history. But how much history is it when so much of Mayview will be demolished anyway? I come from the southeastmost corner of our state where EVERYTHING is historic, so I know how difficult it is to decide what stays and what goes. I think in this case there is not a great deal of historic value in the barn (as to historic persons and actions) so the fact that it is just "old" and part of history is not a factor. Just because something is old doesn't give one a reason to keep it. Perhaps if Lafayette or whomever had slept there, or repulsed an Indian or French attack there, it might have some value. But otherwise, it's just a shed to store some tools. Sorry, but's that's the way these things go. I know. I spent more of my early youth playing and wandering around country ruins, picking up arrowheads and building forts in old houses and springhouses that were built in the late 1600s-1700s. Many of those places succombed to development. Old, yes. Important in an historical sense, well, no. The really historical places were preserved and developed. You can go there now and visit them. It will always make me sad but that's the way it is.
Frustrated Fred July 02, 2012 at 09:50 PM
The barns are a saftey and health hazard. They are filled with bird droppings that have eroded the steel support structure. To refurbish the structures will cost over 3Mil and then what do you do with them? Offices? A dance hall? Another museum? Take a picture and a couple of bricks and put it in the Heinz History Center and be done!


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