Current Print Sale: For the next little while, a special gallery of prints from Creedmoor State Hospital, most never offered for sale in any form, will be available at 50% off the usual SmugMug prices. So if you want to own a (representational) piece of this hospital, now's your chance!
Queens' Creedmoor State Hospital (now Creedmoor Psychiatric Center) had its humble beginnings as the farm colony for Brooklyn State Hospital (now Kingsboro). A prevailing theme in the treatments of the period was that fresh air, a rustic environment, and hard work could help restore the faculties damaged by diseases like dementia praecox and hysteria.
So it was that in 1912, Creedmoor unofficially opened with an initial populace of 32 patients deemed curable; the farmland was worked, which in turn meant less expense for the pantries of the local state hospitals. But the overcrowding typical of public mental hospitals in the first half of this century soon took hold at Creedmoor, which was granted status as an independent psychiatric hospital, and which grew exponentially - by the 50s, there were over 8,000 patients housed in over fifty buildings, including the highrise hospital which is still in use.
But with the advent of Thorazine and similar antipsychotic medications, and the trimming of state hospital budgets (especially under Reagan), deinstitutionalization occurred. The state hospitals were emptied, and large portions of most of the campuses fell into disuse. Creedmoor was no exception. Over the last several decades, the patient population has declined from over 5,000 to under 500. Large portions of the campus were sold off.
One building that is disused but has not been sold off or demolished is Building 25. Among the oldest buildings left on the campus, it was vacated in the early 1970s, and has scarcely been revisited since - with the exception of a squatter who seems to be in it for the long haul. Anecdotally, he has been living in the building for over half a decade; his robust squat (not photographed out of concern for his privacy) would seem to confirm this. While these photos were taken, he was angrily pacing outside the building, acutely aware that his home had been invaded.
Each floor is comprised of a long hallway intersected on either end by a perpendicular wing; one half of each wing was a sunny dorm, in which dozens of patients would have had cots. The other half of each wing was a hallway full of seclusion rooms. The violent, ill-behaved, and incurable patients would live in these tiny rooms, each with a solid metal door. The main hallway connecting the wings contained, on each floor, a kitchen and dining hall, and a number of rooms used for other nonresidential purposes, from storage to lithography.
One of the main hallways which connected the wings.
A standard dorm, capable of accommodating a great number of patients.
A seclusion hallway with private rooms.
This one belonged to Mrs. B. Shaw.
Past each wing, at either end of the long hall, was a dayroom. Patients who were behaved would spend their days here, watching television or playing boardgames, engaging in group therapy or staring at the wall, numbed by powerful sedatives.
A dayroom at the Western end of the third floor.
View from another dayroom towards primary wing junction.
Here are various other scenes from the second and third floors of the hospital; the first floor is boarded off and too dark to shoot.
Two blue chairs have been torn apart by animals under a patient mural, a common sight in abandoned state hospitals.
Wheelchairs have been collected and piled up in a number of adjoining rooms on the second floor.
Layers of paint peel back from the wall.
Another seclusion hall, at the end of which is a heavy grated window typical of this hospital building.
A room on the third floor contains a pair of lithographic presses, a pair of typewriters, and a cash register.
Surprisingly, scrappers seem not to have made any attempts on the copper in this structure.
Research still sits on a desk in a doctor's study, ready to be leafed through.
The third floor cafeteria, later used for chair storage.
The fourth floor is interesting because it contains the evidence of 35+ years' worth of pigeon inhabitance. There are pigeon droppings everywhere; in places, they are knee deep due to accumulation under pigeon "hangouts" - pipes, fixtures, and other perches. It makes for a rather surreal effect, though one starts to get a headache after about 10 minutes on this floor.
Fourth floor dayroom.
Fourth floor seclusion hall.
A chair, sunken into the filth.
Fourth floor bathroom.
But above all this filth and squalor, still partially hidden behind a layer of pink paint, the Virgin Mary shines her beatific smile down upon the empty dayroom, innocently ignorant of the suffering, healing, and humanity which once graced this building.
Images from Jacques Toussaint Benoit, another local photoblogger, are available at the Pasilalinic-Sympathetic Compass.