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From landmark to Wal-Mart

By Rick Wills
Thursday, September 8, 2005

Dixmont State Hospital finally will meet the wrecking ball, more than two decades after the Kilbuck facility shut its doors, officials said Wednesday.
Demolition of the hospital overlooking Route 65 is expected to start within a few weeks to make way for a $28 million Wal-Mart Supercenter. The work is expected to stretch over several weeks, with construction starting in December and the discount store slated to open in May 2007, said Tony Chammas, a partner at ASC Development Inc., of Emsworth.

Ralph Stroyne, of Kilbuck, bought the 407-acre Dixmont site for $757,000 in January 1999. ASC is to close this week with Stroyne on a deal reached three years ago to buy 75 acres of the site for the Wal-Mart.

Officials declined to disclose ASC’s purchase price. Stroyne could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Social reformer Dorothea Lynde Dix opened Dixmont in 1859, and the state Department of Public Welfare closed the facility in 1984 amid state budget cuts.

“Dixmont’s history is very sad, but reflects changes in ways mentally ill patients are treated,” said Christine Davis, an urban archaeologist and president of Chris Davis Consultants in Verona.

Once declared a historic landmark, the hospital’s 24 buildings, garages and dumps are crumbling, a target for vandals and a party center for young revelers.

“It’s important that people know what is there,” Davis said. “Once the Wal-Mart is there, no one will be aware of what was there.”

At its height, Dixmont cared for more than 1,000 patients. In its first century, the facility was operated according to Dix’s philosophy of keeping patients active and self sufficient. Patients spent their time tending to gardens and livestock, making shoes and engaging in a variety of sports and recreational activities.

Rick Wills can be reached at or (724) 779-7123.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-471-5808  |  Fax: 412-471-1633