By Jason KUROSU
The limbo state of Montrose’s Rockhaven Sanitarium received widespread attention this past week when the story of the former women’s sanctuary was covered by outlets like National Public Radio and L.A. Weekly magazine.
Rockhaven’s history as a safe haven for women and its current state, a city-owned property that some hope will be preserved for its historical significance, were the subject of recent news stories.
Current activity at the Rockhaven site includes regular clean-up by volunteers from the Friends of Rockhaven and the Crescenta Valley Historical Society and the recent construction of a well that Crescenta Valley Water District officials hope will supply water to area homes during an unprecedented drought.
“We’re planning to have this online by the middle of October 2015 to help with the drought. By providing local water, we’re not taking imported water from the Colorado River or the state project, which is up in the Sacramento area,” CVWD Engineer David Gould told NPR, saying that the drought necessitated the well construction. “Ten, 15 years ago, the urgency wasn’t there. Just like the Alaskan Pipeline when we had the oil embargo, we had to build the pipeline. Well, here we are, we’re in a drought. We need the water. We have to build it.”
Gould said that the “built-out” status of the Crescenta Valley area led to CVWD and the city of Glendale looking at Rockhaven as a possible well site.
Traffic will be closed for construction at the 2700 block of Hermosa Avenue from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. until the end of July.
Traffic will be diverted around construction along the 3700 and 3800 blocks of La Crescenta Avenue as soon as the Hermosa construction is completed. Parking is also restricted on La Crescenta, Hermosa and Honolulu avenues.
Gould said that construction on La Crescenta Avenue should commence this week or next week.
“It is CVWD’s goal to start pumping the water in October and that the final touches on the site, such as landscaping, will be done in November,” said Gould.
The stories also detailed Rockhaven’s history, from its founding by nurse Agnes Richards in the 1920s to the current efforts to preserve the sanitarium.
NPR interviewed Friends of Rockhaven President Joanna Linkchorst regarding Richards’ endeavor to improve treatment conditions for mental health patients, particularly women.
“She was absolutely appalled at the treatment of mental patients at the time,” Linkchorst told NPR, detailing how Richards created a space that was far less intimidating than the looming, ominous mental hospitals of the era.
“The Friends of Rockhaven are working with the city and we are hoping one day to be able to open this up to the public as a historic park, to be able to preserve as many of the buildings as possible and utilize them in ways that will bring them back to life,” Linkchorst told NPR. “We hope to be able to have a museum for the Crescenta Valley in here and just park space where people can come and rest and recover just as they have been able for almost a century.”
The plight of Rockhaven was also covered in a recent LA Weeky article, which touched upon the work of the Friends of Rockhaven, as well as the current uncertainty regarding the property.
Linkchorst said she was excited about the media coverage, noting that not only was the Rockhaven story not on the national radar, but that even some locals are unaware of the history in their own backyard.
“So many ask where [it is]. They just don’t look at the lot or the wall,” she said. “I love connecting them with it.”