|City/Town: • Morrilton|
|Location Class: • Hospital • Residential|
|Built: • 1963 | Abandoned: • 2011|
|Status: • Abandoned • For Sale|
|Photojournalist: • Michael Schwarz • Eddy Sisson|
The River Chase Nursing Home of Conway County originally opened in 1963 and quickly developed a strong reputation for being both a good and caring facility. The institution operated within the facility for over thirty years, tending to the needs of three decade’s worth of the areas aging, elderly, and convalescents. And as is frequently the case with such institutions, River Chase did so well that it eventually became reading for a facility that was both newer and larger. So, in the mid 1990’s, the institution ceased it’s operations at its original address, shuttered its doors and windows, and relocated to a newer facility located in a newer and better developed area of Conway County.
And the empty building sat.
But it didn’t sit empty for very long. Just a few months later the facility reopened in private hands as The Retirement Center of Morrilton. The new institution that rose up in the home of the old facility did not fare anywhere near as well as its predecessor had, however. This new institution, set up and designed to take care of residents suffering from mental health problems, was plagued with serious problems and issues almost from the beginning. Area residents share stories of how the institutions residents would break free and escape only to come to their houses and ask for food because they weren’t being fed by the staff. One escaped resident made his way to the bridge and chose to commit suicide by jumping off of it rather than being returned to the facility. There were frequent reports of residents fighting and there were also reports of residents being drunk and of rampant theft. In its last two years of operation alone the police had to respond to a total of 60 calls to the institution. But the chief of police said that the breaking point came in 2011 when a total of six female residents were sexually assaulted by one worker. It’s resident safety having obviously and irreparably compromised, state official quickly moved in, closed down the facility, and relocated its residents to other facilities throughout the region.
Perhaps there are those rarest of times when an abandoned building might have actually been better off sitting empty. And perhaps the memories and stigma of those final days, months, and years continue to abide within the facility and permeate throughout its halls and rooms because, even today, the building continues to stand empty. Given all that happened as a result of its second time out, perhaps nobody desires to give it a third chance and risk such an immoral fiasco happening yet again.
Looking at the photos, all seems innocent enough. Due to the circumstances of its closing, the facility was shut down so fast and with such finality that you can still see much of its final days and weeks played out within it. The vacant rooms remain furnished for the comfort of those memories that still walk the halls and stalk the corridors. A kitchen that continues to be fully equipped silently wonders what will be on the menu in the coming day. Various remnants of the facility’s final set of occupants and residents lay occasionally strewn about, offering up a final testament to the kind of people that they were and some of the circumstances of their lives and existence.
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