The Places I Shouldn't Be Byberry Page

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(From the inside cover of the Philadelphia State Hospital Patient Handbook)


The old Byberry Asylum was once a fantastic place - Once an institution of caring for the less fortunate, then a center for research and medicine, is now just a party spot being destroyed brick by brick, a little more every weekend. Since the place was abandoned in the late eighties probably thousands of people wandered its darkened halls, some to take in the wonder and mystery, some to just bust windows, spraypaint everything that doesn't move and smash the soft cinderblock walls. The buildings are pretty well worked over and there's little left now for souvineers, but in some small way the thrill of the exploration remains.
Microscope slides found in the W-3 labs. According to the label these two contain brain tissue.
Walking through the dark buildings, you can't help but think about the patients who once lived here - who once aimlessly walked those very halls day after day after day for the better parts of their entire lives. You can't help but think about the 'therapies' that were carried out there - all were accepted as beneficial in their day, of course, but seem a horror now - electro shock therapy, hydro therapy, seclusion, labotomies, the list goes on. (to really heighten your experiences on your next trip to Byberry, try going to The Mutter Museum in Center City first -not that I recomend going into Byberry at all.)

Unfortunately, better than half the buildings have been destroyed. There was once a complex on the east side of the Boulevard as well as a complex south of Southampton Road (beyond the Self Help building and the Laundry Building) each as substantial as the 'old' section that remains on the west side. Those buildings were closed down long before the remaining parts and were already ransacked burned out shells in the late eighties (the picture on the intro page is one of the larger buildings off Townsend Rd. as it stood in 1988). That side of Byerry went virtually without any security and was quickly reduced to massive brick firepits. Today the remaining structures are meekly patrolled by a disinterested private security firm whose employees have on ocasion joined the regulars for a few beers and a smoke. The occasional drive through by local police does nothing to quell the popularity of the site either.

The service tunnels beneath the C buildings are rough and can be tricky to navigate The tunnel system is a particularily fortunate architectural feature for the explorer of Byberry. There are two distinct types of tunnels at Byberry, maintenance tunnels and patient walkways. Originally made to allow service to the water and steam pipes that carried heat from the central boiler that used to stand on the south side of Southampton Rd, the maintenance tunnels were the most extensive - connecting virtually every structure on the property. Many points along these tunnels have been filled in in an effort to discourage tresspassers - unfortunate, but not the end of the world. The patient tunnels are still in tact and connect all the newer buildings. These tunels are the most accessable, but that goes for security too - so don't make too much noise when you're in there (not that I recomend you do go in there, but if you happen to find yourself there) There was a rumor floating around for a while that one tunnel section went from the steam plant all the way south to where the Sears building used to be. I've never found any tunnels that go any further south than a little past the old steam plant, but remember there once were a few buildings about where SPD and National Drying Machinery stand now (S-1, S-2 and the 'Cottages') so that's most likely where those rumors came from. They're long since closed up, so don't bother looking too hard for them.



Arial photo of Byberry. The Carter Road neighborhood consists here of a single farmhouse


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