Throwback Thursday: Ransom Fire

For this week’s Throwback Thursday, I present a photo I found online, of a fire in May 1947 at a Pennsylvania state institution for the indigent. (It was also an asylum for the mentally ill at some point in its history.)

I did not choose this photo at random. In fact, finding it really blew me away. I remember this building well — after it was rebuilt, of course, since this fire took place decades before I was born. When I was a child, my grandfather was director of Ransom Home, though we always called it simply, “the hospital.” When I used to visit there to see my grandparents, it was a home for the elderly poor, people who had nowhere else to go in old age. On the property was also a much older Victorian-era hospital; we called it “the haunted house.” It had been the original institution, before the new one was built. Also, there was the director’s residence, a lovely old brick house that came with the job; we often stayed there with my grandparents.

The caption I found with this photo says the fire took place in 1946, but I have found a more reliable source that says May 1947. There is something heartbreaking about all those white institutional beds sitting out on the lawn; it makes me think of the 328 patients who lived here at the time and used those beds; I do not know if the fire claimed any of their lives.

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