For those of you still unsure of the merits of crossing the fence to the world of the forgotten and forbidden, allow Vocativ’s new three-part documentary series featuring Will Ellis, Untapped Cities’ Abandoned NYC columnist, to do the talking–and the exploration. The series, which aired its first episode on Monday, follows Ellis into the bowels of three abandoned structures in the New York City area. A researcher and historian, Ellis is best known for his website abandonednyc.com, which has featured, among other obscurities, a baseball graveyard in Queens, the abandoned facilities of North Brother Island, and an old resort in the Catskills.
On tap for Episode One of the series, Ellis treks to the Kings Park Psychiatric Hospital in Suffolk County on Long Island. Beginning in 1885, the hospital served as the largest state-funded psychiatric ward for over a century. Most tenants were relegated to agricultural duties, as this was considered an effective therapeutic activity at the time. The hospital grew in both numbers and prestige for its innovative uses, and by the time the iconic 13-story Building 93 was constructed in 1939, the hospital had well over 9,000 patients who helped to generate the grounds’ own heat and electricity and was serviced by its own spur of the Long Island Railroad.
Building 93 as it stands today. Source: Wills Ellis for Abandoned NYC.
In the 1950s, Kings Park became subject to the same concerns of overcrowding that had prompted New York state to found the facility in the first place. Departing from its agrarian practices, the facility also developed a reputation of experimenting with pre-frontal lobotomies and electro-shock therapy. The advent of Thorazine, an antipsychotic used to treat schizophrenia, expedited many treatment processes and decreased residency steadily for forty years until the hospital closed down permanently in 1996.
Former living quarters in Building 93. Source: Will Ellis for Abandoned NYC.
Today Kings Park is a haven for explorers like Ellis, who dare the grounds’ chain-link fences and boarded up entryways to happen upon a facility inert in mid-breath. Ellis’ first stop in the documentary is Building 93’s art facility, with a mural along the crumbling walls and a mess of unfinished projects strung across the floor. The residents of the nearby town of Kings Park refer to the abandoned structures simply as the old “Psych Ward.” Despite its eerie facade, Ellis provides an historian’s perspective on the facility, asking viewers to look beyond its ghostly past and recognize its prestige as one of the state’s most cutting edge mental health facilities in its heyday.
The art studio features murals along the walls…and unfinished works strung across the floor. Source: Will Ellis for Abandoned NYC.