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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.

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It was here that children were used to test the polio vaccine, the first human trials in the world. In other experiments, as Abandoned NYC reports, Brain specimens were harvested from deceased residents and stored in jars of formaldehyde, put on display in the hospital lab.  This horrific practice has become a favorite anecdote of ghost-hunters and adolescent explorers.” Many of the people who died here were buried in a Potter’s Field, with no names to identify them, though later a monument was erected “To those that shall not be forgotten.”

Abandoned-Letchworth Village Psychiatric Hospital-Haverstraw-Thiells-Rockland County-NY-Untapped Cities-004A former dormitory for boys

Abandoned-Letchworth Village Psychiatric Hospital-Haverstraw-Thiells-Rockland County-NY-Untapped CitiesA former dormitory for boys

Abandoned-Letchworth Village Psychiatric Hospital-Haverstraw-Thiells-Rockland County-NY-Untapped Cities-002A former dormitory for boys

Letchworth Village closed in 1996. Today, the property is managed by the town of Haverstraw. A portion of the property closer to Stony Point, which housed the adult male population and the farm colony group, has already been converted into a Patriot Hills Golf Course and a Veterans Memorial Park. The majority of buildings, on both portions of the property still stand however, making exploration here particularly fun. Like Kings Park, which is now part of Nissesquogue State Park, visitors are welcome to walk into the property, provided you stay on the paved portions. Entrance inside the buildings, all of which are in a state of disrepair, is forbidden.

Letchworth Village Map-Thiells-NY-Rockland County-Abandoned Mental InstitutionMap via Abandoned NYC

You’ll discover the dormitory buildings, in a repeated architectural pattern, administration buildings, officers cottages, a former synagogue and more. Vines grow on and around the buildings and lampposts, but the town of Haverstraw keeps the roads clear. A local resident feeds and cares for cats who have made the buildings home.

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The interiors of the building have many pieces of furniture and hospital equipment left over, but have been heavily vandalized over time:

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The influence of Neoclassical architecture can be seen in the ionic columns, triangular pediments and portico elements:

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Vines grow over man-made elements, like the many lampposts that line the streets and former basketball courts:

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One of the fewer 1960s-era buildings on the property, a former synagogue:

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One of the hospital buildings:

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Abandoned-Letchworth Village Psychiatric Hospital-Haverstraw-Thiells-Rockland County-NY-Untapped Cities-017Rear of the hospital building

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Abandoned-Letchworth Village Psychiatric Hospital-Haverstraw-Thiells-Rockland County-NY-Untapped Cities-015Rear of the hospital building

A psychiatric book had been burned, and pieces were scattered:

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Abandoned-Letchworth Village Psychiatric Hospital-Haverstraw-Thiells-Rockland County-NY-Untapped Cities-021The Attendants Building

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Abandoned-Letchworth Village Psychiatric Hospital-Haverstraw-Thiells-Rockland County-NY-Untapped Cities-024Looking into an Administration Building

Abandoned-Letchworth Village Psychiatric Hospital-Haverstraw-Thiells-Rockland County-NY-Untapped Cities-026Administration Building on the officer’s cottage side of the property 

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There were plans to convert more of Letchworth Village to other uses, but they appear to be on hold at the moment. This is a great day exploratio,legally if you follow the rules, less than two hours from New York City.

Next, check out out 10 of NYC’s abandoned hospitals and asylums.

 abandoned, Abandoned NYC, Haverstraw, Letchworth Village, Rockland County

10 Responses
  1. My Aunt, Uncle n cousin worked at Letchworth…… I would go visit them often… I can still remember the ‘smell of the place… My Aunt was an operator n my cousin worked in the cafeteria… I would go into the cafeteria and the patients would want to touch me… I’m sorry to say that it freaked me out! Years later my kids actually went to a after school program on the site. Many many memories here.

  2. I remember passing by the place every weekend on the way to my Grandmothers house in Stony Point as a kid and me, my brother and sister used to wave at the patients milling about outside as we drove by and they would always wave back with big smiles on their faces.

    • First among the people who you saw waving, Kevin, was likely a man by the name of Walter Barker – who died in the early 2000’s, or so. He made a regular habit of standing near the blinking yellow light on the main road which dissected the institution into two pieces and waving vigorously at the many cars which passed by. He was a hard worker who actually held a Civil Service job working on the trucks which delivered various things to the “units”, and it gave him great delight to flash that wonderful smile of his. He had an outgoing personality and is one of those “unforgettable characters” of whom I wrote last spring.

  3. Kim Murphy Reply

    My twin uncles lived in Letchworth Village from the age of 9 to 23 years old. (In the 1940’s and 1950’s) They have spoken of the horrible abuse that they endure their 14 years living there. My one uncle passed six years ago. My uncle that is still alive was just telling me today of how they were both beaten with baseball bats when they were nine years old and how the smell of urine was overwhelming. It saddens me so deeply to know that they had to experience this. Thank God places like these are now closed.

    • Erika Lopez Cruz Reply

      hello,im making a documentary about letchworth and was wondering if i could talk over the phone with your uncle about his experience? sorry to trouble you
      email is justerika09@gmail.com

  4. I started working at Letchworth Village in February of 1979 at the age of 19 and remained there until March of 1988 – at which time I transferred to a community-based group home for an additional 26 years. My times “on grounds” were memorable ones. Early reforms had begun to take place after Geraldo Rivera’s filmed expose’ of 1972. Many of the “residents” had begun the process of preparing to be moved to Community Residences and overcrowding conditions had been greatly reduced. A lot of the residents, as well as many of the staff, were unforgettable “characters” – some good, and some (unfortunately) bad. I learned much about humanity from some wonderful people – and also witnessed a fair amount of others’ lower nature. The experience was an almost-surreal mix of highs and lows, but I choose to remember more about the good times and the people who made me smile or laugh – whether they lived there or worked there. Like Keith , I think that the photos are great and I can identify many of the locations – they bring it all back home. I’ve been retired for several years now and live in another state, but will never forget those formative and instructive years that I spent “on grounds” in Thiells.

  5. To Keith,
    I have a young aunt who was sent there and I was wondering if I could ask you about your experience?
    Marion

  6. Great pictures. So haunting.
    This was the first place I ever worked. I lived just up the road a bit on Willow Grove Rd. and it was the place to go for a job sort of like living in a factory town. There were some great people there both residents and staff, pleasant places did exist but that was the exception.
    I was not prepared nor expected to see what I saw, hear the sounds or smell the smells. So many quit within the first few minutes
    I’m in my 60’s now but my memories from my teens will always remain so vivid.

  7. You mentioned in the story about “This is a great day exploratio,legally if you follow the rules, less than two hours from New York City” … did you have contact information about touring the facility .. I am one of 6 photographers who have been into abandoned property exploration for about a year now … would love any insight you could provide to touring this facility “legally.”

    Thank you

    • michelle young Reply

      Hi Joseph, Letchworth Village is now a park so you can visit it but entering the buildings is still illegal. Hope that helps!

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