Sutton State Hospital

Medical / New York

Sutton State Hospital is a partially abandoned state institution in New York. Portions of the complex continue to operate as the Sutton Psychiatric Center.

The actual name of the location has been modified to protect the location as much as possible from vandalism.

History

The state of New York first became involved in the care of the indigent insane in 1806 when it authorized the distribution of $12,500 per year, for 50 years, to the Society of The New York Hospital in New York City. 1 Founded in 1771, the private institution was the first in the state to offer humane care for the mentally ill. The state increased its contribution by $10,000 in 1816 to aid the hospital in the construction of a new facility known as the Bloomingdale Asylum at Broadway and West 116th Street.

The Bloomingdale Asylum, overcrowded within a few years after its opening, forced the state to build a new facility. In 1843, the State Lunatic Asylum opened in Utica, but its remote location to New York City’s residents meant that Bloomingdale remained overcrowded. 1 To remedy the solution locally, the county-funded several new mental hospitals and between 1869 and 1890, six new facilities opened.

The state passed the State Care Act in 1890 that sought to centralize the care of the mentally ill in large institutions, each of which would serve a specific geographic area. 1 The Act allowed municipal and county asylums to apply for entry into the state system. In 1896, several hospitals in the New York City region became part of the new state system.

Between 1890 and 1910, the number of institutionalized patients in the New York City region more than doubled but the construction of new buildings and hospitals could not keep pace. 1 The sole hospital to open in the early 20th century was a branch of the Long Island State Hospital in Brooklyn that became Sutton State Hospital.

Long Island State Hospital

The Kings County Lunatic Asylum was built in 1854 to provide mental care in conjunction with the Kings County Almshouse in Flatbush, and the complex contained the Asylum, Almshouse and Potter’s Field. 4 As the Asylum soon became overcrowded, new buildings and extensions were hastily built. Additionally, a farm was purchased at St. Johnland (now Kings Park) for a branch of the Asylum that opened in 1885.

Kings County ceded both Flatbush and Kings Park facilities to the state in 1895, although the transaction was not formalized until 1914. 4 The main complex at Flatbush became the Long Island State Hospital in 1900, which was later renamed to the Brooklyn State Hospital in 1916 and the Kingsboro Psychiatric Center later on. The branch institution eventually became Kings Park State Hospital.

In 1908, Long Island State Hospital opted to construct a farm colony where patients produced agricultural products. 4 It provided a therapeutic work environment for patients and provided fresh produce to the hospitals. A site in Queens County on the former Sutton family farm was selected, 1 which had been subdivided into several parcels, including one used by the Creedmoor Rifle Range and another by the National Guard. 4 19 The National Guard had built several small buildings on site and adapted a circa 1890 farmhouse for their needs. 1

In April 1912, Governor John A. Dix signed a bill that authorized the expenditure of $50,000 to begin the construction of the Farm Colony of Brooklyn State Hospital, which opened later in the year with five two-story wood-framed houses and 37 patients, 32 of which tended to the farm. 4 In the 1913 growing season, the Farm Colony grew the institution’s entire supply of potatoes for the year. Other crops included mixed vegetables and corn, the latter used as winter feed for the hospital’s horses.

Sutton State Hospital

The Sutton Division of Brooklyn State Hospital was authorized for construction on the Sutton family farm by the state in 1908, but opposition by local property owners slowed down the development of the site. 4 19 In 1918, the State Hospital Development Commission recommended the construction of buildings for the Sutton Division on the site of the Farm Colony to eventually house 3,000 patients. 4 Renovations began on seven of the 12 existing cottages, and by 1919, there were accommodations for 150 patients.

The state then appropriated $500,000 towards a sewage disposal facility, 4 but work was soon halted because the federal government proposed converting the Farm Colony into a hospital for war veterans. The Farm Colony patients, belongings and furniture were moved to Brooklyn State Hospital by December 1920, but Congress eventually nixed the war veteran hospital proposal. The patients were returned to the hospital by May 1921.

After a major fire at Manhattan State Hospital killed several patients and workers in 1923, the state passed a $50 million bond issue to fund construction for modern, fireproof asylums. 1 For the Sutton Division, $3 million was appropriated by the state for new construction. 4

The first permanent buildings, designed by architect Lewis F. Pilcher in the Neo-Romanesque style, were built between 1922 and 1926. 1 4 17 19 It included a power plant (Building 76), kitchen (Building 75) and two patient buildings (Buildings 73 and 74). Construction began on two additional patient buildings, an administration building, staff housing, kitchen and support facilities in 1925, 1 all designed by architect Sullivan W. Jones in the Colonial Revival style. By 1926, there were 518 patients at Sutton. 19

Two inpatient buildings (Buildings 70 and 71) opened in 1929, at which point Sutton had a patient census of 1,163. 17

Architect William E. Haugaard designed three employee housing structures (Buildings 9, 10 and 11), and an interconnected complex of inpatient rooms, kitchens, and offices (Buildings 1 and 2), in 1928. The employee housing opened in 1931 while the inpatient centers opened in 1933, bringing the hospital census to 3,319. 17 19 A laundry (Building 15) was added 1929 followed by a bakery (Building 16) in 1931. 4

The Sutton Division became Sutton State Hospital, an independent institution, in 1935, 1 and by 1936, the asylum reported 4,389 patients and 1,000 officers and employees. 4

An assembly hall and community store were added in 1937. 17

By 1950, Sutton State was at 116% of its designed capacity with 6,000 patients. 17 The state proposed $4 million in building expansions and improvements, which included $300,000 for a Children’s Psychiatric Center and $2.275 million for additional wards. 4 After a  21-story, 1,068-bed patient tower (Building 40) in 1959, 17 Sutton State approached 7,000 patients.

Decline

Deinstitutionalization, the process of replacing long-term psychiatric hospitals with community mental health services, began in 1960. 4 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. 2

Sutton State’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 1968, the hospital had 6,300 patients and a staff of 1,500. 6

On April 20, 1971, the state ordered the layoff of 2,839 employees for 1971 for all state institutions as part of a wide-ranging cost-cutting measure. 5 Several state nursing schools, including Sutton State’s, closed in September. Another 820 employees were cut across the state in 1972.

With Sutton State understaffed, violent and sexual crimes spiraled out of control, 15 and a police investigation in 1974 forced the institution to reduce its patient count. As a result, Building 25 closed. The Sutton Alcoholic Rehabilitation Center was shuttered in February 1977 as part of a statewide effort to save $1.5 million; 8 four other centers, at Rockland, Bronx, Kingsboro, Pilgrim, also closed. The bakery was converted into plumbing and electrical shops before being abandoned in 1999. 4

Plans to reduce the number of inpatients by half at state hospitals by the year 2000 were unveiled in January 1992. 7 Under the proposal, four psychiatric facilities would close and seven others would be reduced in size.

With fewer patients, the laundry service was outsourced in 1993. 4 By 2005, only 215 inpatients remained at Sutton State.

As Sutton Psychiatric Center’s patient numbers dwindled, buildings were closed and abandoned. With surplus land on the southern half of the Sutton Psychiatric’s campus, several areas were targeted for redevelopment, including a baseball field adjacent to Building 2. In 2006, eight group homes and a program building for 120 inpatients were built on the site of the baseball field replacing several institutional structures that were in need of major repairs. As of 2017, only three of the original Sutton State buildings were occupied, with the remainder mothballed or abandoned. 13

Building 74, a former inpatient structure closed in 1986, was fully rehabilitated into studio apartments for 150 transitional patients and office space at the cost of $30 million in 2013. 10 11 The project required $2 million in asbestos remediation, the complete demolition of all interior walls, ceilings, and floor finishes, and the replacement of 400 windows and lintels.

A two-story addition to Building 40, built at the cost of $10 million, was completed in 2015. 16 The project included a new bowling alley, theater, gymnasium and storage facilities. Building 38 was fully renovated for 340 inpatient rooms at the cost of $35 million. 17

In 2016, the state proposed selling 53 acres of Sutton Psychiatric to private developers who had expressed interest in using the land for 1,278 residential units. 14 The proposal included the demolition or rehabilitation of the power plant for a youth center.


Buildings

Administration / Offices

Building Function Designer Style Builder Date
17 Offices William E. Haugaard Colonial Revival 1932
30 Offices Victorian 1890
60 Administration Sullivan W. Jones Colonial Revival 1925
61 Administration Sullivan W. Jones Georgian Revival 1925
66 Administration William E. Haugaard Georgian Revival 1930

Employee Housing

Building Function Designer Style Builder Date
6 Staff Residence William E. Haugaard Colonial Revival 1930
7 Staff Residence William E. Haugaard Colonial Revival 1930
8 Staff Residence Sullivan W. Jones Colonial Revival 1925
9 Staff Residence William E. Haugaard Colonial Revival 1930
63 Staff Residence Sullivan W. Jones Colonial Revival 1925
64 Staff Residence Sullivan W. Jones Colonial Revival 1925
65 Staff Residence Sullivan W. Jones Colonial Revival 1925

Other

Building Function Designer Style Builder Date
13 Support William E. Haugaard 1930
14 Support William E. Haugaard 1929
15 Support William E. Haugaard 1928
18 Assembly Hall William E. Haugaard Colonial Revival 1932
26 Support William E. Haugaard 1938
27 Support William E. Haugaard 1940
28 Stadium William E. Haugaard 1938
29 Support / Garage William E. Haugaard 1940
36 Support / Pipe Shop William E. Haugaard 1941
37 Support / Garage William E. Haugaard 1930
38 Support 1957 4 17
39 Support 1957 4 17
40 Medical-Surgical / Patient Housing 1959 17/1960 19
42 Support William E. Haugaard 1930
44 Support / Gas Pump William E. Haugaard 1938
57 Support / Garages William E. Haugaard 1930
58 Support / Garages William E. Haugaard 1930
59 Support William E. Haugaard 1941
68 Faith Chapel 1970
75 Support / Workshop Sullivan W. Jones 1925
76 Power Plant Lewis F. Pilcher Neo-Romanesque Revival 1922
77 Support / Work Control Center Sullivan W. Jones Georgian Revival 1925
79 Fire Station William E. Haugaard Georgian Revival 1938

Patient Services

 

Patient Housing

Building Function Designer Style Builder Date
1 / S Patient Housing William E. Haugaard Neo-Romanesque Revival 1930
2 / R Patient Housing William E. Haugaard Neo-Romanesque Revival 1930-32 1
3 Dining Hall, Kitchen William E. Haugaard Neo-Romanesque Revival 1930
4 / N Patient Housing William E. Haugaard Neo-Romanesque Revival 1930
10 / Y Patient Housing William E. Haugaard Neo-Romanesque Revival 1930
11 / W Patient Housing William E. Haugaard Neo-Romanesque Revival 1930
12 Patient Housing William E. Haugaard Neo-Romanesque Revival 1930
16 Bakery William E. Haugaard Art Deco 1929
19 Patient Housing William E. Haugaard Georgian Revival 1931
20 Patient Housing William E. Haugaard Neo-Romanesque Revival 1931
21 / F-02 Patient Housing William E. Haugaard Neo-Romanesque Revival 1931
22 Patient Housing William E. Haugaard Neo-Romanesque Revival 1931
25 Patient Housing William E. Haugaard Neo-Romanesque Revival 1937
40 Medical-Surgical / Patient Housing 1959 17/1960 19
62 Patient Housing Sullivan W. Jones Georgian Revival 1925
67 Patient Housing Sullivan W. Jones Georgian Revival 1925
69 Patient Housing Sullivan W. Jones Georgian Revival 1925
70 / L Patient Housing Sullivan W. Jones Neo-Romanesque Revival 1925
71 Patient Housing Sullivan W. Jones Neo-Romanesque Revival 1925
72 Kitchen Sullivan W. Jones Georgian Revival 1925
73 / O Patient Housing Sullivan W. Jones Neo-Romanesque Revival 1922
74 / P Patient Housing Sullivan W. Jones Neo-Romanesque Revival 1922
75 Kitchen / Support Sullivan W. Jones Georgian Revival 1922
78 Kitchen Sullivan W. Jones 1926

Building 2, designed by William E. Haugarrard in the Neo-Romanesque style, was completed in 1932. 1 Building 2A closed in the late 1970s, Building 2B closed in 1992, and Building 2C, which housed the police department, closed in 2005.

Services Now for Adult Persons (SNAP), which operated out of Building 4, originally planned a major renovation of its space. 12 When SNAP learned that it would need to vacate Building 4 by 2006, it began a search for a new location off-site. After two negotiations with other buildings for sale failed, SNAP partnered with another social service agency that resided in Building 4 and built new facilities elsewhere on Sutton Psychiatric’s campus. A significant portion of Building 4 was vacated in 2013.

Building 21 and 22 closed in 2013.

Building 25 closed in 1974 after a police investigation found numerous violent and sexual crimes were occurring on Sutton State’s campus due to its staffing shortage. 15 The institution was ordered to reduce its patient numbers and Building 25 closed as a result.

Buildings 70 and 71, for inpatients, were designed in the Romanesque style by Sullivan W. Jones. 1 Building 70 closed in phases between 1991 and 2000. On May 26, 2017, the state began soliciting proposals for the renovation of Building 70 for use as an outpatient residence. 9

Buildings 73 and 74, for inpatients, were designed in the Romanesque style by Lewis F. Pilcher 1 and built between 1922 10 and 1926. 4 18 Building 74, which was mothballed in 1986, was fully rehabilitated into studio apartments for 150 transitional patients and office space at the cost of $30 million in 2013. 10 11 The project required $2 million in asbestos remediation, the complete demolition of all interior walls, ceilings, and floor finishes, and the replacement of 400 windows and lintels.


Further Reading
  1. Building 74 Renovation at Archinect

Sources

  1. Department of the Interior, National Park Service. Creedmoor State Hospital. By Andrew S. Dolkart,
    research report no. HABS NY-6343, Historic American Buildings Survey, 1994.
  2. The Rockland Campus Plan. New York State Office of Mental Health, 1989.
  3. Department of the Interior, National Park Service. Creedmoor State Hospital, Building Y. By Andrew S. Dolkart,
    research report no. HABS NY-6343-A, Historic American Buildings Survey, 1994.
  4. New York State Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities. Stage 1A Archaeological Assessment. By Historical Perspectives, Nov. 2005.
  5. Holcomb, Charles R. “Mental Health Cuts Severe.” Ithaca Journal, 20 Apr. 1971, p. 10.
  6. “Patients Transferred to Wingdale Hospital.” Poughkeepsie Journal, 19 Nov. 1968, p. 1.
  7. Gallagher, Jay. “Psych center closures outlined.” Journal News [White Plains], 30 Jan. 1992, p. B3.
  8. “Ex-alcoholics protest state spending cut.” Journal News [White Plains] 17 Feb. 1977, p. 4B.
  9. “Creedmoor PC-Major Renovation for Outpatient Residence, Building 70.” Dormitory Authority State of New York, 26 May 2017, article.
  10. “Creedmoor Psychiatric Center.” Aurora Contractors, article.
  11. “Creedmoor Psychiatric Center – Hospital Building #74.” Architizer, 2013, article.
  12. Curry, Peter L. “Volunteer Accomplishment.” Lawyers Alliance for New York, 15 Oct. 2009, article.
  13. Linda. “Creedmoor situation kind of peculiar.” Queens Crap, 20 Apr. 2017, article.
  14. Gannon, Michael. “State proposes new Creedmoor projects.” Queens Chronicle, 1 Dec. 2016, article.
  15. “13 Photos Of An Abandoned Psych Ward Will Make Your Stomach Turn.” Huffington Post, 4 Nov. 2013, article.
  16. “Creedmoor Psychiatric Center.” Purcell Architects, article.
  17. “Creedmoor Psychiatric Center, Building 38.” Purcell Architects, article.
  18. “Creedmoor Psychiatric Center History.” Creedmoor Psychiatric Center, article.
  19. Division for Historic Preservation, New York State Parks and Recreation. Creedmoor Psychiatric Center. 7 Feb. 1983.
  20. Division for Historic Preservation, New York State Parks and Recreation. Creedmoor Psychiatric Center Building #2. 7 Feb. 1983.