This website was built as a personal artistic expression to pay tribute and honor to the residents, staff and buildings of Southbury Training School.
My family moved to Personnel Village (previously known as Sugar Hill) on the Southbury Training School grounds in 1973 when I was one year old. Personnel Village is located across the street from STS with a total of 25 homes reserved for staff and their families. The Village was a self contained community for families to raise their children while remaining close to the STS campus. All the families enjoyed the close knit environment and the kids loved having a safe, quiet neighborhood with dozens of other children to play with. The majority of us are still in contact and often talk about what an amazing experience we had and how in some ways wish that we could provide a similar experience to our children.
For 20 years I called PV16 home before heading off to college in 1991. My father retired from STS in 1992 after 30 years of service and my mom retired in 1997 after 22 years of service. My folks finally moved from PV16 in 1997 to Vermont for seven months before returning to Woodbury, CT where they continue to live.
In 2007, my mom took a terrible fall which resulted in a broken collarbone. Her recovery was slow, painful and very distressing for all of us. During this time, my dad and I found ourselves talking about the good old days at STS, which led to a discussion about the shape of the campus and its' many buildings. I started relaying to my dad the comfort of being with him on grounds during those years. I enjoyed interacting with hundreds of residents and staff members that seemed to rely on him for positive energy, guidance and assistance with solving any and all problems. If it had to get done, Chuck could help.
My dad isn't a big talker, and when I was with him working on grounds, it didn't matter, I felt close to him. In my mind, I was his little helper. He didn't treat me like his annoying tag-along kid, he treated me like a capable pair of hands and I loved it. As a result, I have always felt like I had a personal relationship with STS and all of the buildings situated on its' massive campus. As we discussed STS and the shifting of the mental health industry, we began to marvel at the reality that someday soon STS probably won't be there. Everything that it meant to us and provided for our family would be just a story. I began to think of all of the buildings and structures that housed so many residents, shaped so many memories, sustained lives and supported families. I was compelled to return to the campus 20 years later and photograph every single building on grounds.
My plan was not to do the stereotypical institutional photoshoot. I had no intention of capturing tattered teddy bears, yellowed restraints or broken syringes piled in dirty corners of abandoned rooms. This was not my experience at STS, nor anything close to what I had witnessed. I wanted to preserve the institution "as is" before the opportunity slipped through my fingers, to grant the buildings and structures a quiet dignity. I took 800 photos over the course of 3 weekends and a total of 10 hours. Politics and social commentary aside, I learned to appreciate life, to love, the power of the human spirit, and the value of hard work at STS. Over my 20 years at the school, the staff members treated me as if I were their own and shared invaluable life lessons. Along with two loving parents, this was the community that raised me. I constructed this interactive map with tremendous technical guidance from my talented and patient wife Stephanie as a time capsule out of respect and gratitude to STS. I was able to narrow it down to 197 photos that showcase buildings, structures and various points of interest on grounds.
Most of all, I would like to thank Director Eugene Harvey for granting access for Chuck and I to walk the grounds one more time, together.