We went to Poughkeepsie to go to the Walkway Over the Hudson.

That picture is from below because we never made it. Or, rather, we kept walking.

While on the train up, we realized we would be so close to Hudson River State Hospital, so we may as well take a look. Even if it’s a couple miles out of the way.

This abandoned hospital was operational until 2003, but you wouldn’t know it by the condition it’s in.

There’s a whole complex of buildings, but the main building is practically a city unto itself. It’s a high Victorian Gothic beast in the Kirkbride style, meaning it’s a giant building with lots of wings that mirror each other. The center section was used for administration with patient wings splitting off. One wing has significant fire damage.

Construction took 25 years. It was closed down on a pretty similar schedule. It’s seen several fires since it closed. It was bought in 2013, so soon it might be a retirement home or a college campus. Or ruins.

There’s the obligatory morgue and power house, Ryon Hall for the criminally insane, the Cheney Building for medical care, and the rehabilitation center in fantastic brutalist style.

If you park at Home Depot and walk in the open gates, you’ll see the Cheney Building and Ryon Hall. And then you’ll get politely walked back to your car, ticketed, or arrested.

If you walk from the train station to the far entrance of the site and wander in through the woods, you’ll have taken a likely unnecessary precaution, but you’ll also have hours to wander around until it’s dark and time to walk back. Of course, there’s never a guarantee that you won’t end up in handcuffs.

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While it wouldn’t have met modern standards of care, it was designed so patients could recover in a serene place — privacy, spacious lawns, and grand buildings. In 1871 this was a really progressive place, even if it was called Hudson River State Hospital for the Insane.

Patients were fed healthy meals, encouraged to enjoy the grounds, and groomed to return to their lives. Of course, straight jackets, electroshock therapy, and lobotomies were still common practice.

As the way society viewed mental illness changed, fewer people were sent to institutional facilities. While the facility was still open in the 1970s, and the recreational center was being built, the older buildings were falling apart and sections were closed off. The main building was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989.

Eventually, services were shifted to Harlem Valley Psychiatric Center and Hudson River State Hospital was closed in 2003.

Plans quickly came together for the historic buildings to be renovated and turned into a mixed use neighborhood, with the main building as it’s centerpiece. Then Poughkeepsie put a moratorium on development. Then, in 2007, the south wing was extensively damaged in a fire. And there it sits, waiting.

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victorian gothic facade of hudson river state hospitalgrounds of the hudson river state hospitalovergrown road to the hudson river state hospital

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