Deep in the hills, in the Alsace area in France, decays a big complex that was once a clinic, a sanatorium and even a 4-star hotel. A history that’s told quickly – and a sad story of decay that advances even quicker… But still a tale in pictures to record a moment in time.
The oldest part, built in the late 19th century, was initially a hotel where the German Emperor William II resided. Between the two wars it got converted into a sanatorium and in 1950 to a rest and care institution. During 40 years over 80 employees cared for thousands of patients. The complex contains an indoor pool, a theater, a chapel, a house called “Villa du médecin chef” (The chief doctor’s villa), buildings housing the staff, a boiler room, garages etc.
It’s said that the Clinique was once one of the most beautiful medical centers in the region. But this started to change in the winter of 2011/12, when the center closed and left on its own. The owner claimed that they were not able to monitor and protect all of their buildings.The Clinique quickly turned into a copper mine for organized traffic. Only the ducts of the pipes are left, wires cut close to the connections. Inside, the ceilings are methodically boned on 6 floors. Everything that promised some money got stripped down and stolen. Despite the rather remote and isolated location, the place became a playground for vandals. There is no window intact, almost no wall without graffiti and the furniture is either smashed or thrown out of the windows. Due to the fast deterioration, the owners were facing quite a challenge in finding a buyer for this big complex and the 7.6 ha of land (of which 6 ha are forest). The initial selling price for the property was 3 million Euros. In six years the site has lost value and attractiveness not only due to decay but most of all due to the many illegal intrusions. Regarding some information I found, a sales agreement was signed by the end of June 2017, effective by mid-October. The amount of the sales has not been disclosed but the sum of 150’000€ got mentioned. The new owner is a French investor with a project focusing on the creation of residential housing and a hotel. If – and when – the project will be started… no source seems to know. What I know: I am planning another visit in spring 2018. There is still some undiscovered space in there. For example: I didn’t find yet the theater which is mentioned in one source. How the heck did I miss that? It cannot be that small! But even the cellar is yet undiscovered…
By accident I found some GPS coordinates on the internet along with a few photos. So we decided in April 17 to go for a visit. After the coordinates proved to be false (we found a building which was still in use), we decided to find a snack in a close by village. The only open shop was a gas station. The guy at the counter was at first a bit confused when we asked him about the “Clinique du Diable” but his wife figured out the location we were looking for. So from there we got the right directions – with the warning that the place is monitored by police and that we may have to pay a fine if caught. For we don’t draw too much attention, we parked in a nearby space in the forest and climbed the last piece uphills through the forest. No police, no motion… perfect! A little later, in the main building: some noise! Some shadows moving – and then… some people with cameras, tripod, helmet, backpacks! So obviously we were not the only ones. In the later afternoon, when we wanted to leave, a few teenagers appeared with their car. At least one had a camera, so hopefully no vandals… Since it was still cold in the mountains in April (some snow and icy wind blowing through each and every broken window and open door) we were not able to sneak through every room. So in July we paid another visit. It seemed as even more furniture was smashed during those three months – and there has even been a fire in one of the buildings: black grime on the outside walls, the distinct smell of burned wood and paint… several rooms in dark black. Luckily the fire didn’t find too much substance and must have stopped by itself. There was no evidence of any attempt to extinguish the fire. That afternoon we met an older couple from France, exploring the site with their cameras. They were kind of surprised to meet Swiss people in a place like that. The chat was short, but we got told that the place is also used by homeless people to spend the nights. True: I remember something, it could have been sleeping bags, stuffed in some holes, to hide them until the owners return. In the later afternoon, again: some teenagers showed up – this time throwing rocks from the outside into the buildings. When they saw us, they disappeared – but most likely returned after we left. Still: bored teenagers like those are not only ruining everything, but put other people in danger… April 2018: The Clinique still stands. With some people from our photo group we went for an urban exploration to the Clinique. Compared to my last visit about a year before, there is even more damage caused by vandalism and even thief. Also the place got rather crowded meanwhile: not only urban explorers but geocacher and groups with soft air- or paintball guns in army uniforms… And still: there were more rooms and corners to discover. So my pile of photos raised to over 400 GB and a lot of work has to be done with them…
Pictures from 2017
Latest pictures from the clinique
The Clinique du Diable is still a “work in progress”. As we got over 400GB of photos, from time to time I spend some time to create a new picture and post them sporadically. Here you can find the latest entries. (The gallery above gets updated too – but less frequent).
At the end of April, there is still snow in the hills of Alsace. If someone would stay inside this building, most likely all windows were closed that day.
Once a huge boiler was connected to those tubes. One tube most likely was for water, the other connected to a chimney. If there is a little wind outside, a low and hollow whistle sounds from the openings.
Where once people gathered for worship and to find peace, only shattered and colored windows remind us of the place it used to be.
Inside the garage, where a workshop surrounded by windows used to be, someone once must have had a little snack: some mackerel in a white wine sauce. The can is rusty, all glass broken… and the fish digested long time ago.
Maybe not every company is the same. But when the weeks motto is “Robinson” (waiting for Friday), as soon as possible there is an exodus and people run out to enjoy some days of weekend.
In the back, along two buildings, locates a big garage. Due to a rather remote location, cars were (and still are) a must to get here – or several hours of hiking up hills and forests.
Once hanging protected in a room and providing light in the dark, color faded after it went dark and the elements gave it a rusty appearance.
In the staff housing (we assume), some rooms were equipped with a kitchenette. At least one of them survived the days and kept a charm of the 70’es style with brown tiles.
In a place where no window stayed intact, the sun draws shadows of the remains. Cracks, broken fragments and light telling about moments of the past.