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The end is near for Dane County’s oldest health care facility

By: Jack Zemlicka//June 27, 2011//

The end is near for Dane County’s oldest health care facility

By: Jack Zemlicka//June 27, 2011//

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Decades-old structures will be torn down, some materials recycled

Broken windows and graffiti mark the exterior of the old Badger Prairie Health Care Center in Verona. The 1920s structure is slated for demolition this summer, at a cost of $336,500. (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

By the end of summer, the last remnants of the oldest health care facility in Dane County will be rubble.

Demolition of the final buildings that housed the original mental health asylum and nursing home in Verona, dating to 1854, is scheduled to begin July 1.

“It’s kind of sad,” said Lynn Green, Dane County director of human services. “But they have served their purpose.”

A new, $22.6 million Badger Prairie Health Care Center opened in February just north of the old buildings.

The oldest of the remaining properties, a three-story 1920s structure, largely has been vacant for more than 50 years, said Green, who has worked at the department since 1972.

Before the opening of the new health care center, the first floor auditorium and part of the basement of the 1920s structure had been occupied by administrative staff for meetings and recreational activities for nursing home members. But feathered tenants moved into the upper floors.

“The pigeons have pretty much taken over,” Green said. “But from the outside, the building looks quite intact.”

The same can be said of the former nursing home building, also set for demolition, which was built in the 1960s.

While renovation of both buildings was discussed, Green said, each would have needed substantial upgrades to get up to code. Major wiring, sprinkler and technological updates were needed, she said, for the 1960s building alone, which by current nursing home standards was out of date.

The 1920s building would have to have been gutted, Green said. The majority of that building’s window glass, especially on the upper levels of the old hospital, is broken and the interior floors are waterlogged and warped, said Rob Nebel, Dane County construction manager.

He said it would take “millions” to restore the building to its original state.

The Dane County Board green lit demolition of the buildings June 16 at an approved cost of $336,500. The project is expected to be completed by September, Nebel said.

The demolition work is being done by Omega Demolition Corp., based in Elgin, Ill.

The only structural issue, County Supervisor Sheila Stubbs said, is the removal of asbestos, which is common in buildings that old.

“We know what we’re dealing with, so there aren’t any concerns from the public health or public works departments,” she said.

By November, an employee parking lot will blanket the site of the old hospital and the lone historical marker will be a 6-acre cemetery adjacent to the new building where some post-Civil War era residents of the old hospital are buried.

Green acknowledged that the cemetery and abandoned asylum created a “creepy” vibe, but she preferred to remember the site for its historical value.

“When we did a study in 2008, we determined that it was the oldest health care facility in Dane County,” she said.

At least part of the old hospital will live on as part of the new one.

One of the limestone arches is going to be taken down and rebuilt as a 10-foot tall, 15-foot wide monument at the entrance of the new health care campus, Nebel said.

In addition, most of the steel and copper inside the building will be recycled and reused, he said.

“We will be keeping parts of the old hospital alive,” he said, “and remembering the history.”

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