Photographer: Scott Trotman & Video Editor: Jerry Lakso

Imposing. Important. Complex. The former state hospital in Fergus Falls is enormous. It is 700,000 square feet. It runs one-third of a mile long. The center tower looks like a European castle. But it is empty and has been so for more than a decade.

Our Mary Lahammer takes a rare tour inside the historic structure. Some areas are stunning, others dangerous. The more than century-old structure once owned by the state has been turned over to the city of Fergus Falls. State Rep. Bud Nornes (R-Fergus Falls) helped secure state bonding dollars to demolish less important sections outside the original historic horseshoe and tower in an attempt to attract a developer.

“It is as unique as you can get. It is the last remaining fully intact Kirkbride in the country” according to Scott Kvamme from the Friends of the Kirkbride organization. Kirkbride was an architectural idea for asylums advocated by Philadelphia psychiatrist Thomas Kirkbride in the mid-19th century. But finding a new purpose for this enormous building has been a challenge that we’ll continue to explore.

This story was published July 23, 2018.