Rockland State Hospital

Medical / New York

Rockland State Hospital is a partly abandoned and demolished state hospital in New York. Portions of the complex continue to operate as the Rockland Psychiatric Center. Additionally, the Rockland Children’s Psychiatric Center was used in the filming of Orange is the New Black television series.


History

Rockland State Hospital, like other state hospitals in New York, was located in a rural area, far away from the noise and pollution of a major city, as it was believed that the isolation would cure or speed up the recovery from mental illnesses. 1

Rockland was established in 1926, and the state acquired 577 acres of the Broadacres Dairy Farm for the new psychiatric complex; an additional 38 acres was purchased in 1931. 9 Sullivan W. Jones, the State Commissioner of Architecture, designed the first sets of buildings in the Mission Revival style, and bids were opened for construction in April 1927 with work beginning in May. The buildings were built to require minimal maintenance, with exterior walls containing reinforced concrete with stucco surfaces with interior walls that were two feet thick to isolate noise between rooms. 3 Staff residences and other minor structures were designed in a restrained Colonial Revival style. 9

Eventually, structures erected included patient housing for 5,768, six cottages for children, a coal-fired power plant, a working farm, and industrial shops. 1 The shops enabled patients to produce mattresses, furnishings, and brooms.

The core group of buildings (Buildings 1-14) were opened in 1930-31 and included patient housing, clinics, central dining rooms and kitchens, a medical and surgical building, and administrative offices. 9

Dr. Russell Blaisdell was appointed the first superintendent of Rockland in July 1930, arriving just as the final touches were being put on the Reception Building, the Medical Surgical Building, the Administration Building, and several wards. 9 Upon opening in January 1931, took in 60 male patients, all transfers from Manhattan State Hospital. 1

The nurse training school was established in September 1932 with a total of 30 students, and within three years, the program received full accreditation. 9

The first expansion of Rockland focused on the Continued Treatment areas to the northwest and southwest of the original structures (Buildings 17-19, 32, and 34-39), which opened in 1931-32. 9

In 1936, Blaisdell established a new patient classification system and opened the Children’s Group Cottages (Buildings 95-101), the latter which was unique because instead of arranging the children according to their chronological age, they were separated according to their emotional status. 9 The Medical and Pathology laboratories and the 1,000-seat Assembly Hall (Building 40) were also opened. 6 9 Like other state hospitals, Rockland followed commonplace psychiatric treatments, and it began administering insulin shock therapy in 1937, and later electroshock treatments and lobotomies. 1

In 1938, the high-rise Medical-Surgical and the Continued Treatment facilities (Buildings 57-60) were built on the hill to the east of the original buildings. 9

Between 1942 and 1945, the military utilized Buildings 57 through 60 for the treatment of veterans of World War II, which required the transfer of nearly 800 patients to other upstate hospitals. 6 9

During this time, the Neurology, and Electroencephalography research departments were added, which were vital to the development of future programs into child behavior. 9 A Biopsychology Research Unit was added in 1946 and expanded in 1956 in conjunction with Columbia University. 6

In 1952, the Rockland Research Institute was established with a six-person unit under the direction of Dr. Nathan S. Kline, which became the Nathan S. Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research after Kline’s death in 1983. 8 9 It grew into the largest psychiatric research unit in the world. 9

A statewide unit for deaf adults with mental illnesses was added in 1963, 6 and an Alcoholism Treatment Center was established in 1974. 6

In August 1970, the Children’s Group was separated from Rockland and relocated to the new Rockland Children’s Psychiatric Center (Building 124). 4 9 The new complex, on 39 acres next to Lake Tappan, 4 included a freestanding, 147,000 square-foot, two-story building featured an auditorium, indoor swimming pool, gymnasium, and outdoor tennis courts. 4 6

Decline

At its peak in 1956, Rockland State Hospital boasted more than 9,650 patients 3 6 and a staff of 2,000. 1

Deinstitutionalization, the process of replacing long-term psychiatric hospitals with community mental health services, began in the 1960s. The movement towards deinstitutionalization was born out of a socio-political movement for community-based services and open hospitals and the advent of psychotropic drugs and financial rationales. 6

Rockland’s resident population was gradually reduced by releasing stabilized patients, shortening inpatient stays and reducing admission and readmission rates. Programs were implemented to reduce reinforcement of dependency, hopelessness and other maladaptive behaviors.

By the 1970s, Rockland had fewer than 600 patients, most of whom had serious mental illnesses that were not able to be treated with outpatient-based programs. 1 A voluntary Community Residence and Outpatient Mental Health Clinic was added in 1978 followed by a Crisis Residence in 1980. 6

Rockland represents in microcosm the history of the treatment of the mentally ill in this country. The hospital changed from a huge institution to one with a dwindling population under deinstitutionalization to a core center that today operates mainly as an outpatient facility.
-Professor Roger Panetta 1

In 1985, the Rockland Campus Plan was formalized, a three-phase effort to modernize and right-size Rockland State Hospital’s campus. 6 Many of the buildings at Rockland had been mothballed as the campus population declined; their conditions varied but most were in poor condition. The estimated cost to rebuild Rockland on a smaller footprint was estimated at $130 million. 7

Phase One (1985-86)

Phase one involved the creation of a 160-unit Residential Care Center for Adults and 48 Community Residence units, and it was projected that those new units would reduce the psychiatric center census by 136. 6 The units were added within existing vacant buildings at the cost of $30,000 to $40,000 per bed.

Phase Two (1985-89)

Phase two proposed the creation of 850 inpatient beds in mid-rise buildings, 200 inpatient beds in low-rise buildings and 96 Community Residence beds. 6 It was projected that by 1995, 1,016 inpatient beds would be needed to meet the needs of those requiring inpatient care. It was decided that three existing mid-rise structures, Buildings 57, 58, and 60, be renovated, which would immediately avoid $11.5 million in costs as it would remove the need to renovate several buildings that were in use for inpatients that required $72 million in repairs. 6 It was also decided that several low-rise buildings would be renovated to yield an extra 200 inpatient beds. 6

Work on phase two began in the early 1990s.

Phase Three (1990-)

Phase three proposed the creation of community residential programs in vacant buildings or within newly constructed structures. 6

Reuse

With much of Rockland State Hospital underutilized or closed, the state looked to sell off 350 acres, keeping only the adult inpatient facilities, the Kline Institute, and the Children’s Psychiatric Center. 3

The town of Greentown acquired 350 acres, 57 buildings and the nine-hole Broadacres Golf Course from the state for $7 million 2 on January 22, 2003. 3 Pursuant to the contract with the state, 216 acres were to be used for passive and active recreation, and towards that goal, the town cleaned some abandoned grounds into soccer and Little League baseball fields in late 2003 and 2004. 4 Greentown then proposed converting Building 40, with an auditorium and bowling alley, into a community center and proposed selling the vacant Catholic and Protestant chapels to outside churches. 3

The State Historic Preservation Office indicated that Rockland State Hospital’s campus was eligible for nomination to the State and National Registers of Historic Places. 3 Of interest was the circa 1765 DePew House (Building 77), a group of one-story buildings between First and Second Avenues and between North Street and Convent Road, and staff housing.

In 2009, the town selected K. Hovnanian of New York to develop 490 townhomes and apartments and 20 single family homes for seniors, 13 non-age restricted single-family homes, 20 non-age restricted rental units for local emergency workers, and 32 units of affordable housing for seniors on former Rockland property. 4 The developer agreed to purchase 80 acres from the town for $24 million, demolish vacant buildings, and reconfigure the golf course to serve as a buffer between the new housing and the existing hospital, but a depressed economy killed the plans in 2010.

Afterward, the Gaelic Athletic Association purchased 8½ acres and a two-story building at Third Avenue and Old Greentown Road and constructed fields for Gaelic football. 4 The Richfield Hospital Guild then acquired property from the state and built a residential complex for people with mental illness on five acres at First Avenue and Old Greentown Road.

The Children’s Psychiatric Center was then vacated when a new campus was constructed along First Avenue. 6 The closed building was turned into a film set for Netflix’s Orange is the New Black television series.

JPMorgan Chase expressed interest in January 2017 in acquiring 60 acres to erect a 150,000 square-foot data center. 2 In the proposed deal with the town, JPMorgan Chase would be responsible for the cleanup and demolition of around 40 abandoned buildings. The bank offered $7.5 million for the land. 2 A final site plan approval was granted by the town on June 14 and demolition of the majority of Rockland State Hospital began by December.


Buildings

Assembly Hall

Assembly Hall (Building 40) was designed by William Haugaard in the Classical Revival style and built by Longacre Engineering in 1936. 9 10 It featured an auditorium on the first floor and a bowling alley and the Community Exchange store and cafe in the basement. 5 The store and cafe remained operational until 1996.

Central Dining Rooms/Kitchens

Centralized dining rooms and kitchens (Building 4, 38 and 39) were designed by Sullivan W. Jones in the Mission Revival style. 9 15

Children’s Group Cottages

The Children’s Group Cottages (Buildings 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, and 100) and Children’s Group Administration (Building 101) were designed by William Haugaard and built by Longacre Engineering in 1936 for use as children’s wards. 9 11 Buildings 95 through 97 served males while Buildings 98 through 100 served females. 11

In August 1970, the Children’s Group was separated from Rockland and relocated to the new Rockland Children’s Psychiatric Center (Building 124). 4 9 The new complex, on 39 acres next to Lake Tappan, 4 included a freestanding, 147,000 square-foot, two-story building featured an auditorium, indoor swimming pool, gymnasium, and outdoor tennis courts. 4 6

As of 1989, Building 95 held offices for the Public Relations and Volunteer Services while Building 96 was used as the Kids’ Corner Day Care Center. 5 Building 97 was used as the Blaisdell Alcoholism Center and Building 98 served as an auditorium. Building 99 and 100 were mothballed.

Children’s Psychiatric Center

In August 1970, the Children’s Group was separated from Rockland and relocated to the new Rockland Children’s Psychiatric Center (Building 124). 4 9

The Children’s Psychiatric Center was designed by Charles S. Kawecki and constructed in 1969-70. The new complex, on 39 acres next to Lake Tappan, 4 included a freestanding, 147,000 square-foot, two-story building featured an auditorium, indoor swimming pool, gymnasium, and outdoor tennis courts. 4 6

It was vacated in 2010 when a new campus was constructed along First Avenue.

Diagnostic Clinic

The Diagnostic Clinic (Building 9) was designed by Sullivan W. Jones in the Colonial and Mission Revival styles and constructed by Niewenhous Construction in 1930. 9 14 It later contained medical and dental clinics, a podiatrist, and nutritional services, and offices for Rockland. 5 14 Most of Building 9 closed in 1992, with some offices remaining until 1996.

Employees’ Cafeteria

The Employees’ Cafeteria (Building 13) was designed by Sullivan W. Jones and constructed by Niewenhous Construction in 1931. 9 12 A community store was later added, which operated until 2001. 5

Employee Housing

Building Function Designer Style Builder Date
11 Employee Homes – Male Sullivan W. Jones Mission, Colonial Revival Niewenhous 1930
12 Employee Homes – Female Sullivan W. Jones Mission, Colonial Revival Niewenhous 1931
14 Employee Homes – Married Couples Sullivan W. Jones Mission, Colonial Revival Niewenhous 1931
15 Nurse Housing – Male Sullivan W. Jones Mission, Colonial Revival Niewenhous 1931
16 Nurse Housing – Female Sullivan W. Jones Mission, Colonial Revival Niewenhous 1931
26 Employee Homes – Female Sullivan W. Jones Mission, Colonial Revival Niewenhous 1931
28 Student Nurse Housing – Female William Haugaard Mission, Colonial Revival 1936-37
29 Employee Homes – Clerks, Stenographers, Special Attendants Sullivan W. Jones Mission, Colonial Revival Niewenhous 1932
31 Student Nurse Housing – Male William Haugaard Mission, Colonial Revival 1936-37
33 Employee Homes – Married Couples Sullivan W. Jones Mission, Colonial Revival Niewenhous 1932
41 Nurse Housing – Male Sullivan W. Jones Mission, Colonial Revival Niewenhous 1932
42 Nurse Housing – Female Sullivan W. Jones Mission, Colonial Revival Niewenhous 1932
43 Employee Homes – Male Sullivan W. Jones Mission, Colonial Revival Niewenhous 1931

Medical/Surgical Building

The Medical/Surgical Building (Building 10) was designed by Sullivan W. Jones in the Mission and Colonial Revival styles and constructed by Niewenhous Construction in 1931. It served as a supplement to the treatment facilities in the core complex of Buildings 2 through 9. 13 Until Buildings 57 through 60 on the hill were completed, this served as the major medical/surgical unit at Rockland.

As of 1989, Building 10 housed Rockland’s Medical Services Unit until it closed in 1996. 5

Patient Housing

Building Function Designer Style Builder Date
5 Patient Housing – Male Sullivan W. Jones Mission Niewenhous 1931
6 Patient Housing – Female Sullivan W. Jones Mission Niewenhous 1931
7 Patient Housing – Male Sullivan W. Jones Mission Niewenhous 1930
8 Patient Housing – Female Sullivan W. Jones Mission Niewenhous 1931
17 Patient Housing – Male Sullivan W. Jones Mission 1931
18 Patient Housing – Female Sullivan W. Jones Mission 1931
19 Patient Housing – Male Sullivan W. Jones Mission 1931
32 Patient Housing – Female Sullivan W. Jones Mission 1932
34 Female Infirmary Sullivan W. Jones Mission 1932
35 Male Infirmary Sullivan W. Jones Mission 1931
36 Patient Housing – Female Sullivan W. Jones Mission 1932
37 Patient Housing – Male Sullivan W. Jones Mission 1931

Buildings 5 through 8 comprised the original Patient Housing buildings at Rockland. 15 Buildings 5 and 7 housed 363 males while Buildings 6 and 8 accommodated 363 females.

As of 1989, the Barsa Pavilion (Building 2) housed Admissions and the Intensive Care Unit, the Medical Geriatric Unit was located in Building 3, Building 7 hosted the hospital’s diagnostic labs, and Buildings 18, 32, 34, and 36 housed the Supportive Rehabilitation, General Geriatric, Psychogeriatric, and Statewide Deafness Units. 5 Most of Building 3 closed in 1991 with some clinics and offices remaining until 1995, Building 5 remained in use until July 2000, and Building 7 closed in 1991.


Sources

  1. Cornachio, Donna. “Changes in Mental Care”. New York Times, 3 Jan. 1999. Article.
  2. Moss, Sebastian. “JPMorgan Chase could turn Rockland Psychiatric Center into a data center.” DatacenterDynamics, 9 Feb. 2017. Article.
  3. Town of Orangetown. Rockland Psychiatric Center Redevelopment Plan. White Plains, Saccardi & Schiff, 7 Apr. 2004. Article.
  4. Town of Orangetown. The Rockland Psychiatric Center Redevelopment Plan. 22 Jan. 2013. Article.
  5. Map. New York State Office of Mental Health, 1989.
  6. The Rockland Campus Plan. New York State Office of Mental Health, 1989.
  7. Rockland Psychiatric Center. New York State Office of Mental Health.
  8. “Our History.” The Nathan Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research. Article.
  9. Division for Historic Preservation, New York State Parks and Recreation. Rockland Psychiatric Center. 15 May 1983.
  10. Division for Historic Preservation, New York State Parks and Recreation. Assembly Hall. 15 May 1983.
  11. Division for Historic Preservation, New York State Parks and Recreation. Children’s Group Cottages (Bldg. 95). 15 May 1983.
  12. Division for Historic Preservation, New York State Parks and Recreation. Employees’ Cafeteria (Bldg. 13). 15 May 1983.
  13. Division for Historic Preservation, New York State Parks and Recreation. Medical/Surgical Bldg. (Bldg. 10). 15 May 1983.
  14. Division for Historic Preservation, New York State Parks and Recreation. Diagnostic Clinic (Bldg. 9). 15 May 1983.
  15. Division for Historic Preservation, New York State Parks and Recreation. Patients’ Buildings (Bldg. 5). 15 May 1983.
  16. Division for Historic Preservation, New York State Parks and Recreation. Employee Homes (Bldg. 12). 15 May 1983.
  17. Division for Historic Preservation, New York State Parks and Recreation. Homes for Married Couples (Bldg. 14). 15 May 1983.
  18. Division for Historic Preservation, New York State Parks and Recreation. Bldg. 15. 15 May 1983.
  19. Division for Historic Preservation, New York State Parks and Recreation. Patient Housing (Bldg. 17). 15 May 1983.
  20. Division for Historic Preservation, New York State Parks and Recreation. Dining Room and Kitchen (Bldg. 38). 15 May 1983.