Condominiums and apartments at former mental hospital burn to the ground

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Saturday, April 7, 2007

The former Danvers State Hospital undergoing demolition back in 2006.

The former State Lunatic Hospital at Danvers better known as Danvers State Hospital in Danvers, Massachusetts suffered a major fire last night that could be seen for miles and led to temporary shut down of US Route 1 and Interstate 95 in the area.

The infamous American former mental hospital has been closed since 1992 is the site of a new condominium and apartment buliding complex being developed by Avalon Bay Communities. Four apartment units and four utilities bulidings went in up in smoke in the four-alarm fire. The units were not occupied, however, two were nearing completion which is a major financial setback for Avalon Bay. The fire did not spread to the famous Kirkbride building though, which is being renovated into apartments, aside from a cupola due to radiant heat.

Calls started coming just before 2:00 am EDT Saturday morning to report a fire on the hospital's grounds which before the development sat unused, decaying and abandoned and became a popular target for ghost-hunters, vandals and urban explorers and also served as the focus of the 2001 thriller/horror film, Session 9 which brought renewed attention to infamous hospital which led to increased security at the site over the years. Reports of explosions before the fire started were noted by neighbors and residents.

About 20 residents on the other side of the 77-acre property were evacuated to Danvers High School as a precaution, they are expected to return later today. Their homes were not harmed by the fire, nor were any injuries reported from them. However, about seven firefighters suffered some minor burns from battling the fire, which took seven hours to bring under control. Firefighters will remain on the scene to make sure no hot spots flare up as the fire is still smoldering.

The cause of the fire is not yet known.