It has taken more than eight and a half years, but the walls are finally falling at the red brick building on the Rush Township hill overlooking Philipsburg.
Demolition began on the former Philipsburg Area Hospital this week.
The $2.5 million project involves more than just knocking things down and picking up the pieces. Phase One Development, a Pittsburgh-area firm specializing in demolitions involving hazardous material abatement, like disposing of asbestos, was awarded the contract in August.
“We should have it down, I’d say, by early spring,” said President Steve Cioppa. “Once it starts coming down, it goes pretty quickly.”
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Until this point, however, the process has been slow.
For years, the attempt was to reopen the doors of the hospital, which closed in April 2006. When different options there fell through, including a proposal from local doctor Larry Adams who was convicted on drug charges, the goal changed.
The Moshannon Valley Economic Development Partnership began to champion a different future for the state-owned property that was leased to the nonprofit group that ran the last incarnation of the hospital. Instead of looking for a tenant, the partnership started to urge the state to tear down the buildings and turn the land into a more marketable piece of empty ground.
Construction fencing now rings the lawn. Backhoes and other large equipment have taken over and the northern corner of the building has begun to fall.
It is being met with mixed feelings in Philipsburg. Locals miss a hospital, but have recently seen steps taken to improve access to medical care. A new $6 million Moshannon Valley Community Medical Building from Penn Highlands Healthcare is planned for Rush Township, with a 2015 projected opening.
But people still remember what the hospital meant to the community.
“I guess you could say I feel a little nostalgic,” said Terri Vogel, of Madera. “I understand why it is being taken down, but at the same time, it is sad. I love old buildings, and the hospital has been such a fixture in Philipsburg all my life. I feel sad that there isn't anything that can be done to save it. My brother and I were both born in that hospital. I remember my wonderful grandpap died there also. I guess the hospital has some bittersweet memories for me.”
“Hate to see it go,” she said. “But do understand that there isn't much hope of fixing it up.”