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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