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OSH Replacement Project receives historic preservation award

OSH Kirkbride building

Oregon State Hosptial Kirkbride building


In 2008 construction site designated historic district by federal registry


When the National Register of Historic Places designated the OSH Salem campus as a historic district in 2008, the OSH Replacement Project quickly turned its focus from construction to preservation.

"The challenge was to build a secure, modern, 620-bed psychiatric hospital while complying with all regulations governing historic properties," said Linda Hammond, former project administrator. "The opportunity was to identify existing buildings and structures that could be restored and integrated into the design of the new hospital."


This May, which is National Preservation Month, the OSH Replacement Project will receive the 2012 Willamette Heritage Enterprise Award. This award honors a business enterprise that has made a significant long-term contribution to the economy and quality of life of the community.


"We recognize that we can learn from the past through the preservation of historic buildings and that historic buildings provide a tangible link that allows us to establish a sense of orientation about our place in time," said Hammond.


To minimize the impact on the historic district and to balance the need to accommodate the new hospital's program and funding limitations, the project team worked diligently with designers, numerous stakeholders, historic preservationists, the State Historic Preservation Office, health care providers, citizen advocates, neighborhood associations, consultants, and OSH staff, patients and their families in the planning of the hospital replacement.


"The decision was not as simple as what to demolish and what to preserve or mothball, but what could be revitalized and reused," said Hammond. "The primary purpose of historic preservation planning is ensuring the preservation issues are addressed as effectively as possible."


Because the ultimate goal was to honor the significance of the site and to mitigate the impact of changes, the project contracted with a qualified architectural historian to review and inventory all the buildings and to identify their historical significance. The San Francisco-based Architectural Resources Group provided the groundwork that assisted the project with its decision on how best to locate and design the new hospital complex.


While a complete structural renovation wasn't an option, part of the J Building, an 1883-vintage four-story structure designed in the Kirkbride style of psychiatric facilities - and made famous as the setting of the film "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" - was restored and refurbished. The first floor is used for patient treatment and therapy; the remaining floors house administrative operations.


In addition to building restoration, the project was recognized by Willamette Heritage for:

  • Authorizing a steering committee to explore the possibility of creating a museum on the campus in 2009.
  • Partnering with the newly formed 501(c)3 museum board to provide space on campus for a public museum and document and preserve the historic artifacts on the property. 
  • Working with the Historic Landmarks Commission and preservation activists to provide a hospital plan that preserved the oldest portion of the "J-Building" and many cottages and outbuildings and designing new elements to blend with the historic structures.
  • Restoring much of the early landscaping to the west side of the campus, including the historic fountain and carriage turn-arounds.


"The new OSH reflects Oregon's commitment to protecting and preserving valued historic and cultural resources for future generations and its investment in growing a mental health system of care to serve Oregonians now and in the future," said Hammond.