Kings Park Psychiatric Center

So nice I had to go twice…and will probably go again.

Like several of the mental facilities I have visited, Kings Park Psychiatric Center is a gigantic sprawling campus (521 acres!). I barely scratched the surface on my first visit, and maybe am now half-way through seeing everything after my second. Once the snow thaws, I’ll most likely be back for my third.

Come on in and join us.

Come on in!

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Cornish Estate Ruins

Sometimes it’s a breath of fresh air to take a walk through the woods and not have to worry about the police showing up.

Fireplace Jenga, anyone?

Hidden away in the forest are a small collection of ruins from the Cornish Estate (otherwise known as Northgate the the people who lived there). In 1917, Edward J. Cornish and his wife, Selina, purchased the 650 acre estate from a Chicago diamond merchant Sigmud Stern, who had built the estate 5 years earlier. At the time, the area was subject to intense mining projects, ones that threatened to destroy the face of nearby Mount Taurus. Edward, whose home was close enough to the quarries that it shook with every blast, began to worry about protecting his property as his health began to fail in the 1930s. He offered his estate for sale to the Taconic State Park Commission in 1936, however they declined claiming that the site was “not at all adaptable for a park area,” despite developing parks on several properties nearby (I’m going to take a wild guess that they soon regretted that decision).

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Dundas Castle

Dundas Castle has been on my list of places to visit for a while, but I had been holding it off until the warmer months, as I could imagine nothing more magical than a fairy tale-looking castle surrounded by lush green foliage…and I certainly wasn’t wrong.

Case and point.

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Letchworth Village

A lot of people have asked me where I discover these abandoned places that I visit. Sometimes I just stumble upon them. Sometimes it’s from internet research. But back when I was dating, I received a lot of recommendations from online dating. I had a little mention in my profile about how I liked visiting abandoned places, and all of these men came out of the woodwork asking me if I knew about such-and-such place. Their attempts at breaking the ice were almost always ignored (sorry fellas), but I wrote down all of these places, and called up someone else to see if they wanted to visit this new place I just heard about. Letchworth Village was one of those places. Thanks OkCupid – at least you were good for something.

The girls' campus, 1922

The girls’ campus, 1922

Letchworth Village, officially known as Letchworth Village Home for the Feeble Minded and Epileptics, opened its doors in Thiells, NY in 1911 with a 130 buildings located atop a sprawling 2,362 acre lawn. It was named after William Pryor Letchworth, a noted humanitarian and philanthropist, who was familiar with institutional conditions. The hospitals original intentions were noble, aiming to provide the utmost quality in care for the patients. Read More

Boyce Thompson Institute

The Boyce Thompson Institute is one of less menacing places I’ve visited. Located in an barren industrial park in Yonkers, with an Applebee’s directly across the way, this abandoned botany institute has been left alone for years, with the city hoping that some derelict will burn it down so they do not have to pay money to either raze or develop it (or so I’ve been told). The institute was initially founded by copper magnate William Boyce Thompson. The land was purchased in the early 1900s with the intent of building a summer home upon it (His Alder Manor still sits across the street from the institute. This, however, was purchased and renovated, now a prominent wedding venue). In 1917, Thomspson went to Russia with the Red Cross – a mission sent by President Woodrow Wilson to keep Russia in World War I and to encourage the formation of democratic governments (all under the guise of a relief mission, of course). With the Tsarist Monarchy recently overthrown in the Russian Revolution of 1917, the city lay in a state of poverty. Citizens were deprived of the basic human necessities, living in the streets, and slowly starving to death as a revolution tore cities apart around them. Deeply moved by what he saw, Thompson returned with a new mission: to help the needy in his own home by finding a sustainable food supply – and thus set out to build a horticulture institute on his remaining land.

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Hudson River State Hospital

Originally, on this outing, I had planned to go to the Bennet School for Girls in Millbrook, NY, a stunning old wooden structure built in the Victorian Era. Much to my displeasure, a brand new chain link fence with barbed wire had recently been erected around it, with signs threatening arrest. The most off-putting of all was that this was located in the middle of a housing tract where all of the residents appeared to keep a very close eye on the property. Every time we drove through someone was always watching. We parked the car to have a closer look, and people from a near by building stuck their heads out, and made sure we noticed that we were being watched. Sadly, it looks like the Bennet School is being chalked up as a loss for all future urban explorers.

No Bennet School for us. *tears*

Not wanting to waste this trip, I checked in with my Google Doc (I keep a document with all of the abandoned places I want to visit, categorized by the area they are located. Hi – I’m a nerd), and saw that the Hudson River State Hospital was just a quick drive down the road. Trip saved!

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Arthur Kill Ship Graveyard

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When I first started to date my boyfriend, I decided by our fourth date it was appropriate to drag him to the Arthur Kill Ship Graveyard in Staten Island. It was a little rainy and I didn’t quite anticipate just how muddy it was actually going to be. Wading through knee deep mud is romantic, right? I don’t think I’ve had so much mud caked on my body since playing high school soccer in the rain. But, neither of us lost a boot (we saw some abandoned shoes scattered throughout the space), he didn’t contract tetanus despite scraping his head on a rusty nail, and he still seems to like me, so I call that a success.
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