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abandoned places

Farm Colony

This tag is associated with 3 posts

Last Days of the Staten Island Farm Colony

Eerie ruins of the Staten Island Farm Colony

A ruined Farm Colony dormitory seen through the trees.

Part of what makes abandoned buildings so captivating is that their existence is ephemeral, they cannot remain decayed and crumbling forever, and inevitably that means saying goodbye.

Admittedly, the Staten Island Farm Colony is not one of the most spectacular places I’ve seen, (the interiors have been completely destroyed by vandalism) but it remains the one place I’ve come back to more than any other. What’s always impressed me about it is its changeability. The place is reborn with every season, and I suppose that’s true of all abandoned buildings, but I’m always struck by it at the Farm Colony. In the height of summer, its jungle-like atmosphere lends it the look of a fallen Aztec empire, which is almost unrecognizable in the cooler months. It’s haunting in the fall when the fog rolls in, and desolate in the winter when ice and snow blanket the buildings inside and out. Through 40 years of abandonment, the Farm Colony is as ever-changing as the natural world that engulfs it, but it’s looking more and more definite that this historic district will be undergoing a final, permanent transformation in the days ahead.

The Farm Colony’s existing structures.

New renderings for the “Landmark Colony,” with several buildings preserved.

Last month, the Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously approved a proposal to bring 350 units of senior housing to the site, part of a large new development called “The Landmark Colony.”  In the process, the institution is returning to its historic function as a home for the elderly after a four decade hiatus. (The place was essentially a geriatric hospital when it closed down in the 1970s, though it had been established in the mid 19th century as a refuge for the poor.)  With five buildings saved and one kept as a stabilized ruin, the design will preserve much of the area’s architectural character. The remaining structures will be demolished and replaced with modern residential units, which is to be expected considering just how far gone some of these buildings are.

Several of the places I’ve photographed in the last few years have been set aside for renovation (The Domino Sugar Refinery, the Gowanus Batcave, and P.S. 186 to name a few.)  The Smith Infirmary, the old Machpelah Cemetery office, and most troublingly, the Harlem Renaissance Ballroom have not been so lucky.  It’s rare and encouraging when a structure is fortunate enough to get a second chance in this rapidly evolving city, but as positive as these changes are for their communities, a part of me still feels like something is lost.  I know I’m not the only one who’ll miss the Farm Colony and its embattled ruins, which have become a popular spot for paintballers and Staten Island teenagers to pass the time.

Here’s a series of photos I’ve taken over the last year in sweltering heat, biting cold, snow, rain, and fog. Hopefully I make it back one last time before these ancient grounds are covered with fresh paint and brimming with active retirees year-round.

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The Laundry and Industrial building will be preserved…

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…As will the Dining Hall. These are the two largest open spaces in the Farm Colony.

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Daylight trickles into a dark room adjacent to the cafeteria.

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An arched walkway on a lower floor is a rare example of architectural ornament.

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The Farm Colony’s most picturesque building is sadly slated for demolition.

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But a similar dormitory on the south side of the grounds will be stabilized and preserved as a ruin.

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Snow piles up after winter storms, turning to ice when the temperature fluctuates.

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A wintry bathroom.

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This bed is one of the only remaining artifacts from the institution’s past.

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Trees silhouetted against the clouds, projected through a camera obscura on the ground floor of a residence hall.


 

Now, if you’ll allow me to make a brief sales pitch…

 

Get an in-depth history of the Farm Colony in my upcoming book

 

Abandoned NYC is packed with 150 full-color photographs of sixteen of New York’s most beautiful and mysterious abandoned spaces, including several you haven’t seen on the blog, along with new images and updated essays from many of your favorites. I’ve kept this quiet up until now and I’m so excited to share it with all of you!  Stay tuned for signings and events in February.

 

 

Free Print when you order through this link!

 


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Video inside New York’s Derelict Institutions: “A History Abandoned”

Last month Vocativ.com followed me through three decaying institutions in New York City, resulting in a three part series, “A History Abandoned” which you can check out on YouTube.  If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to venture inside an abandoned building, these videos give you a pretty good idea.  Props to Vocativ for keeping the focus on the history.  Let me know what you think and if you’d like to see more like this in the future!

Episode 1: Kings Park Psychiatric Center

 

Episode 2: Letchworth Village

 

Episode 3: New York City Farm Colony

 

Head over to the brand new AbandonedNYC Print Shop to pick up some high quality prints of Letchworth, Kings Park, the Farm Colony, and other NYC hospitals, factories, and military sites.

-Will

 


 

But wait… There’s more! (Please excuse this brief sales pitch.)

 

Abandoned NYC, the book, is available for pre-order!

 

Abandoned NYC is packed with 150 full-color photographs of sixteen of New York’s most beautiful and mysterious abandoned spaces, including several you haven’t seen on the blog, along with new images and updated essays from many of your favorites. I’ve kept this quiet up until now and I’m so excited to share it with all of you!  Stay tuned for signings and events in February. :)

 

 

Free Print when you order through this link!

 


Legend Tripping in Letchworth Village

Ruins of Letchworth Village.

Letchworth Village rests on a placid corner of rural Thiells, a hamlet west of Haverstraw set amid the gentle hills and vales of the surrounding Ramapos.  A short stretch of modest farmhouses separates this former home for the mentally disabled from the serene Harriman State Park, New York’s second largest.  Nature has been quick to reclaim its dominion over these unhallowed grounds, shrouding an unpleasant memory in a thick green veil.  Abandonment becomes this “village of secrets,” intended from its inception to be unseen, forgotten, and silent as the tomb.

Owing to its reputed paranormal eccentricities, Letchworth Village has become a well-known subject of local legend.  These strange tales had me spooked as I turned the corner onto Letchworth Village Road after a suspenseful two-hour drive from Brooklyn.  Rounding a declining bend, I caught my first glimpse of Letchworth’s sprawling decay—some vine-encumbered ruin made momentarily visible through a stand of oak.  Down the hazy horseshoe lanes of the boy’s ward, one by one, the ghosts came out.

This map gives a sense of scale.  Most of these buildings still stand, altered or abandoned.

By the end of 1911, the first phase of construction had completed on this 2,362 acre “state institution for the segregation of the epileptic and feeble-minded.”  With architecture modeled after Monticello, the picturesque community was lauded as a model institution for the treatment of the developmentally disabled, a humane alternative to high-rise asylums, having been founded on several guiding principles that were revolutionary at the time.

The Minnisceongo Creek cuts the grounds in two, delineating areas for the two sexes which were meant never to mingle.  Separate living and training facilities for children, able-bodied adults, and the infirm were not to exceed two stories or house over 70 inmates.  Until the 1960s, the able-bodied labored on communal farms, raising enough food and livestock to feed the entire population.

1933 photo of Letchworth Village’s Girl’s Group

Sinister by today’s standards, the “laboratory purpose” was another essential tenet of the Letchworth plan.  Unable to give or deny consent, many children became unwitting test subjects—in 1950, the institution gained notoriety as the site of one of the first human trials of a still-experimental polio vaccine.  Brain specimens were harvested from deceased residents and stored in jars of formaldehyde, put on display in the hospital lab.  This horrific practice has become a favorite anecdote of ghost-hunters and adolescent explorers.

The well-intentioned plans for Letchworth Village didn’t hold up in practice, and by 1942, the population had swelled to twice its intended occupancy.  From here, the severely underfunded facility fell into a lengthy decline.  Many of the residents, whose condition necessitated ample time and attention for feeding, became seriously ill or malnourished as a result of overcrowding.  At one point, over 500 patients slept on mattresses in hallways and dayrooms of the facility, meagerly attended by a completely overwhelmed staff tasked with the impossible.

Having discontinued the use of the majority of its structures, and relocated most of its charges into group homes, the institution closed down in 1996 as old methods of segregating the developmentally disabled were replaced with a trend toward normalization and inclusion into society.  The state has made efforts to sell the property, with mixed results.  Most of the dilapidated structures were slated for demolition in 2004 to make way for a 450-unit condo development, but the plan has evidently been put on hold.  Ringed with ballfields and parking lots, shiny Fieldstone Middle School makes use of nine buildings of the former girl’s group, an island of promise in a landscape of failure.

Off Call Hollow Road, a new sign has been erected pointing out the “Old Letchworth Village Cemetery.”  Down a seldom-traveled path, an unusual crop of T-shaped markers congregate on a dappled clearing.  They’re graves, but they bear no names.

Few wished to remember their “defective” relatives, or have their family names inscribed in such a dishonorable cemetery—many family secrets are buried among these 900 deceased.  Here, in the presence of so many human lives devalued, displaced, and forgotten, the sorrow of Letchworth Village is keenly felt.

As part of a movement taking place across the country, state agencies and advocates funded the installation of a permanent plaque inscribed with the names of these silent dead, and a fitting epitaph: “To Those Who Shall Not Be Forgotten.”

Letchworth Village

Each of the six groups of buildings included eight small dormitories.

Letchworth Village

The hospital, north of the boy’s group, is known as Letchworth Village’s most haunted building.

Evidence of last night’s joyride on the hospital lawn.

Letchworth Village Fire

A dayroom library fueled the flames of an arson attempt.

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A small basement nook of unknown purpose, this was the only door of its kind.

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A storage area in the basement of Letchworth Village.

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An adjacent room was filled with hospital plasticware, some overflowed into this darkened hallway.

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A renegade paintball game left a gruesome mark on this room.

Letchworth Village Morgue

Cold storage.  The first room I came across in Letchworth Village, a morbid introduction.

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Moments after taking this photo, a group of young explorers entered through a side door.  I gave them quite a scare.

Letchworth Village

A dining hall is brought to light as its ceiling crumbles.

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The top floor of Stewart Hall has been thoroughly razed, but the bottom remains mostly intact.

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Fire damage visible on the lower floor.

A strange camera malfunction lasted the entire time I was in this building and stopped the moment I stepped out. It’s the closest I came to a paranormal experience.

Letchworth Village

Many of the cheaply made service buildings were in a similar state.

Even in broad daylight, the place is eerie.  Here, an ominous administration building.

Better late than never, a monument to Letchworth’s dead.


 

But wait… There’s more! (Please excuse this brief sales pitch.)

 

Delve deeper into the history of Letchworth Village with Abandoned NYC, the book!

 

Abandoned NYC is packed with 150 full-color photographs of sixteen of New York’s most beautiful and mysterious abandoned spaces, including several you haven’t seen on the blog, along with new images and updated essays on the history of these forgotten sites. I’ve kept this quiet up until now and I’m so excited to share it with all of you!  Stay tuned for signings and events in February. :)

 

 

Free Print when you order through this link!

 


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