Stationed only a block or so from the local police department in downtown Toledo remains a forgotten and fragmented structure formerly known as The Riverside Hospital. The hospital was opened in 1883 as a home for unwed mothers in the Northern Toledo area, welcoming them in under the supervision of the Sisters of Mercy. The hospital had operated under their supervision until 1983, when it had changed hands, becoming part of Mercy Health Partners.
At the time of its full closure in 2002, nearly 270 beds remained only to now collect dust as time faded life away further and further. Local urban legends suggest that ghosts of former doctors and patients now roam the tunnels beneath this structure, but nothing is for certain. The hospital is now owned and monitored by the Toledo Public Schools; information bestowed upon us quite unwillingly and uncomfortably.
December 29, 2014 – the day we would personally meet the entire Toledo Police force. Our day started just like many others, with a journey towards Detroit, Michigan, where we were headed to photograph the Packard Plant; a place that surprisingly none of us have ever photographed, seeing as everyone and their uncle has. It was soon realized that a quick detour would take us to a lesser-explored hospital, so with a quick shift of our GPS, we were en route to the old Riverside Hospital.
Upon surveying the area, traipsing hospital grounds back and forth, we had finally secured an entrance. It was decided that one of us would make our way into a second story window near the decaying smoke stack, and like a wild monkey who had just downed 8 pots of coffee, he was up and in. It was soon discovered that the building held one very important piece the rest of us needed…a ladder. Legs clanged against a metallic top, as the ladder was lowered from an adjacent second story window onto what seemed to be an old power generator. Thus, we began our sketchy and rattling climb toward our window entrance.
Stepping into this hospital was like being submerged in a world that humans had vacated in such a blind hurry that all was left behind. Blood sits in vials as the glass collects dust, patient files were left rotting in the stale, stagnant air and like a bomb had gone off, windows are blasted out remaining in shattered piles scattered across the grungy lab floors. Lower floors were littered with surgical and examination rooms where water has begun to make its way in, leaving the air sour with an odor of water damage. It truly makes you wonder, when you see something as strange as a surgical table where they seemingly left mid-surgery never to return. Surgical implements remain placed atop a rolling tray cart beside the operating table. Needles and blood soaked first-aid materials sit alone while year after year passes by. Standing at the counter, my feet became partially submerged in a small level of water that had made its way in from busted pipes. The room was pitch-black dark, quiet and cold; these are moments that I love. There is something so intriguing about feeling like the world outside has absolutely no clue where you are, while at the same time feeling that all life has vanished. I know all is alive and well just outside these walls, but we are seemingly alone in this world. This was almost the case today.
One wrong turn up one wrong stairwell, a motion alarm was tripped and we were headed for the exit with no more chance of success than you have at seeing a sober parent at Chuck E. Cheese’s. As I mentioned earlier, the police station sat only a short block away, and it was at this moment as we ran through the trashed, destroyed halls that we knew we had to either give up, or find an alternate point of exit. The alternate point of exit seemed like a very slight possibility for only a moment, until 5 or 6 cars were lined up with the only possible exits being blocked. As we sat quietly tucked away inside of a room, we exchanged escape plans, contemplating what would be the best route. One member of the group had become separated from the 4 of us, and while wondering where he may have wandered off to, the rest of us journeyed to the lower floors in very small hope of making any positive progress. We began to hear a group of officers talking in the distance from the first floor, which sent us scurrying straight back upwards, trapping us once again in the cramped corner room of a hallway where it had all begun.
Slowly peering from the edge of a nearby window, a member of our group had heard officers entering a passcode in, gaining entrance to the building. As we stood silently toward back of this corner room debating our next move, a loud thud filled the silence, shaking a floor of the structure. We figured there was absolutely no way it could have been our friend, considering he would for sure be remaining quiet, though we were not quite sure where else it could have come from. Moments later, the footsteps of approaching officers became audible and it was at this second we knew it was just about time that we should give ourselves up. So stuck between nothing but a short hallway and stairwell leading to nothing but our inevitable failure at an escape, we rounded the corner with hands up, cameras around our necks and multiple guns pointed at our faces by 5 different officers.
“Hands up, remove your backpacks and hands against the wall. Now!” Difficult to tell which officer was talking to whom at this point, as everything had instantly fluttered into a chaotic mess. We were all quickly put against the mold-coated walls with hands up and searched for weapons.
After this wonderfully casual introduction, we all began talking about the building, learning that the Toledo Public Schools were the current owners and had actually boarded the entire place the day before; but they left the second story open. According to an officer, we were lucky to show ourselves when we did, considering the dogs were en route to the building from nearly 2 minutes away. Upon finding our friend who had wandered by himself, an officer who had found him before the rust of us had been discovered, tackled him to the floor causing the aforementioned thud.
In the end, we had a good chat and even a couple of laughs between the officers and our group, including one great exploring tip – “next time, pull up the ladder.” The next day, we would visit and attend court for our charges, along with the famous tip once again by both judge and court-appointed defense lawyer – “make sure you pull up the ladder next time.” Within hours of the hospital adventure, we enjoyed a sunset from Detroit’s Packard Plant; a great end to the evening.
In conclusion, they WILL catch you if you attempt to explore this building, and number two…court is NEVER fun. Oh, and make sure you pull up the ladder.
Thank you to Jacob Bacon for the photo of Ryan climbing into the window.
SO DON’T GO HERE OKAY.