Previously, we presented 10 abandoned asylums and hospitals in New York City ranging from the Roosevelt Island smallpox castle to North Brother Island. But asylums and hospitals are perhaps even more common outside of New York City, where the popular medical ideas of the time could be implemented to their fullest. It was thought that fresh air and a bucolic landscape would contribute to patient welfare. While many of these institutions have been demolished, others have been left to languish as newer facilities were constructed. Many have become must-hits in an urban explorer punchlist.
Here are six to whet your urban exploration appetite. Although there are others further upstate like the J.N. Adams Memorial Hospital in Perrysburg, we’ve focused on locations that you can visit using public transit from New York City (and then taxi or some hiking).
1. Kings Park Psychiatric Hospital
Of all of the asylums outside of New York City, Kings Park Psychiatric Hospital may be the one to capture the collective imagination of today’s readers. 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.
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.
2. Hudson River State Hospital, Poughkeepsie
Photo by Dark.Cyanide
The Hudson River State Hospital, located outside of Poughkeepsie, was once a psychiatric hospital run by New York state. Although it is a National Historic Landmark, it has been declining as a ruin since the early 2000s. As part of the treatment philosophy of the time, some of the country’s best architects were involved in the design of the hospital, including Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmstead, the duo who created Central Park and did the grounds here on land once owned by the Roosevelt family.
The hospital consists of at least 15 different buildings with multiple patients wings, a criminally insane ward, a modern-style recreation center, morgue, powerhouse, chapel, theaters and its own railroad line. The psychiatric center also provided patients with many sorts of facilities such as the chapel above (the Presbyterian one, with an Catholic church also on the property), a recreation center and theaters.
See more photos of the Hudson River State Hospital here.
3. Pilgrim State Hospital, Long Island
All images via Matthew Christopher for Abandoned America
Pilgrim Psychiatric Center on Long Island, or the Pilgrim State Hospital as it was once called, was one of four state hospitals built to rectify New York’s overcrowded institutions. During its heyday in the years following World War II, it treated almost 14,000 patients and is the only one out of four, including the yet-to-be-built Englewood State Hospital, still functioning as a psychiatric center, albeit on significantly reduced grounds. A number of its empty buildings still remain, however.
Pilgrim, named for former New York State Commissioner of Mental Health Dr. Charles W. Pilgrim, opened in 1931 and grew steadily through the 40s. At one point it operated its own police and fire departments, post office, Long Island Railroad station, and church.
In the ’90s, Kings Park, Central Islip, and Englewood were all closed, with their remaining patients either released into community care or relocated to Pilgrim.
4. Rockland Psychiatric Center, Orangeburg
The semi-abandoned Rockland Psychiatric Center in Orangeburg, NY, formerly Rockland State Hospital, was one of the many asylums built during a particular time period in American history that sought, at least at first, to approach mental illness with spaciousness and tranquility. Opened in 1931, like most, it fell as treatment evolved from an agrarian philosophy to the use of more controversial methods. In addition, several unique cases of negligence and patient death marred its reputation. Untapped Cities reader James Garcia, afilmmaker and paranormal investigator, shared his photos of the center’s abandoned complex with us.
In its current state, Rockland operates only a few of the newer buildings to accommodate its less than 600 patients. The rest of its campus exhibits various forms of decay. However, the reputation of its abandoned facilities as haunted doesn’t stop it’s operational facilities from being a relatively popular shooting locations. Some of its newer buildings, still inhabited, were used as outdoor shooting spaces for Orange is the New Black. It was also used as a stand-in for Indiana University in the 2004 film Kinsey, based on Indiana University professor and sexologist Alfred Kinsey, starring Liam Neeson.
See more of James’ photos of Orange is the New Black’s shooting locations and afull list of film locations for Orange is the New Black.
5. Middletown State Homeopathic Hospital
There’s something to be said about the attention paid to the architecture of Middletown State Homeopathic Hospital, founded in 1874. The American Queen Anne style, once a stylish residential style of architecture, takes on a quintessential haunted house feel when applied at the institutional scale. Using occupational therapy to hopefully cure mentally ill patients, the activity at Middletown State included arts, writing and most notably, baseball. The Middletown State Homeopathic Hospital baseball team was known as The Asylums, and did so well they competed with the top teams in the region including the Cuban Giants (a split game) and the New York Giants. Several players were recruited from The Asylums to the professional leagues, including George Tuck Turner who played for the Philadelphia Phillies and Jack Chesbro who played for the New York Highlanders.
At its peak, over 3600 patients were treated here and wasn’t closed until 2006. Despite demolition, some buildings have remained.
6. Edgewood State Hospital, Long Island
Edgewood State Hospital was located in Deer Park, Long Island functioning as both a psychiatric facility and tuberculosis hospital. It’s notable for being a treatment location for traumatized soldiers, operated by the U.S. War Department after the beginning of WWII. Mason General Hospital, as it was referred to, also included a few buildings at Pilgrim State. A government sponsored documentary Let There Be Light was filmed there but eventually banned by the government in fear that it would be damaging to troop morale. The film was finally released in the 1980s, screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 1981, and selected for film preservation by the Library of Congress in 2010. You can view it on Amazon.
The large imposing main building was constantly on fire, making it a popular urban exploration spot for youth in the 1970s and 80s. An old, grainy video from 1986 shows what was left before its demolition in 1989, allegedly the largest demolition of state-owned ever.
Today, the site is managed as an oak-brush plains preserve managed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, but with a land access permit you can explore the remnants which include rail tracks, lampposts, fire hydrants and the like.
Next, check out 10 abandoned asylums and hospitals in New York City. This article collectively written by Jinwoo Chong, Nicholas Reale, and Michelle Young.