“This place is like someone’s memory of a town, and the memory is fading.” This line, from Nic Pizzolatto’s “True Detective,” came to mind as we drove through Bartonville, IL one Sunday morning. Although somewhat naive in its simplicity, it almost perfectly describes Bartonville and so many other towns and cities in the Midwest.
To me, this factory epitomises industrial decay in all its beauty.*
But what affected me the most about Bartonville was this cemetery.
We found the Bartonville State Hospital Cemetery in a rather dull warehouse district after receiving a tip-off from a Peoria resident. Hundreds of former occupants of the state hospital, also known as the Illinois Asylum for the Incurable Insane, are buried in this cemetery. It was chilling to think of these people who were designated as “lost hopes” being left in some field, now behind a Coca-Cola warehouse. None of the “incurable insane” were identified on their gravestones. Most of them were blank, but some of them were numbered. In a way it felt good to be there and to have spent a while thinking about these lives. It felt good to bring life to a place like that.
* Shout-out to our old car, Roberta, who is no longer with us.