Case studies

Case Studies in Adaptive Reuse

New lives for old mental hospitals

Around the globe, responsible communities and governments are putting old institutional sites to new and profitable uses, preserving their local history and boosting their economic base.

The enormous 1885 hospital was once Traverse City’s largest employer. When it closed in 1989, the hospital faced demolition, but it was saved by community outcry. Redeveloped by the Minervini Group, today it features condos, apartments, hiking trails and a winery, and is once again a community asset.

The enormous 1885 hospital was once Traverse City’s largest employer. When it closed in 1989, the The first facility to treat alcoholism as a mental illness in 1864, the building fell into disrepair in the 1990s, but will now house the expansion of a State University of New York clinical campus.

Founded in 1889, Foxboro State Hospital provided psychiatric services until 1976. The hospital has now been converted into Chestnut Green–a mixed-use development consisting of retail shops, commercial office space, single family homes, condominiums, and outdoor recreation fields.


Each year, thousands of historic sites are saved and given a new life through adaptive reuse. The case studies on the front of this flyer show just a few–some additional projects involving the reuse of large institutional or industrial sites are listed below.

Before: Saint Elizabeth’s
Hospital, Washington, DC

After: Department of Homeland
Security Headquarters

A former mental hospital will house the Department of Homeland Security. “For the American taxpayer, it will save more than $630 million over the next three decades, when compared to the alternative of housing these D.H.S. components in leased space,” said Tony Costa, acting commissioner of public buildings for the General Services Administration. Preservationists are in ongoing dialogue with the D.H.S. to insure that the site, which is a national historic landmark, is used in an appropriate way.

Before: The High Line
(elevated freight rail line), NY

After: The High Line
(New York City linear park)

The High Line was an elevated freight rail line, in operation from 1934 to 1980. It carried meat to the meatpacking district, agricultural goods to the factories and warehouses of the industrial West Side, and mail to the Post Office. Friends of the High Line, a community-based nonprofit group, worked in partnership with the City of New York to preserve and maintain the structure as an elevated public park. It has been a huge success, inspiring other cities to investigate the feasibility of similar adaptive reuse projects.

Before: Buffalo State Hospital, NY

After: The Richardson Olmsted Complex

Hotel Henry, Richardson Olmsted Complex, Buffalo NY, Architect: Deborah Berke Partners

This 1871 mental hospital was designed by H. H. Richardson, with the grounds planned by landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux (who designed New York City’s Central Park). A non-profit organization with a mission of rehabilitating the complex is currently working to create an Architecture and Visitor’s Center for the city of Buffalo in the administration section.

Before: Pownal School for the Feeble-Minded, ME

After: Pineland Farms

Pineland Farms is a large complex of property spread out through the eastern part of New Gloucester, Maine. It has undergone major changes since 1996, when its use as a “school for the feeble minded” was no longer appropriate. Today, it features recreational uses including cross-country skiing, mountain biking, trail running, orienteering, an equestrian center, a YMCA (located in the gymnasium originally built for residents), educational programs, a market featuring a wide array of food produced on site, an event/ conference center, and six restored farmhouses which are available for rent.