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I am the owner of Rolling Hills Asylum in E. Bethany, NY, a 54,000 sq. ft. and 11 & 1/2 acre historical property in Western NY. Opened January 1, 1827 as the Genesee County Poor Farm, the property has a rich history and has had many lives, including becoming the Genesee County Infirmary and the Genesee County Nursing Home, before closing in 1974. It sat empty for nearly 10 years, eventually having a succession of private owners spanning over the last 38 years - making me the fourth private owner. Rolling Hills Asylum is a pseudonym created by the morphing of names created for the property by a few of the previous owners.
The property has a history steeped in sadness and tragedy, including over 1700 documented deaths. From the early 1700's when it was a stage coach stop and a tavern, to when it opened on January 1, 1827 as The Genesee County Poor Farm, a self sustaining facility consisting of over 200 acres of land, fruit and vegetable gardens, cattle, chickens, various crops, a bakery and dairy, and more. People would come to reside here because of poverty, such as losing their farms, becoming a widow, widower, or an orphan, perhaps they were a civil war veteran, or be mentally or physically disabled.
The next phase of the property was created in 1938 and was opened as the Genesee County Infirmary, the hospital for county. It handled all types of illnesses including tuberculosis. By the mid-sixties another transformation was made when it became the Genesee County Nursing Home. It stayed open until 1974 when a new facility was built in Batavia, NY and the residents were relocated, causing the facility to shut down. Over the next few years the property was divided (all but 11 acres became the Genesee County Park) and many of the old wooden structures such as the dorms and barns were torn down, leaving the main brick buildings and just a few smaller barns and a carriage house.
in mid 2009 I heard the then owners were giving up the property and no one knew what would happen to the facility. Thats when an overwhelming desire to acquire the property took hold of me, I was literally compelled to "rescue" the property, though my funds were menial, in hopes of preserving the history and remembering all of the thousands of residents that have lived and died here. Now that I am here, I realize what a huge undertaking this project is, and though I have many amazing volunteers, money is still a major hold back in making the necessary repairs such as repairing the slate roofs, the flat tar roofs, re-grouting the old original windows, repairing the cupola, and sealing all the brick to thwart water damage.
The ImpactLast year, my volunteers helped remove close to 7 tons of pure garbage and this year the volunteers helped remove two 40 foot dumpsters of more pure garbage as well as begin the very necessary repairs of the holes in the roofs. As you can imagine, water is my enemy - that includes snow as well as rain.
My goal is to preserve the property and repair it so I may continue to expand on the historical tours and grow the museum, eventually expanding the repairs to the out buildings and grounds. Poor Farms are an integral part of the history of the United States, they were almost like the first welfare system, if you will, and there are not very many of us still standing. Poor Farms afforded a place for people to live safely, and as long as they were able-bodied, everyone had a job on the farm. This was to help keep the costs of the supporting the residents low, but also to give these people a sense of self worth, by helping to earn their keep, rather than just becoming some charity case. Though I embrace change, growth, advancement of technology, etc., its important to remember the past and recognize and pay homage to how life was so we can truly understand and count our blessings for todays gifts by keeping the history alive and available for others to come and experience.
What We Need & What You Get
For those donating $10 - $99 dollars, your name will go on the Rolling Hills Asylum website acknowledging your donations. For those donating $101 to $999, your name will be included on the website as well as on a plaque to be hung in the museum in the building, thanking and acknowledging you for your donation. Those contributing $1000 or more will receive both the afore mentioned as well as be invited out to a special RHA/ Indie GoGo thank you event later in 2012.
Currently Rolling Hills Asylum is supported by offering (for a fee) Historical and Flashlight tours as well as public and private ghost hunting opportunities, and by the generosity of volunteers who give of their time, sweat equity, and love and support of Rolling Hills Asylum, its former residents, and of me.
Other Ways You Can Help
Not everyone can spare the funds to donate, and I understand that. However, if you smoke, buy a Starbucks, like to grab a glass of wine or a beer out, or even purchase chewing gum, would you please consider forgoing just one of your treats to help preserve this amazing property? If not, you can help in other ways, the easiest is by spreading the word about the fund raising efforts of Rolling Hills Asylum here on Indie GoGo and of the tours offered at Rolling Hills Asylum by visiting our website at http://www.RollingHillsAsylum.com
In the past, I've worked for The United Way and March of Dimes and one of the most important things I learned from these experiences is that if you never ask, you'll never receive a YES. So please, don't assume your friends, colleagues, business associates, and acquaintances are not interested in helping preserve this incredible historical property. Don't answer NO for them. Instead, send them the link http://igg.me/p/56948?a=356555 to this cause and let them make the decision for themselves.