The Slocum Sanitarium is an abandoned mansion turned speciality mental hospital in New York.


History

The Slocum Sanitarium was constructed as a residence for shipping magnate Joseph Howland and his wife Eliza 2 3 in 1861. 8 The name was later changed to the Native American word Tioronda, or “meeting of the waters.” 8 9

Designed by Frederick Clarke Withers, the Gothic Revival styled mansion was fitted with custom designed furnishings with steam heat and gas light that was produced on site in a gas house. 8 9 Surrounding the house were manicured grounds and gardens, designed by horticulturist Henry Winthrop Sargent. 2

Shortly after the house was completed, Howland went to serve with the 16th New York State Volunteers during the Civil War. 8 10 He served at the first battle of Bull Run and in 1862 in the Battle of Gaines’ Mill. Howland was promoted to colonel where he was later awarded a citation for bravery during the Battle of Gaines’ Mill where was wounded. He also received a promotion to Brigadier General.

Howland later went to serve as New York State Treasurer and was instrumental in forming the Hudson River State Hospital for the Insane. 8

In 1873, a music room with an organ at its center, designed by Tioronda’s brother-in-law Richard Morris Hunt, was added to Tioronda. 6

Then a widow and in frail health, Eliza offered Tioronda to village officials for a village hall and park, but they refused. 9 Eliza then donated the mansion and grounds to her husband’s favorite cause, mental health. 6

Slocum Sanitarium

In 1916, the residence was converted into America’s first privately licensed psychiatric hospital by Clarence Slocum.1 3 Slocum, a Scottish doctor who specialized in progressive mental health treatments, renamed the building Slocum Sanitarium. Slocum and his son, Jonathan, believed that patients could be cured with intensive talk therapy, fine dining and recreational activities, such as swimming, golf, cross-country skiing, swimming, music and ceramics.3 8

The Slocum Sanitarium was not without controversy. Frances Seymour, wife to Henry Fonda and mother to Jane Fonda, committed suicide in one of the turrets in 1942. 1 Rosemary Kennedy, who was autistic, was sent to the Craig House for a controversial lobotomy when she was 23. Due to the flawed medical science behind the procedure, she was left with the mental age of a two year old and required constant care and supervision until her death.

Consolidation

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

A new Slocum psychiatric care facility and planned development were proposed for the 350-acre site in March 1972. 12 The new Slocum hospital would be built on 69 acres while the remainder would be divided into 1,800 residential units, commercial and industrial areas with vast expanses of open space, green belts and recreational facilities.

In April 1978, Slocum finalized a plan to consolidate its hospital facilities that were scattered across its property. 13 The Beacon Industrial Development Agency finalized a $3.9 million bond issue towards the development in July 1978. 11 A two-story addition to the Tioronda House, designed by Carleton Granberry of Guilford, Connecticut, was constructed by the W.J. Barney Corporation of New York.

In February 1979, the Craig House announced plans to sell three-quarters of its property for residential development. In the first stage, about 120 residential units would be constructed. 15 A second stage would add 160 homes.

By the 1990’s, Slocum, sans its luxurious amenities, consisted of three inpatient wards where patients stayed an average of 7 to 12 days.

In 1995, the sanitarium was purchased by Putnam Center 6 which continued to provide psychiatric services until it closed in October 2000 over declining business and mounting debts. 16

Post-Closure

The Slocum property was marketed for sale for $6.5 million in 2000. 14 17 In early 2001 December 2002, Milton L. Ehrlich, Inc., a Manhattan-based realty company, expressed desire to purchase the hospital. 16 Ehrlich claimed to have an option to purchase the buildings and land for more than $5 million, turning the buildings into spa hotels and 40 to 85 luxury condominiums. 14

Ehrlich never completed the transaction. 14 It was not until July 2003 that the Slocum land was sold for $4 million. 14 Art dealer John Stewart acted as a proxy during the sale for Robert Wilson, a Wall Street hedge manager. 2 The duo planned to renovate the mansion into a private residence with the circa 1978 addition becoming an art gallery. 14

An auction held shortly after emptied the buildings of its fine furnishings and antiques. 7 8 The carriage house and a workshop were demolished in October 2011 but no further work proceeded. 7 8

In December 2013, at age 87 and in ill health, Wilson jumped out of the window of his Manhattan apartment to his death. 2

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