What will be the fate of WSH buildings?


EVANSTON — Individuals representing multiple organizations throughout Evanston met on Monday, Aug. 14, to discuss the future of the Wyoming State Hospital buildings and grounds. As the construction process for new buildings moves forward, the future of the existing brick buildings is uncertain. 

Participating community members gathered at the Machine Shop to hear from Wyoming State Hospital Superintendent Richard Dunkley about the construction process and three possible scenarios for what could happen to the existing structures. These three options are demolition, state government ownership and maintenance or acquisition by another entity that would renovate them for other purposes. 

There have been no funds marked by the state to pursue any of the options. 

The group was escorted on a tour of hospital grounds by CFO Paul Mullenax and facilities supervisor Byron Harmon. Evanston resident Jim Davis requested that the buildings not be referred to as “old” buildings, so the term “vintage buildings” was adopted. 

Following the tour the group returned to the Machine Shop to engage in a brainstorming session about potential future uses for the campus. Linda Klinck, Wyoming Main Street Program Manager, facilitated the session, encouraging everyone to participate and sharing her experiences working with other communities.

During the brainstorming session, individuals shared their visions of the future of the buildings.

“This is one of the greatest opportunities this community has ever been handed,” Evanston resident Shelly Horne said.

The buildings have been recently inspected and most have significant structural, mechanical, plumbing or electrical problems. Virtually none of them are ADA compliant. 

Many participants focused on the historical nature of the structures, with a few being nearly 100 years old. Several of the ideas presented involved renovating at least some of them. 

The group shared ideas including education, housing, healthcare and tourism uses, as well as historical preservation. Ultimately the participants focused on the possibilities of a college campus; a technical trade campus; a folk center and museum; a senior housing complex complete with independent and assisted living, a nursing home and hospice care; or even a hotel and convention campus with a connection to the Bear River State Park. 

According to Evanston City Clerk Amy Grenfell, the next steps include applying for a planning grant from the Wyoming Business Council for funds to assist with fleshing out and determining the feasibility of the various ideas and looking at case studies of communities with similar opportunities. 

In addition, state legislators will need to be brought on board to facilitate any sale of the property to developers since the hospital is state-owned. 

There will also be more focused meetings of community members, public input meetings and community surveys as the discussion regarding the future of the Wyoming State Hospital campus continues.

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