Central Islip State Hospital is a partially abandoned and reused state hospital in New York. Only a handful of buildings are shuttered.

Central Islip State Hospital


History

Central Islip State Hospital was one of four major hospital “farms” on Long Island to house the mentally ill from Manhattan. 3 The others included Kings County Farm Colony that opened in the fall of 1886 to house those from Brooklyn, Pilgrim that opened in 1931 and Edgewood that opened in 1946 (acting as Pilgrim’s tuberculosis division).

The first buildings were designed by the famous architect Frederick Withers in 1887. 8

Central Islip opened in 1889 as experimental farm colony of the New York City Lunatic Asylum. 8 Named the New York Farm for the Insane 7 when 49 male and 40 female patients were admitted. 2 Patients cleared the land of vegetation, constructed buildings, produced furniture and mattresses, sewed clothing, grew crops and raised dairy cattle, pigs and chickens.

The state of New York took ownership of the hospital in 1896. 8

After the state of New York acquired the hospital, it was renamed the Manhattan State Hospital for the Insane. 3 The hospital was later renamed the Central Islip State Hospital and finally the Central Islip Psychiatric Center.

The asylum grew to 1,000 acres in size with over 100 buildings erected. 4 8 Most of the structures were designed in the Tudor Revival or Colonial Revival styles, set among clusters of trees and rolling lawns. 8

Building Groups G, H, I and K, known as the “String of Pearls,” were constructed in 1901. 8 The “String of Pearls” was named because of its extensive corridors that stretched for nearly one mile. Tudor Revival-styled groups M and S were built in 1911 and 1913, respectively.

Another notable building included the “Sunburst Building,” which resembled a spoked wheel, that was home to Groups A and B. 8

By 1955, Central Islip housed 9,050 patients and employed 2,500, 7 making it the nation’s second biggest psychiatric hospital. 1

Deinstitutionalization, the process of replacing long-term psychiatric hospitals with community mental health services, began in 1960. 5 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

Central Islip’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 1981, Central Islip had 1,995 patients and 2,197 employees. 7

Buildings were closed over the ensuing decades. The “String of Pearls” complex was razed for a shopping mall while others were torn down for condominiums or renovated for use by the New York Institute of Technology or as offices. Central Islip formally closed in 1996 when the last patients were transferred to the Pilgrim Psychiatric Center.


Buildings

Building 7

Building 7 is the former Admission Building and was constructed in 1930. 8

Buildings 75-87

Buildings 75 to 87, nicknamed the “Sunburst Building” due to its radial shape, was one of the many ward buildings at Central Islip. 8 It was home to Groups A and B and was constructed in 1938 to 1940.

Sources