Oregon State Hospital murals won’t be saved

From the Salem Statesman Journal, June 10 2009

Both paintings will be destroyed as demolition continues, officials say

Two murals on the walls inside Oregon State Hospital’s crumbling J Building will be destroyed by demolition work, officials said.

Both paintings are expected to disappear this week as bricks continue to fall during razing of a portion of the J Building along Center Street NE.

Little is known about the origins of the colorful, landscape-depicting murals that became unveiled in recent days as state-hired contractors began to take down Building 43 — a 60-foot-wide section of the fortress-like J Building.

Hospital-replacement planners said they didn’t know who painted them or when. They said photos of the murals had been taken as a measure to preserve the pieces of hospital history.

Two years ago, a group of Salem history buffs waged a successful campaign to have the entire state hospital campus included on the National Register of Historic Places.

The prestigious listing doesn’t bar hospital-replacement planners from tearing down portions of the 126-year-old J Building and other hospital structures.

Plans call for more than half of the J Building to be razed to make way for a new $280 million, 620-bed psychiatric facility in central Salem.

The razing of Building 43 is designed to create a separation between parts of the J Building earmarked for destruction and other parts that will be preserved and incorporated into the new hospital.

The J Building was made famous by the 1975 movie that was filmed there, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” based on the novel by the late Oregon author Ken Kesey.

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