Kings Park Psychiatric Center is a former mental hospital that now sits abandoned on Long Island. The ruins of Long Island’s Kings Park Psychiatric Center are often described as the perfect setting for a horror movie, and sure enough, several have been shot here. It housed more than 9,000 patients at its peak in the 1950s
Operational from 1885 to 1996, the center spent its 111-year run alleviating overcrowded hospitals within Brooklyn borough limits. The entire site has been falling into disrepair since its closure in, and it now contains a unique and poignant beauty. It once housed thousands of New York’s mentally ill, and the treatments performed at this institution were shocking by today’s standards.
Kings Park Lunatic Asylum was established in 1885 in order to deal with overcrowding in nearby asylums. However, due to “complaints of patronage and waste of resources” arising from both the asylum’s staff and general public, the state of New York took over the asylum only ten years later, and the name was changed to Kings Park State Hospital. Early in its history, Kings Park was composed of a group of cottages meant to avoid the high rise asylum model which was already viewed as inhumane.
But demand soared as the population skyrocketed in New York City into the 1930s, and in 1939 the institution resorted to constructing Building 93, a 13-story structure whose design was strikingly similar to what it had sought to avoid. Over the next 20 years, 150 buildings would be operating on the grounds to meet the expanding needs of the hospital. Building 136 was added as a medical support building, Building 138 was for patient wards with Building 139 as a kitchen and dining hall for those wards. Separately, Buildings 40, 41 and 42 were completed for geriatric and ambulatory patients.
Built on a sprawling 800 acres, KPPC quickly grew into a self-sufficient farming operation, complete with its own railroad spurs for the delivery of coal and supplies. The hospital had its own farmland, cow barn, piggery, butcher shop, tailor, morgue, and power plant. The hospital started out as a farm colony, where patients tended the fields and grew their own food. This was the primary mode of therapy at the time.
Patients continued to flood the center until its population peaked at over 9,300 in 1954. By the time Kings Park reached its peak patient population, the old “rest and relaxation” philosophy surrounding farming had been succeeded by more invasive techniques like pre-frontal lobotomies and electro-shock therapy (which KPPC touts the badge of being one of the first facilities to utilize such techniques). These procedures, while viewed as groundbreaking at the time, were given to patients often without their consent, and in some cases, used as punitive measures for unruly patients.
Over the next several decades, the crowded psychiatric center with once-questionable practices saw its population steadily decline as medicated regimens with drugs such as Thorazine were popularized as a form of treatment and advocated attempted to move patients into smaller community facilities. The need for such a large facility began to decrease with this new outpatient treatment, and throughout the country, similar facilities were beginning to shutter.
As a result, the population was dwindling by the 1990s, and many buildings were shut down. In 1996, the State of New York closed the facility and the few remaining patients were transferred to Pilgrim Psychiatric Center. Today, some of the buildings still stand, abandoned and rotting, while others have been demolished. The former hospital grounds are now the site of Nissequogue State Park.
By the end of 2006, the remaining acres of the hospital land were added to the state park. Full of looming buildings and stark architecture, KPPC today stands at a contrast to the beauty of the environment surrounding it. Today, less than 20 hospital buildings remain of what was once one of the largest institutions for the mentally ill.
On August 13th, 2012, demolition began on two of the abandoned buildings: Building 123 (Group 2), and Cafe 56. The destruction of the rest of the buildings has been slow. Some of the more stable buildings, like Building 93, are still receiving proposals of what to be done – one being to turn it into luxury apartments.