The Saratoga County Homestead sits idly on a hill in the tranquil yet remote hamlet of Barkersville, New York, some fifteen miles outside of Saratoga Springs. Once a valiant hospital of its time, the Homestead now resembles something out of an Edgar Allan Poe work of horror. Motorists on County Highway 16 slow down to admire its four, regal-like columns of the road-facing facade. Decades of vandalism and decay give the building an ominous aura. Abandoned since 1973, the Homestead served several purposes during its short period of operation, most notably as a tuberculosis hospital serving Saratoga County. While its history is short and seemingly less grandiose compared to New York City’s Neponsit Beach and Seaview Hospitals of the time, the Homestead served patients throughout the tuberculosis crisis which plagued much of New York during the first half of the century. Its history is remembered as thus.
Front entrance of the administrative wing, Saratoga County Homestead, 2020
In 1909, New York State legislature mandated that every county open sanatoriums and hospitals to deal with the ongoing tuberculosis crisis which had reached near epidemic proportions by the end of the 19th century. Barkersville in 1914 saw the opening of the Homestead Sanatorium as a refuge from consumption for the people of Saratoga County. The property was described as a “secluded, well-wooded area with sweet and wholesome air.” In the beginning, the sanatorium could accommodate and treat twenty-four patients. As the cases of tuberculosis in New York State increased, the Homestead would undergo a massive expansion in 1936. Its wooden structure being replaced by brick, embellished with decorative moldings, marble columns, and large windows and solariums to circulate the fresh Adirondack mountain air that was thought essential to the treatment process.
Main stairwell, Saratoga County Homestead, 2020
Patients under the care of the Homestead had a strict regimen of rest. Exercise was closely monitored. Dancing as well as alcohol, cigarettes, and foul language was prohibited according to the sanatorium’s handbook. In order to reduce the risk of infection, patients were not allowed to carry handkerchiefs. Instead, patients carried a sputum box that collected phlegm which in turn was collected by doctors to test for tuberculosis. Children patients attended school at the Homestead and often attended class shirtless so that the fresh air could better penetrate their lungs.
Theater, Saratoga County Homestead, 2020
By 1960, the development of antibiotics such as streptomycin led to the phasing out of sanatoriums across the country. Neponsit Beach Hospital in Queens had already closed as a tuberculosis sanatorium and was in the process of reopening as a nursing home. Staten Island‘s Seaview Hospital which was instrumental in finding the cure for TB closed in 1961. The last patients of Saratoga County Homestead left in August of 1960 and became the Saratoga County Infirmary the next year. It would treat geriatric patients until 1973 when it closed for good.
Male patient ward, Saratoga County Homestead, 2020
Forty-seven years after its closing and nearly decimated by vandals, Saratoga County Homestead is now under new ownership. Small renovations have started with the goal of turning the building into a retreat for veterans. What once served as a cure for some, will eventually receive a remedy of its own.
John Lazzaro is a Long Island-based photographer specializing in New York’s vanishing architecture. His wider range of work can be viewed on his website: johnlazzarophoto.com