Monday, March 31, 2008

Creedmoor State Hospital, Building 25

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.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Floyd Bennett Field: Hangars 3 & 4 Steam Plant

Floyd Bennett Field was New York City's first municipal airfield; from its opening in 1931 until the unveiling of LaGuardia in 1939, it was the only one. Decommissioned in 1971, control of the field passed to the National Parks Service, for inclusion in the Gateway National Recreation Area. The hangars nearest to Flatbush Avenue, eight original hangars spread amongst four buildings, were designated a historic district, as was the original administration building.

However, the NPS has not done a very good of keeping the property up. While hangars 5-8 were adapted for reuse as a sports complex, arguably compromising their historic character, hangars 1-4 have been left to rot.

Here is a glimpse into the steam plant which powered hangars 3 & 4; notes and remnants remain which allow one to trace its use into the late 60s, at which point it was apparently decommissioned as the airfield sputtered into disuse.

Three boilers provided steam for the pair of hangars.

On the side of one of the boilers, a worker has solved a math equation.

Fuseboxes for boilers 2 and 3.

A red steam control valve sits under some asbestos insulation sloughing off a connected pipe.

Switches to control the blower, compressor, and oil pump.

A workers' log notes issues with maintenance of the burners and boilers.

Some yellow liquid remains in a glass tube attached to another steam valve.

A square pressure gauge at the head of one of the boilers.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Dead Horse Bay

Yes, this is Brooklyn.

Dead Horse Bay, just west of Floyd Bennett Field, was at one point a marshland that the city of New York found to be an opportune area for a garbage dump. Some time in the 30s, this usage ceased, and the landfill was covered over with sand from Jamaica Bay; it was left alone this way for decades, in order to allow a natural beach to form.

But instead, the landfill rejected her cache - spitting relics of another time back into the ocean. And in return, the ocean bandied them about, and tossed them back to shore. This is where we wandered, over the weekend; a virgin beach marred only by the mementos of a foregone age.

A number of tires have washed up on a corner of the beach still littered with porcelain and glass.

Shoe leather wades in the currents.

A large rusty nail, still anchored into wood, provides a glimpse of a disparate shipwreck, one piece of which found the Bay.

It's not all a story of regurgitated relics. Here, the landfill beach seems almost normal; a tree has grown its roots into the dirt of ages.

A ship's prow sticks out boldly into the horizon, not minding the fact that it was forgotten a long, long time ago.

The landfill beach regurgitated these ribbons, which found their way back to the beach, to be caught up in the roots of a stalwart sapling.

The remnants found on this beach include everything, including the kitchen sink. Here, one of the spigots is still attached.

An old bottle dances in the sun and the current of the ocean.

One of several derelict boats finds itself half-buried in the sand.

That same boat takes on an ominous character under the skies which threaten storms.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Admiral's Row - further exploration

While photographing Admiral's Row last week, one of the things which presented a challenge was pulling personality and individuality out of structures which seemed almost methodically sterilized. There were great architectural flourishes to be sure, but these reveal little of the human element within the structures. On the other hand, traces of residency were fairly scant in all but quarters H and L, which had current and recent squatters respectively.

After the Navy was done with the Row, the various quarters were used in the civilian sector for a number of years before they fell into abandonment. When the last residents moved out, they cleaned house quite well - that, or they were cleaned up after; very few traces of personality remain outside of the architectural character of the buildings themselves. But this is not to say that there are no revealing little details to be seen. They're there, and here are a few.

Here's the front entryway to Quarters D:

And here's the porthole door seen at the end of that hallway, a symbol of the structure's assigned purpose:

The solarium in Quarters G:

And a the peeling paint on the wall in there:

And here's a few more.

Some lovely wallpaper in Quarters E.

Quarters L wallpaper, slaked off and fallen to the ground.

Bathroom drinking cup, Quarters B.

The parlor in Quarters D.

One of many newspapers discarded in Quarters L, still clearly used as a residence by a squatter with a taste for Juicy Juice and potato chips.

Tennis Court Rules.

One of very few pieces of nonarchitectural evidence inside the structures which indicates their original use.