Sunny Acres: San Luis Obispo Orphanage Set for Adaptive Reuse

Sunny Acres orphanage opened in 1931 in San Luis Obispo, California. (Image: Sarmatae. Sunny Acres orphanage opened in 1931)

Abandoned buildings often give rise to colourful urban legends that blur fact and fiction. The derelict Sunny Acres orphanage in San Luis Obispo, California, which is currently under renovation, is no exception.

Elegant brickwork defined the San Luis Obispo building. (Image: Sarmatae. Elegant brickwork defined the San Luis Obispo building)

Known in some circles as Hells Acres and described as an abandoned insane asylum haunted by the ghosts of children and malevolent former employees, Sunny Acres opened in 1931, almost 90 years ago, and closed in the mid-1970s.

Sunny Acres orphanage was abandoned in the 1970s. (Image: Sarmatae. The orphanage was abandoned in the 1970s)

Strip away the dark folklore that swirls around it, and the building’s history is more prosaic. Sunny Acres was built as an orphanage and later served as the county’s juvenile detention center, reported The Tribune newspaper in San Luis Obispo. The building had been empty for a decade or more before falling victim to a fire in 1989.

Fire ripped through the derelict Sunny Acres in 1989. (Image: Sarmatae. Fire ripped through Sunny Acres in 1989)

The Tribune wrote: “Workers who enter are required to wear respirators. Chunks of floor, wall and ceiling are missing. What’s left between peeling flakes of paint is covered with graffiti. Gnarled metal bars dangle across hallways. Old cells are lit by rays of sunlight that pierce the holes of the boards covering the glassless windows.”

The former San Luis Obispo orphanage is now being converted into affordable housing. (Image: Sarmatae. The complex also served as a juvenile detention center)

After years of decay the 87-year-old Sunny Acres is poised for adaptive reuse. The abandoned orphanage is under renovation and is set to reopen in in 2019 as part of Bishop Street Studios, a project that aims “to provide affordable housing for adults who receive mental health services.”

The Sunny Acres complex also served as a juvenile detention center. (Image: Sarmatae. The former orphanage is now being converted into affordable housing)

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About the author: Alex Williams




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