Mike Abadi had me on his public access show, VT Blogosphere TV last week, discussing my urban exploration photography. Damn, I’m so sexy and charming:
It’s been a long while since I’ve gotten out to do some urban exploring (or, in the following example, rural exploration). Me and the sweetie recently had a Catskills weekend, hitting up the old “Borscht Belt”, the term given to the region where in the middle part of the 20th century, many Jews from New York City and surrounding areas would come for vacation and leisure. With the advent of cheaper airfares, the resorts, such as the Tamarack, The Pines, and Grosssinger’s, among others, eventually saw business decline and they went out of business. With the exception of Grossinger’s (unless I’m missing something), they’ve all been torn down or burned down. The Tamarack, which we wanted to visit, burned down last month, on my birthday.
On the northern part of the Catskills, in the area between the Catskills and the Adirondacks, lies the small town of Sharon Springs. Back in the late 1800′s and early 1900′s, when the “restorative health spa” craze was all the rage (and, in many cases, on par with patent medicines in terms of actual efficacy), Sharon Springs was quite the hotspot, with its natural sulfur springs. The town was replete with massive hotels and boarding houses (many of which, after the Holocaust), catered to an immigrant Jewish clientele.
Much more, and slideshows, below the jump.
It had power before many other parts of Long Island did. About five miles of service tunnels connect many of the buildings underground.
The 13-story Building 93 (above) which housed geriatric patients, was at one time, the tallest building on Long Island.
Go below the jump for more…
Ok, now for part two (part one, of the Kirkbride, can be seen here). The abandoned hospital campus is something like 160 acres, it’s impossible to see it all in one day, or even two . South of the Kirkbride, there are newer buildings, such as Ryon Hall (1935), the Herman B. Snow Rehab Center (1971), which you’ll see a few of from in the slideshow above, and the massive, ten story Clarence O. Cheney Memorial Building, pictured above, which opened in 1952 (as a side note, on the Historic 51′s timeline page, you can see the dates certain buildings opened as well as read other interesting tidbits like “1957 – Lobotomy / Insulin Therapy – discontinued”). It’s so cold and soulless, you’d think it was the Dick Cheney Memorial Building, but unfortunately, he’s still alive.
Now, as you probably well know, I don’t believe in the paranormal or get into “psychic energy” and such, but this felt like a bad place. As we approached it (where I took the above picture), it just swallows you up. With a courtyard of sorts on the north and south sides, it gives one the impression of being overwhelmed and trapped by it. Going inside was quite disorienting, to say the least, as the symmetrical, precise design of the building makes it very easy to feel lost. None of the artistry, or shall I say, humanity that went into the design of the Kirkbride was to be seen here. This was a place full of boxes to store people in, as you’ll see when you click on the slideshow.
The calendars inside told me that it was abandoned in 2000, so there was a lot of equipment and such still remaining. One room had thousands of X-rays. We found the max security wing, complete with padded cells. It was a cold day, but in this building, I was bone-chillingly cold. We examined most of the floors, saw the industrial-sized kitchen, lots of offices, and even evidence of some people sleeping there recently (on the seventh or eighth floor, of all places). What was really strange, as we got to the top, was opening a door to another part of a wing and hearing and feeling a cold wind blaze down the hallway.
You’ll also notice a few shots of another building in the slideshow, a modern building that looks almost like a high school. It’s the Herman B. Snow Rehab Center. In there, there was a courtyard, a bowling alley, a gym, and a swimming pool.
I can’t emphasize enough how mentally and physically taxing doing something like this is. Aside from the sheer amount of walking and scrambling, one is in a really heightened state of senses, almost to the point where it feels like an altered state of consciousness. Trying not to miss any detail, trying not to get lost, trying to see in minimal light, and most importantly, avoiding physical injury (much more of an issue in the Kirkbride than in Cheney) take a toll. After we left, I went into a rest room at a restaurant, and had some strange brain jolt as I opened up the toilet stall, as I opened up so many similar doors that day where everything looked rotten and dead. I was half expecting to see the toilet cracked with peeling paint and crumbling floor around it. Since my visit, I haven’t gone more than a few hours without thinking of all the things I saw. It looks like something out of Hellraiser or Silent Hill, terrifying, yet at other times beautiful. It’s really an archaeology of sorts, one I’m increasingly fascinated with.
(Part two may be viewed here)
Ok, so here we go with another installment of my latest obsession: places one is not supposed to go, namely abandoned hospitals.
For your viewing pleasure, I present to you the old part of the now abandoned Hudson River State Hospital, what is known as a Kirkbride. From kirkbridebuildings.com:
Once state-of-the-art mental healthcare facilities, Kirkbride buildings have long been relics of an obsolete therapeutic method known as Moral Treatment. In the latter half of the 19th century, these massive structures were conceived as ideal sanctuaries for the mentally ill and as an active participant in their recovery. Careful attention was given to every detail of their design to promote a healthy environment and convey a sense of respectable decorum. Placed in secluded areas within expansive grounds, many of these insane asylums seemed almost palace-like from the outside. But growing populations and insufficient funding led to unfortunate conditions, spoiling their idealistic promise.
Within decades of their first conception, new treatment methods and hospital design concepts emerged and the Kirkbride plan was eventually discarded. Many existing Kirkbride buildings maintained a central place in the institutions which began within their walls, but by the end of the 20th century most had been completely abandoned or demolished. A few have managed to survive into the 21st century intact and still in use, but many that survive sit abandoned and decaying—their mysterious grandeur intensified by their derelict condition.
My sweetie and I spent a total of 7 hours on the massive 160+ acre campus, and were lucky enough to get inside the gothic main administrative building (seen below, abandoned around 2000), as well as the women’s ward, (abandoned in the late 70′s).
I can’t begin to describe what I saw, in that it’s breathtaking in an architectural sense (and sad that it is in such a state of decay) and it’s incredible to see the way that buildings decay, even over a relatively short period of time. As soon as a building is not heated, and when it is exposed to the elements from broken windows and such, the transformation is rapid and dramatic.. rot, peeling paint, crumbling plaster, it goes quick. Yes, it’s dangerous as all hell at times, but we exercised extreme caution, especially in the women’s ward, where the decay was incredible; there were collapses that went through all four floors, debris everywhere, etc. It’s also amazing the amount of stuff people leave behind. And of course, from a psychological perspective, it’s pretty nuts. One’s senses are heightened, and although I don’t believe in the paranormal in the least, it’s still creepy as hell. Remember, all those horror stories about mental asylums? This is one of those ones where all that shit actually happened.
For more info on this particular part of the hospital, visit Historic 51, which has tons of info about the HRSH Kirkbride, as well as info on restoration and tons of photos from back in the day. If you click on the pic above, it takes you to a fantastic photo slideshow I put together for y’all. In the next day or two, I’ll have another post up about another section of the hospital we explored, and within the week, a good movie, as I shot lots of footage.
Yes, I am obsessed with this. And I am kicking myself in the head for only filming a tiny bit, when I should’ve filmed a lot more. Anyways, here it is, a mixture of stills and video. The best thing about it, actually, is the music, something I wrote and recorded a few years ago, called “Peripheral Vision”. Enjoy.
I haven’t got the energy to look for it right now, but a long while back, I commented on my obsession with abandoned buildings, in particular, an irrational need to explore them. Well, have a look at what I went and did last weekend – it’s a hospital. If you click on the photo, it takes you to the set, but the best way to look is to check out the whole slideshow here. I’ll have another set of another abandoned visit, shortly.