Image via After The Final Curtain
Once upon a time, opulent theaters built for the masses and the elite alike were the main destinations for entertainment. The theaters showed more than movies – it would be an all-day entertainment extravaganza from live music, dance performances, vaudeville, comedy to films. As we wrote in a previous exploration of the Loews Wonder Theatres, the most grand of them all in the New York City area, “in an era before television and with radio just a novelty, Americans could spend upwards of five hours or more in these theaters.”
Many theaters in New York City and New Jersey began as live performance theaters, and when vaudeville was on the decline, conversion into movie theaters became a more profitable option. But maintaining these grand film palaces was expensive and proved difficult to keep operational.
We bring you now 10 movie theaters in the New York City area that have stood abandoned for decades, falling into disarray as they became nothing more than warehouse spaces and retail store fronts.
In our visits to the many abandoned hospitals in New York City and the region, we’ve seen the range from fully abandoned to repurposed – some are even converted into parks like Kings Park Psychiatric Hospital or Letchworth Village. Some of the most fascinating are the ones that are in between – where new buildings sit side by side with cordoned-off abandoned buildings, or abandoned rooms and tunnels remain within actively used buildings. Sea View Hospital on Staten Island, run by the city of New York, is one of those.
We recently took a trip to abandoned Letchworth Village, once a model institution for the treatment of the mentally and physically disabled. Set in a bucolic landscape in the town of Haverstraw in Rockland County, Letchworth Village is not unlike parts of Kings Park Psychiatric Hospital on Long Island in terms of layout. Built in 1911, stone buildings are set amidst rolling hillside along curved streets with vintage-style lampposts, and you can easily sense the utopian idyll that governed the architecture and design of such an institution.
In fact, Letchworth was modeled after Monticello, the Virginia plantation of Thomas Jefferson and likely named after Letchworth in England, the first “Garden City” in the world and highly influential town planning model. Letchworth Village was originally encompassed 2,300 acres, whose patients worked on the land, like the Staten Island Farm Colony. It was a distinct attempt to provide better conditions, moving patients from high density high rise institutions to a country-side environment. But like many other similar locations, Letchworth developed a rather ignominious reputation for dubious experimentation and inconsistent care.
State Records and Files, Spring Grove State Hospital, Catonsville, MD 2008
Benrubi Gallery in West Chelsea is currently hosting “Asylum,” an exhibition featuring photographs of abandoned psychiatric hospitals by Christopher Payne, the subject of his 2009 book Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals. The photos present views that are both stark and poignant, showing these institutions that Payne describes as being impressive, self-sufficient complexes that provided a place of refuge but which also functioned as human warehouses.
The Infirmary’s impressive 19th century facade. Image via Abandoned NYC
When President John Adams signed “An Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen” in 1798, he authorized a 20 cents per month head-tax imposed on sailors entering the Port of New York. Through this funding, the construction of a Sailor’s Infirmary in New York City was made possible. Abandoned NYC recently visited the site and documented the structure’s stunning 19th century facade as well its harbor-front porches and interior. (more…)
When you read about the abandoned buildings of Kings Park Psychiatric Center on Long Island, you will first come across photographs and videos by urban explorers of eerily creepy interiors, left behind within massive institutional structures. We’ve been responsible for publishing some of those, in which explorers had to illegally trespass in the early hours of the morning due to tight security. But perhaps even more astounding is that a whole other portion of the hospital complex sits in a very accessible, very bucolic sitting and is part of Nissequogue River State Park.
We can’t think of another state park that’s packed with beautiful, brick buildings, with an undeniable dark history, that have been shuttered for a decade. But these buildings won’t be there too long, making this an ephemeral destination for those interested in its unique history.