New York City is no stranger to abandoned buildings. Abandoned hospitals and asylums are some of the most well-worn destinations on the urban explorer path, and the areas just outside of the city are loaded with many institutional buildings that have been left to crumble.
When these hospitals were constructed, the commonly accepted theory was that fresh air and sunlight was the best medicine a patient could receive. This encouraged the construction of hospitals outside of the city, where a patient could be properly treated. The further one travels from New York City, forgotten hospitals become a more common sight, left to ruin as the philosophy on healthcare shifted from rural isolation to local care in the last century.
Here are 10 abandoned hospitals in the area outside of New York City.
10. Hudson River State Hospital, Poughkeepsie, NY
The Hudson River State Hospital, a former state psychiatric hospital in Poughkeepsie, was constructed in 1871 as a part of the Kirkbride Plan. The Kirkbride Plan was pioneered by Thomas Story Kirkbride and utilized a new method to treat the mentally ill, as opposed to being thrown into county jails and prisons, called “Moral Treatment.”
Kirkbride envisioned treatment facilities that were humane, designing the hospitals with massive buildings where air and light circulation were key to the patients’ treatment. Some of the country’s best architects worked with Kirkbride to design the facility, including Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted, the designers behind Central Park.
The Hudson River State Hospital was operational from 1871 to 2003 until the 160 acres and countless buildings became too crowded and was forced to close. The facility has been abandoned since its closing 14 years ago.
9. Letchworth Village, Thiells, New York
A former dormitory for boys located within the facility grounds.
Letchworth Village is a former institution for the mentally and physically disabled in Haverstraw, New York in Rockland County. Constructed in 1911, the facility was modeled after Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia plantation, Monticello, following the concept that fresh air and sunlight were the best medicine for the mentally ill.
The Thiells facility was the unfortunate location in which many patients were used as human guinea pigs to test experimental clinical trials. Perhaps the most notable experiments were the trials to test the polio vaccine, which happened to be the first experiments for the vaccine in the world using a human test subject.
Letchworth Village closed in 1996 but remains open to the public as a local park to walk the grounds and observe the deteriorating buildings. Paths through the grounds are paved and visitors are only allowed on the paved portions, while the buildings themselves are strictly forbidden from entering due to their poor state.
8. Kings Park Psychiatric Hospital, Kings Park, New York
Kings Park Psychiatric Hospital on Long Island opened its doors in 1885 as a solution to New York State’s surrounding overcrowded mental institutions and was the largest state-funded for a period of time. The 800-acre institution was a self sustaining facility with farms and railroad spurs to bring in supplies like coal.
A majority of the patients were assigned to farming duties to encourage the importance of fresh air and because it was believed to be a therapeutic exercise.
As the facility kept expanding, eventually large enough to provide its own heat and electricity, the population kept increasing as well, causing overcrowding throughout the 1950s before patient population steadily decreased. The hospital closed its doors permanently in 1996. But like Letchworth Village, a portion of the grounds remain available to the public to explore as a county park but the buildings are strictly off-limits.
7. Hagedorn Psychiatric Hospital, Glen Gardner, New Jersey
Part of the New Jersey State Tuberculosis Sanatorium near where the Hagedorn Psychiatric Hospital was later built. Image from Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey
New Jersey opened its first and only state owned and operated sanitarium in 1907. The Hagedorn Psychiatric Hospital is located at the end of a mountain road named Sanatorium Road in Glen Gardner, New Jersey.
The facility was fairly ahead of its time regarding treatments, as it kept its methods long into the 1950s while some sanatoriums around the country gradually shifted their treatments to fit the new standards of psychiatric hospitals.
The hospital broadened the list of diseases it was suitable to treat in 1950, but was ultimately shut down in the late 1970s. It was next to this abandoned hospital that Hagedorn was built, initially as a state nursing home but eventually shifting to a psychiatric hospital. Although the buildings were separated, Hagedorn Psychiatric Hospital was really only an extension of the former hospital abandoned next door.
Ultimately, Hagedorn was closed in 2011 to cut spending.
6. Rockland Psychiatric Center, Orangeburg, New York
The Rockland Psychiatric Center opened in 1931 in Orangeburg, New York, and is one of the only locations on this list that is still partially being used as it was initially intended. But like many psychiatric centers in the 20th century, the facility began to decline as it turned to more controversial treatment methods.
Today, Rockland Psychiatric Center still operates in a portion of the complex’s newer buildings, while its older structures remain abandoned and continue to age. The inhabited portion holds approximately 400 beds, and is home to patients with severe psychiatric illnesses, such as schizophrenia.
The facility has become a pop culture celebrity because some of the buildings have been used as a primary shooting location for the Netflix television show Orange is the New Black.
5. Pilgrim Psychiatric Center, Brentwood, New York
The facility steadily grew throughout its heyday, essentially becoming its own little town. The institution had its own police department, fire department, court, power plant, and its own Long Island Railroad station, among other things.
The Pilgrim State Psychiatric Center remains operational today, yet drastically smaller than it once was. Much of the land has been sold and converted for other uses, while some of the buildings have remained intact but abandoned.
4. Trenton Psychiatric Hospital, Trenton, New Jersey
The Trenton Psychiatric Hospital was founded in 1848 by Dorothea Lynde Dix, a pioneer in the advancement of mental institutions. The facility was New Jersey’s first public mental hospital.
Like many of the psychiatric hospitals of the time, treatment practices eventually took a dark turn. In 1907, Dr. Henry Cotton began his successful tenure as the medical director of the facility, but in 1913 he developed some disturbing treatment theories. Dr. Cotton believed that mental illness was caused by infections within the body after discovering that an untreated case of syphilis could cause such disorders. He began to have his staff remove limbs and teeth to “treat” his patients, and consistently used surgery as a “cure.” These practices continued into the 1960s even after Cotton’s death in 1933.
Today, portions of the facility are still active as a psychiatric hospital, yet some of the older buildings are abandoned and strictly off limits to the public
Fun Fact: Nobel prize winning mathematician John Forbes Nash was once a patient in Trenton Psychiatric Hospital in 1961.
3. Harlem Valley Psychiatric Center, Dover, New York
The Harlem Valley Psychiatric Center, originally Harlem Valley State Hospital, opened in 1924 in the town of Dover, New York. The facility utilized the open air and spacious grounds concept, stretching across nearly 900 acres and more than 80 buildings, patients were encouraged to get outside and be active. A baseball field, golf course, bowling alley, and diary farm were all located within the grounds to promote healthy living.
The center gradually lost many of its patients due to the increase in psychotropic drugs, like Thorazine, and closed its doors in 1994. Recently, part of the property was sold to Olivet Management LLC who has turned part of the former hospital facility into the evangelical college, Olivet University. Many buildings remain abandoned however, though the grass has been cut and weeds removed from the buildings.
2. Middletown State Homeopathic Hospital, Middletown, New York
The Middletown State Homeopathic Hospital is located in Middletown, New York and was first opened in 1874. At the time of its opening, the facility was the country’s first purely homeopathic hospital for mental disorders, which meant that the facility was home to many new techniques that were deemed obscure. Patients were treated with arts activities, an institutional newsletter written by the patients themselves, strict dietary regiments, and most famously, baseball.
The hospital’s baseball team, the Middletown Asylums, began playing in 1889 and eventually began playing some of the region’s best teams, including the New York Giants. Some of the team’s players even went on to play in the majors.
The hospital was eventually closed in 2006 and was left abandoned.
1. Fairfield Hills State Hospital, Newtown, Connecticut
Fairfield Hills State Hospital opened in Newtown, Connecticut in 1931 to help alleviate some of the state’s overpopulation issues in its other mental institutions. The facility was constructed across 770 acres and its 16 buildings were all connected by underground tunnels.
The tunnels were mainly used to transport patients between treatments and laboratories, confinement rooms, operating rooms, and in the unfortunate cases, the morgue.
At its peak, the hospital could contain 4,000 patients, but the ratio of patient-to-doctor had always been an issue with the facility.
The grounds were partially redeveloped in 2009, long after its closing in 1995. Some of the buildings are being used as offices or for commercial use, but many remain untouched since its last residents were moved to other facilities. Open to the public, exploration of the grounds is highly encouraged, although any vacant buildings are off limits.
With many out-of-operation hospitals being either renovated or demolished, the number of abandoned buildings left to explore are slowly dwindling, making now as good of a time as any to experience them while they’re still here.
Next, check out 10 of NYC’s Abandoned Hospitals and Asylums, or Inside NYC’s Abandoned Paramount Theater on Staten Island. Get in touch with the author on Instagram @mjohnathonrich.