Tourists interested in exploring the mental hospital made famous in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” will have to settle for a virtual visit.
Public interest in visiting the 125-year-old J Building at the Oregon State Hospital in Salem soared after the state Department of Human Services sponsored a series of guided tours on Sept. 13, the Statesman Journal reported. State employees led about 200 people through vacated, decaying sections of the building and the sprawling tunnels under it, where some patients had to live.
Publicity from that day led another 1,100 to express interest in visiting the place where the Oscar-winning film starring Jack Nicholson was shot.
But state officials decided against additional tours because of the demands on the staff and planned asbestos and lead paint-removal work.
“The public response to touring the historic J Building has been tremendous,” the agency stated on its Web site. “However, due to the hospital’s current designation as an active construction site, safety protocols prevent us from providing any further public tours of the J Building.
“We are in the process of developing a virtual tour and invite you to check our Web site for this feature and other updates during construction. Thank you for your interest in supporting mental health services for Oregonians.”
Construction of a new 620-bed psychiatric facility is scheduled to begin next year and be completed in 2011. Plans call for preserving the oldest and most historically significant portions of the J Building and tearing down the rest.
The remodeled portions will house a mental health museum and a resting place for the cremated remains of more than 3,000 former patients who died at the state hospital during its first century.