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


History

New York State first became involved in the care of the indigent insane in 1806 when the state 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 (Broadway and West 116th Street).

The Bloomingdale Asylum, overcrowded within a few years after its opening, forced the state to build a statewide facility. In 1843, the the State Lunatic Asylum opened in Utica. 1 The hospital’s remote location to New York City’s residents meant that Bloomingdale remained overcrowded. To remedy the solution locally, the county funded several new mental hospitals. 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, hospitals in the New York City area became part of the state system.

Between 1890 and 1910, the number of institutionalized patients in the New York City region more than doubled. The construction of new buildings and hospitals, though, did 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

Long Island State Hospital, founded as the Kings County Lunatic Asylum (later known as the Kings County Lunatic Asylum) circa 1850, provided mental care in conjunction with the Kings County Almshouse. 4 Located in the town of Flatbush, complex contained the Asylum, Almshouse and the Potter’s Field. The main building was completed in 1854.

The Asylum soon became overcrowded, and in addition to new buildings and extensions, a farm was purchased at St. Johnland (now Kings Park in Suffolk County) and opened as a branch of the main hospital in 1885. 4

Kings County ceded both Kings Park and the Flatbush complexes to the state in 1895, although the transaction was not finalized until 1914. 4 The main became the Long Island State Hospital at Flatbush in 1900, renamed Brooklyn State Hospital in 1916 and the Kingsboro Psychiatric Center in the latter 20th century. The branch institution was placed under separate management in 1900 and eventually became Kings Park State Hospital.

In 1908, Long Island State Hospital opted to construct a farm colony. 4 Farm colonies, were patients produced agricultural products, were commonplace at state institutions. 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 The property had been subdivided into several parcels, including one used by the Creedmoor Rifle Range and another by the National Guard. 4 The National Guard built several small buildings on site and adapted a circa 1890 farmhouse for their needs. 1

Sutton State Hospital was authorized by the state in 1908 but opposition by local property owners slowed down the hospital development process. 4 It was not until April 1912 that Governor John A. Dix signed a bill authorizing $50,000 to begin the construction of buildings and a railroad spur. The complex, designed for 2,000 patients, opened as the Farm Colony of Brooklyn State Hospital in late 1912.

The initial complex consisted of five two-story wood-framed houses with just 37 patients, 32 of which tended to the farm. 4 In the 1913 growing season, the Sutton 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 State Hospital Development Commission recommended the construction of buildings at the Farm Colony for up to 3,000 patients in 1918. 4 Renovations of seven of the 12 existing cottages were begun and by 1919, there were accommodations for 150 patients.

The construction of a sewage disposal plant was started and the state appropriated $500,000 towards the project. 4 Work was soon halted because the federal government proposed converting the farm into a hospital for war veterans. The farm colony patients, belongings and furniture were moved to the Brooklyn State Hospital by December 1920. Congress turned down the proposal, and the property reverted to Brooklyn State Hospital with patients returning by May 1921.

In the 1920’s and 1930’s, the state undertook major expansion efforts of its facilities. 1 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. Specific to Sutton, $3 million was appropriated. 4

The first permanent buildings for inpatients at Sutton State Hospital were constructed in 1922. 1 It included a power plant (Building 76), kitchen (Building 75) and two patient buildings (Buildings 73 and 74). Designed by Architect Lewis F. Pilcher, all were low-rise brick structures with Romanesque styling. They did not formally open until 1926. 4 17

Construction began on two additional patient buildings, an administration building, staff housing, kitchen and support facilities in 1925. 1 Designed by Architect Sullivan W. Jones, most of the structures had Colonial Revival styling. The inpatient buildings (Buildings 70 and 71) opened in 1929, bringing Sutton’s census to 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 census up to 3,319. 17 A laundry (Building 15), completed in 1929 followed by the bakery (Building 16) in 1931. 4

Known as the Sutton Division of Brooklyn State Hospital, the facility became an independent state institution, Sutton State Hospital, in 1935. In its first annual report, the asylum boasted 4,389 patients and 1,000 officers and employees. 4

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

After World War II, the state proposed a $4 million building program, which included $300,000 for a Children’s Psychiatric Center and $2.275 million for additional ward space. 4 The hospital at the time was running at 116% capacity with 6,000 patients by 1950. 17 Nort

The expansion included the construction of a 21-story, 1,068-bed patient tower (Building 40) that opened in 1959. 17 The support buildings (Buildings 38 and 39) had opened earlier in 1957. 4 17 By 1960, Sutton State Hospital reached a peak population of over 7,000.

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’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.

As of 1968, Sutton had 6,300 patients and a staff of 1,500. 6

The state announced on April 20, 1971 significant workforce reductions at its mental institutions as a cost cutting measure. 5 The state ordered the layoff of 2,839 employees for 1971 and 820 for 1972. Several state nursing schools, including Sutton’s, closed by September 1971.

With Sutton understaffed, violent and sexual crimes spiraled out of control. 15 A police investigation in 1974 forced Sutton to reduce its patient count. As a result, Building 25 closed.

The Sutton Alcoholic Rehabilitation Center was shuttered in February 1977 in a statewide effort to save $1.5 million. 8 Four other centers, at Rockland, Bronx, Kingsboro, Pilgrim, also closed.

Plans were unveiled in January 1992 to close four psychiatric hospitals and reduce the size of seven others in order to cut the number of inpatients at its hospitals in half by the year 2000. 7 Sutton’s patient count dipped sharply over the ensuing decade and by 2005, only 215 inpatients remained. 4

The bakery was converted into plumbing and electrical shops in the 1970’s before being abandoned in 1999. 4 The laundry service was closed in 1993.

Renovations

As Sutton Psychiatric Center’s patient numbers dwindled, buildings were closed and abandoned. With surplus land on the southern half of the Sutton campus, several areas were targeted for redevelopment, including a baseball field adjacent to Building 2. 4

In 2006, eight homes and a program building housing 120 inpatients was constructed on the site of the baseball field. The replacement residential and treatment facility replaced existing institutional buildings that were in need of major repairs. As of 2017, only three of the buildings were occupied with the remainder mothballed. 13

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 the building in 2006, the non-profit organization began a search for a new location. After two negotiations with other buildings for sale failed, SNAP partnered with another social service agency in 2006 that resided in Building 4, deciding to build new facilities elsewhere on Sutton’s campus.

In 2013, Building 74 was fully rehabilitated. 11 Closed in 1986, the 110,000 square-foot inpatient structure was converted into apartments and office space for 150 transitional patients in individual studio apartments. 10 The project, designed by Ting & Li Architects and constructed by Aurora Contractors, cost $30 million. It 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.

In 2015, a two-story addition was constructed at a cost of $10 million at Building 40. 16 The project included a new bowling alley, theater, gymnasium and storage facilities. Additionally, Building 38 was rehabilitated as part of a “humanization” project that required a gut renovation and modernization of the interior. 17 The project involved adding 340 inpatient rooms at a cost of $35 million.

The state proposed redeveloping two parcels totaling 53 acres, including the power plant and other vacant buildings, for 1,278 residential units in 2016. 14 Twenty percent of the dwellings would be classified as affordable. The power plant would either be rehabilitated for or demolished in favor of a new building for a youth center.

The state began soliciting proposals to provide architectural, engineering and construction services to renovate Building 70 for an outpatient residence on May 26, 2017. 9


Buildings

Building 2

Designed by William E. Haugarrard in the Neo-Romanesque style, Building 2 was completed in 1932. 1 It contained patient rooms, kitchens and offices. Building 2A closed in the late 1970’s with Building 2B closing in 1992. Building 2C, housing the police department, closed in 2005.

Building 4

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 the building in 2006, the non-profit organization began a search for a new location. After two negotiations with other buildings for sale failed, SNAP partnered with another social service agency in 2006 that resided in Building 4, deciding to build new facilities elsewhere on Sutton’s campus.

A significant portion of Building 4 was vacated in 2013.

Building 9, 10 and 11

In 1928, Architect William E. Haugaard designed the first of three staff apartments in the Colonial Revival style. 1 Two staff apartment buildings, Buildings 9 (X) and 10 (Y), were constructed in 1931-32 in the same styling. 1 3 Building 11 (Z) was built in 1933-34. 1

Building Y was renovated in mid-1993 and 1994. 3

Building 20, 21 and 22

Building 21 and 22 closed in 2013.

Building 25

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

Building 70 and 71

Designed by Sullivan W. Jones, Buildings 70 (L) and 71 (M) were designed in the Romanesque style. 1 Both housed patients. Building 70 closed in phases in 1991 and 2000.

On May 26, 2017, the state sought proposals to provide architectural, engineering and construction services to renovate Building 70 for an inpatient residence. 9 Bids are due by early July.

Buildings 73 and 74

Designed by Lewis F. Pilcher, Buildings 73 (P) and 74 (O) were designed in the Romanesque style 1 and were completed in 1922 10 and opened in 1926. 4 18 Both housed patients and had a combined kitchen facility.

In 2013, Building 74 was fully rehabilitated. 11 Closed in 1986, the 110,000 square-foot inpatient structure was converted into apartments and office space for 150 transitional patients in individual studio apartments. 10 The project, designed by Ting & Li Architects and constructed by Aurora Contractors, cost $30 million. It 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.

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