Friday, April 25, 2008

Kingston Lounge Wine & Dine Restaurant & Cocktail Lounge

On the corner of Kingston & Bergen, a quiet corner in the re-awakening Brooklyn neighborhood of Weeksville, sits the Kingston Lounge. A small jazz club which opened in 1944, the "Kingston Lounge Wine & Dine Restaurant & Cocktail Lounge", as its falling marquee proclaims, was a neighborhood staple for decades. In the 1980s, it fell into decline, and soon only the apartments above were in use. By 2001, it was deserted.

During its heyday, the Kingston attracted guests from as far away as Harlem; even holding no more than 60 patrons at a time, the Lounge attracted musicians as renowned as Kenny Dorham, Randy Weston, Max Roach, Sahib Shihab & Matthew Gee. In fact, Dorham, Gee, Cecil Payne and company recorded a 1960 album under the name of The Swingers (Jazzland Records) on which the second track is entitled "Kingston Lounge", in honor of the place where they practiced and jammed out, entertaining the block until the wee hours.

Much of the older generation living in Bed-Stuy remembers the Lounge in full form. Down the block from me, I heard a story about how the parents of a middle-aged resident went on their first date there. I sat with a neighbor on the stoop and heard about amazing and inspirational shows, jam sessions that could still be heard as the neighbors woke and shuffled past in the early mornings, and the dark side of the Kingston - until the 70s, the club would not admit white patrons under any circumstances.

But that was the time, and that was New York. In the 80s, the club was repeatedly cited for health code violations; some in the neighborhood cried foul and claimed that the inspectors were trying to shut the Lounge down for no good reason. In light of history, that doesn't seem unreasonable. The upper floors were used for many years as apartments, until they too didn't make code - and the building was shuttered.

About two months after naming my blog after the institution in question, I finally had the opportunity to visit the interior of the Kingston Lounge.

Sadly, the thing most notably absent upon walking into this historic location was... history. Years ago, the vacant Lounge was purchased by a real estate prospector. It has been warehoused ever since, but either at the time of its abandonment, or (more likely) after purchase, it was stripped of most of its character. There are still mirrored panels on one wall, and the remnants of the last decorative paint job on the opposing wall - but in general, without knowing the history of the place, one wouldn't assume that it was a place where legends honed their skills, where generations of Brooklynites spent their nights soaking in carefully rehearsed tunes and hours-long impromptu jam sessions.

The upstairs is just as empty, albeit more photogenic. On the second floor, there is a bedroom soaked in deep blue paint. I continued to tour the apartments for a few minutes, but saddened by the utter dearth of historical evidence, I shortly departed. Here are the rest of the shots I took that morning - less than 10 in all.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Norwich State Hospital - Salmon (male forensic) building

Salmon building (r) with Administration building to its left.

The Salmon building at Norwich State Hospital, Connecticut's second public insane asylum, founded in 1904, was a building built for male forensic patients, those found not guilty by reason of insanity. An original construction building, part of the initial footprint of the hospital campus, Salmon was a milestone in terms of the construction of psychiatric hospital buildings for the violent insane. Every window was barred with prison-style 2/3 inch thick iron bars built into the brick, as well as a heavy mesh screen. In order to move down the ward, the door ahead would only be unlocked when the one behind was closed - airlock style - which would insure that even in the event that a patient escaped his room, he wasn't going far.

In nearly 70 years of operation, not a single escape was recorded from Salmon.

Flanking the Administration building, in direct contrast with the Kirkbride plan which dictated that violent patients would be housed far from the administrators, Salmon was echoed by a female forensic unit named Awl, which was situated on the other side of the Administration building.

These photos were recently taken on a trip with Nate Kensinger and Sylvie Bolioli's Law & Disorder: The Insanity Defense.

A hallway in the Salmon building, showing the heavily fortified doors typical of the structure.

One of the bathroms in the structure. If needed, attendants could slam and lock the heavy mesh door, isolating patients who acted out whilst using the facilities.

A patient registry, into which the names of current patients would be inserted for census and tracking purposes.

A patient's room, heavily collapsed. Even after over thirty years of abandonment, this room would be difficult to escape from if the door were locked - the barred window is still holding strong.

An intact sink in one of the nurses' stations.

The wheel on the bottom of a bedframe, sunk deep into thirty years' worth of disintegrating plaster.

View from a hallway into a patient's bedroom; this is on the inner part of the ward, which would have been the most secure section of the building.

The patient's bed in room 26, still almost ready for a nap after decades of desertion. These beds were stuffed with horsehair, as were the pillows. Thanks Nate!