Kings Park Psychiatric Center is huge. It was once a mostly self sustained city of patients, doctors, nurses and a wide range of support staff. Therefor, it is a difficult place to fit into one blog post. So, Kings Park will be broken up into a series of posts. The posts may or may not follow one another but all will have a link to the other posts in the series. The first post will give a general history of Kings Park and the photos will focus on the patient’s quarters, since patients were fundamentally what the place was built for.
King’s Park Psychiatric Center (KPPC) opened in 1885 to reduce New York City hospital overcrowding. Like many other mental health facilities at the time, treatment was based on providing a relaxing environment in a pastoral setting, as well as giving patients a sense of purpose by having them work. The center was founded as a farm colony, which meant that patients helped raise crops and tend to the livestock used to feed those who lived there as part of their treatment.
As psychiatric medicine advanced, the center evolved. Kings Park grew to include over 100 buildings and once housed more than 9,000 patients. In addition, there was housing for medical workers, support staff and families visiting patients. Some of the “advanced” medical treatment for the mentally ill employed by the hospital included shock therapy and lobotomy. With the invention of Thorazine and other drugs like it, as well as changing views on patient’s rights, large scale internment of the mentally ill became less necessary. This led to the shrinking of in patient populations, which in turn considerably lowered demand for large psychiatric treatment centers like Kings Park. In fact, in developed countries, virtually all of the facilities like Kings Park have been mostly abandoned or repurposed.
Exploring the Place
Kings Park was my first and is my favorite urban exploration site to photograph so far in spite of its current state of decay. Although, I have been told that the Hudson River State Hospital is a lot more interesting, it is no longer accessible without considerable risk of being caught and arrested. So, KPPC will have to do for now. The place is totally trashed but given its dark past, interesting architectural features and scale of abandonment, it’s a fascinating place to explore, photograph and research.
When visiting or reading about KPPC, it seems like everybody wants to explore building 93 first. However, I didn’t find it as interesting as some of the other buildings and being the first building I visited (before I had a decent camera) my photos of it aren’t as good, sorry. So, going in numerical order, I’ll get us off to a creepy start with building 15.
Building 15, also known as the Wisteria House, is on the other side of a meadow from building 93. The Neoclassical style building was a maximum security patient facility constructed in 1939 to house violent patients. Pretty creepy right? One thing I would like to note is that the interior doesn’t seem to be designed to house anyone dangerously insane.
Buildings 41-43, or simply the Quad, was used to house female patients. The buildings were designed in a Neoclassical style with some modernist geometry.The Quad is three buildings linked to create a central dining area flanked by two connected wings. These buildings are my favorite for the creep factor. The place is like a vast maze of rooms, corridors, stairways and interior courtyards. At the time the photos were taken there was only one good way in or out. If you get separated from your friends or if something bad happens there is no cell phone signal and no one to hear you scream. So, it is easy to get lost and let your imagination run wild. I did get lost and split up from the two friends I entered with. While a little disconcerting, it made for a more intimate exploration of the building.
Kings Park had originally resisted constructing high-rise type buildings due to their association with inhumane treatment of the mentally ill. However, soaring demand in the 1930s necessitated building skyward. Constructed 1939-1941, building 93 is the tallest and most imposing structure on the Kings Park campus. For that reason it garners the most attention from explorers. Likely due to its popularity, building 93 also garners the most attention from the New York State Park Police. About ten minutes after I finished taking the photos above they entered the building en masse. Also, on a separate occasion the friends who had told me about KPPC never entered the building because park employees were already inside when they got there. Building 93 is interesting; although, I found buildings 41-43 to be a lot more fun to explore.
To show the human side of the former large psychiatric hospitals, I’ll leave you with a link to a website about James Edward Deeds and his art. James Edward Deeds was a man committed for life to an institution similar to Kings Park. His drawings, a body of work from when he was institutionalized, were discovered a few years ago and offer a tragically beautiful glimpse into the life of a man committed to an asylum.
- Ellis, Will “Kings Park Psychiatric Center Building 93” Abandoned NYC 17 June, 2014
- Medina, Jason “KPPC: A Journey Through History” www.kppcajourneythroughhistory.webs.com
- “The Abandoned Kings Park Psych Hospital Ruins” untappedcities.com 9 March, 2016
- Saal, Robert “My KPPC Pictures” KPPC History.com