Saturday, February 6, 2016

Orphaned Memories, Remembering A Place That is No More

In my backyard, there was a location known as "The Orphanage" or the "Brighton Orphanage." It was  a collection of seven buildings sitting abandoned in a field.  Three were demolished, but the main house and three other buildings still stood.  It was a small location even though there were multiple buildings.  The long, tree lined drive up made the location feel ominous for it's small size.

Unfortunately, in January of 2016, whomever owned the property decided that the buildings had seen their last new year, and they were demolished.  I was fortunate enough to be able to explore the location twice during the day, as well as two more times at night.  I drove by it multiple times, and this is a location that always came up when I'd share stories of my explorations with others.   I am incredibly saddened that this location is no more.  Earlier this week, I had received word from a friend that The Orphanage might have been demolished.  Even though he had never been there himself, he said he drove down the road and saw the tree lined drive, but only saw an empty field and a couple backhoes where he thought The Orphanage was supposed to be.  Refusing to believe that it had been demolished, I reasoned that he had just looked in the wrong spot.  Driving over to explore The Orphanage today, I was shocked and saddened to see exactly what my friend had described.  A tree lined drive leading to an open field, now occupied by a small pile of rubble and two backhoes instead of the incredible buildings that once made up one of my local haunts.

There is VERY little information about The Orphanage online.  My inquiry with the Denver Public Library netted an email response stating, "We have no records of any orphanage or similar building in Brighton, CO."  All the information I could find was a couple records of permits dating back to 1988 that hint to the locations past and use:
1988- Conditional Use Permit to allow a group home for up to a maximum of 12 foster children.
1994- Amendment to Conditional use to allow an adult women's group home for 32 dependent women and children.
1999- Appeal of an administrative decision of the Director of Planning and Development denying a request for a group home as a Use by Right.
2000- Conditional Use Permit to operate a group home with 12 beds in the A-3 Zone district.
2001- Amendment to a Conditional Use Permit to operate a group home for an additional year.
It then closed later in 2001.

Interesting history and nothing else about the location to be found.

Here is what it felt like to explore this interesting place:

Once you parked, you had a choice, do you start to the left with the main building? Or start to your right with the collection of three other buildings.

Left- You are greeted by the main building.  A few couches and cushions sit outside the door way, and the graffiti tags also add to the ominous feel of the place.  Walking up the steps and into the building, your eyes are met with a surprise, a gutted floor with ply wood and two-by-fours making up the interior.  No walls(except two to your right), no carpet, a single door further in and emptiness. Not what you would expect from the outside.  Venturing in, you see what once was a stairway to your right, leading to a section of basement.  Jumping off the floor onto the slanted dirt below, you make your way into the eastern section of the basement.   You can see the dirt and space below the floor of the main house, but there is nothing there of interest.  Peering down the hallway, you see two doors on either side and a doorway at the very end. Going into the first door on the left, you walk into an empty room. You see the wood beams that held up the wall separating this room from the far room, but the wall is gone.  You walk between the beams to the other room, there is not much there either.  Walking out that door and across the hallway, you are greeted by a familiar site.  An empty room with no wall separating it from its adjoining room, only the beams.  The only difference is that in this room, you can see where a closet had been built into the now nonexistent wall. You head to the end of the hallway and peer out the door.  A set of stairs leading up to the ground is all that is to be seen.  You turn around and head back to the main part of the house.  It seems like a disappointing exploration so far, but don't despair. You hop back up to the main floor and on the western side, you see an opening in the floor.  Walking over, you see a staircase leading down to a door.  You walk down. Opening the door, you see reminders and glimpses of the places past.  Trash and odd objects lie across the floor.  Some books, a piece of clothing, toys and other items are scattered around.  The remainders of a wall stand to your right.  Two doorways sit at the far end.  The door on the left opens to a room with a pile of wood in the middle.  Other items from the locations past sit on the floor. The door on the right leads to what once looked like a pantry or cellar.  A couple nonperishable items remain in jars on the shelves, and a wooden pallet occupies the floor in the center of the room.  Turning around, you see a door leading to a blueish room. Walking over, you look in but are greeted by another empty room.  Some papers and magazines lie around.  Having finished in the basement, you walk back upstairs and outside.

Right- You walk over to the cluster of three other buildings. The first one you come to appears to have been a garage of some sorts.  A blue/green and white wall is an interesting feature.  A small room is around a corner to the right but contains nothing but broken stone and bricks. You go back to the main room and walk to the back into the garage.  An old couch sits alone, along with an old mattress and some rubble.  The white paint on the walls is pealing, making an interesting texture and pattern.  You walk out the side door and over to one of the two smaller, wooden buildings.  The first one contains one room, with a lonely ice skate and book laying forgotten on the floor.  You would out the door and over to the second building.  This one appeared to be the tool room or shop of some kind. The first room is wide open with a tall ceiling.  Heading through the doorway at the back, you enter a small room with what looks to be a tool bench and tool shelf.  Having completed your personal tour of the three buildings, you walk back out to your car and get inside.  You look around you again and ponder on what went on here.  You slowly head back out the tree lined drive and head off, the memory of this odd yet incredible location seared into your mind.

The Orphanage might be demolished, but it will never be forgotten.  It shall live on in memory of the explorers who were able to experience it, through this blog post and through photos taken and shared online.
RIP.

She gone.  The tree lined drive that once led to The Orphanage. 


















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