A long-defunct psychiatric hospital in suburban Atlanta that Stranger Things viewers will instantly recognize as the covert governmental facility that plays host to the Mothergate of the Upside Down will be demolished.
Standing in as the fictional Hawkins National Laboratory, the old Georgia Mental Health Institute (GMHI) was established in 1965 by Emory University and the state of Georgia on the grounds of the Briarcliff estate, the former home of Asa G. Candler Jr., an Emory grad and the rather colorful son of Coca-Cola founder Asa Griggs Candler known for his love of magic and inappropriate pets. Following its closure in 1997, Emory University purchased the hospital and surrounding 42-acre campus in affluent Druid Hills from the state with plans to transform it into a biotech hub. Lucky for the Stranger Things production team, those plans didn’t pan out and years after its closure, the GMHI is now Netflix-famous as Hawkins National Laboratory.
(Stranger Things creators/showrunners Matt and Ross Duffer originally envisioned setting and filming the hit streaming television series, first known as Montauk, on Long Island but ultimately opted to film at various locations in Georgia—primarily in and and around Atlanta—with the town of Jackson serving as the backdrop of Hawkins, Indiana.)
Although Emory’s redevelopment of Briarcliff into a biotech campus never came to fruition, the Emory Wheel recently reported on new plans for the site—plans that include razing the five-story GMHI, which is contemporarily known simply as Building A. Per the Emory Wheel, much of the Briarcliff Campus will become Corso Druid Hills, a 500-unit senior living community developed and operated by Atlanta-based Galerie Living as part of a 99-year lease agreement with the university.
According to the Emory Wheel, roughly 10 acres of the sprawling campus are not included in the lease agreement and will be maintained by the university for future use. Completed in 1922, the estate’s main residence, a crumbling pile that has seen better days, will undergo a major restoration effort as part of the lease agreement but will not be converted into senior housing.
Like Building A, Briarcliff’s dilapidated 22-room Candler Mansion has also been used as a frequent filming location for the CW’s The Vampires Diaries and for Stranger Things, among other shows. While the long-term lease deal between Emory and Galerie Living was first announced by the university earlier this summer, local news coverage was largely on the fate of the Candler Mansion and its planned revitalization, and not on Briarcliff’s Building A, which, although not an architectural treasure, is arguably more famous (outside of Atlanta at least).
“The mansion now, at least part of the mystique and appeal is that some of it is still very grand and exquisite, but lots of it is in disrepair,” Denise Chandler, head of the university’s notably robust film management department, told the Emory Wheel. “Once we renovate and refurbish it, it’ll become a destination location where we envision weddings, receptions, community events, corporate events.”
For those looking to venture inside Hawkins National Laboratory, the immersive Stranger Things: The Experience is heading to Atlanta following a successful run in New York City. (It closes September 4 and is completely sold-out.) In addition to immersive adventures, Stranger Things, a Spielbergian sci-fi/horror series set in the 1980s, has spawned tie-in books and comics, video games, toys, a potential stage production, and a much-welcomed Kate Bush revival. The fifth and final season of Stranger Things is slated to begin filming sometime next year.
A demolition date for Building A (a.k.a. Hawkins National Laboratory) has not been announced.