The Long Goodbye: Reflections on Hudson River State Hospital

“HRPC is a reminder of the the state sanctioned non-voluntary commitment of thousands of human beings and the torture of those mentally ill of the 19th and 20th century.” – Robert Foresman

In 2013 the Facebook page Abandoned Hudson Valley launched with a series of iPhone photos of Hudson River State Hospital. The reaction was immediate. Within a few weeks we had well over 5,0000 followers. Conceived as a space to share photos and memories, the page began receiving images from photographers across the Hudson Valley and beyond. We also began receiving comments, most of which were along the lines of “Creepy!,” “Looks like they filmed a horror movie there,” or the perennial favorite, “I want to go!” and the most common of all – “Where is this??” 

But within the comments, there was usually one or two that reflected a deeper knowledge of Hudson River State Hospital. We heard from staff who spoke of tireless devotion under the most trying of circumstances. We were especially gratified when nurses and other staff members connected on our page long after they parted ways in the real world. We heard from family members who recalled the childhood horror of visiting an aunt, uncle, grandparent or even parent there. We heard from those who mowed the lawns, fixed the equipment, and supplied the heat and electricity. And we heard from the community, mainly people in and around Poughkeepsie who considered this once grand facility a “shame” and a blight. Many said, “too bad they let it rot,” or “they could have used it for the homeless or veterans,” – and the most frequently heard comment: “Why?” 

Not surprising, we also heard from photographers and explorers who considered this tattered, dilapidated place sacred ground. Their comments usually centered on stealthy plans: “When can we go?” or just a name of a confederate linking them to the page. Our favorite from this group was the simple assertion heard again and again, “I was there.” 

For those of us who were there in its long years of abandonment, Hudson River State Hospital has etched a special place in our hearts and its redevelopment brings a bittersweet sense of mourning. But for those who knew it when it teemed with life, it will forever be what is once was – busy, crazy, challenging, memorable – not what it became. 

It seems fitting to let the images and memories of the people who knew it best do the talking. Here is a small sampling of some of the many photos and comments we’ve received. 

To view the complete album of photos and for more information on the history of Hudson River State Hospital, click here. For more information on the redevelopment plans, click here

“Please note: HRSH is privately owned and actively patrolled. Please do not attempt to visit without prior authorization”

“It is beautiful, and sad. So many old buildings just falling apart abandoned.” – Donna Marie 

“All my siblings have worked here at one time or another. BTW this is where Rose Kennedy, the sister of JFK was institutionalized for awhile.” – Ginny Meyer

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    Photo: Liz Cooke
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    Photo: Liz Cooke
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    Photo: Liz Cooke
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    Photo: Liz Cooke
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    Photo: Liz Cooke
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    Photo: Liz Cooke
Photo: Liz Cooke
Photo: Liz Cooke

“We used this room as a gym for the daycare center in the Brookside Building.” – Teresa Paporto

“As a volunteer, I remember doing crafts with young women who were about to be released. It was a spooky place.” – Daria Tomashosky

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    Photo: AHV
  • Photo: AHV
  • Photo: AHV

“My mother worked in this building for 30 years.  I visited there quite a bit, patients were treated well but some were more difficult than others. Many did pass away while there. I remember the day room being so noisy and the rows of beds. Across from the building was the creek or brook and it was pleasant to have lunch with my mother and watch the water.” – Marie Rowe Marquardt

“My daughter went to daycare there while I worked in the administration building”
– Sheila Carollo

“My office was upstairs in this building until ’96. During fire drills we all from upstairs had to rescue the kid” – Ingrid Fetkoeter

“There were hundreds of children who were cared for there. It was a blessing to have you two [children] cared for so close to work. I could stop in whenever I wanted.” – Suzanne Manning

“My daughter and nephew went to daycare there. It is so sad to see it like this” – Maryann Burns

Photo: Liz Cooke
Photo: Liz Cooke

 “My capping and graduation ceremonies held in ths room…..so sad.” – Barbara Pugsley-Piotti

  • Photo: AHV
  • Photo: AHV
  • Photo: AHV
  • Photo: AHV
  • Photo: Forsaken Photography
  • Photo: AHV

“I also worked there in XRay. I went there in 2004 and took pictures from around the perimeter. There were so many lead poisoning victims! It was terrifying they ate lead paint dust and chips as infants and we’re doomed to a life incarcerated to save them from themselves and others. Other people were not really crazy, just social misfits no one knew how to cope with them. Some went crazy from abuse.

In XRay, I learned how badly the full moon can affect us as, it seemed like the hospital slept in between the nine days surrounding the full moon. At least the XRay department did.

I wanted to explore but, I was alone and the place had a heavy foreboding feeling that kept me away. It must be all those numbered graves. I think they still walk there. It felt so sad, even from outside the hurricane fence. The building was surrounded by incredible sadness. I will never forget my time there.

Thanks for posting these. I have such vivid memories”. – Rowan DeSantis 

  • Photo: A.Milford
  • Photo: A.Milford

“I love that chapel. My sister got married there about 28yrs ago. Thank u for the picture.” -Donna Vanleuven 

“My daughter was married in this chapel” – Lorelle Briggs 

“The Chapel like many of the buildings was beautiful, its sad to see such ruin.” – Elizabeth McLain Avery

Photo: A.Milford
Photo: A.Milford

“I drove through there with flower deliveries from Green Oak Florist. Doesn’t seem like that long ago.” – Bob Duncan 

“It is the Hudson River Psychiatric Center. I spent a lot of time there as a kid ( no not as a resident lol). My mom was a psych nurse there for years and spent most of the 1980’s on that facility. It was pretty booming back in the day. They had bowling alleys a huge gym… shopping areas.. It was it’s own little community then they started having issues with toxic waste and the land is pretty much a barren waste land.” – Justin Edmund

“My grandfather was the head carpenter here for many years, and I have many friends who’s family members were displaced and had to find new jobs when it closed” – Bryan Flynn

  • Photo: AHV
  • Photo: Forsaken Photography
  • Photo: AHV

“I worked in the Cheney Building for five years in the 60s. When I worked there it was a city in itself with 6,000 patients and 5,000 employees. What a waste!” – Nick Losito

“It’s such a waste that this building wasn’t refurbished or renovated for public or private enterprise after it was closed. For a few years during the 1990’s before Cheney Bldg. was closed, I remember visiting the large Day Room when 3 of my teenaged children assisted the HRSH Catholic Chaplain, Fr. James LeBar, when he offered Mass and visited patients.” – Mary-Ellen Davis

“Worked in Cheney Bldg. In 1964 and worked in the lab in 1971 for a few years. Was present at autopsies; taking dictation. Sad to see the pictures of its deterioration.” – Mary Dalton

  • Photo: A.Milford
  • Photo: Travis Keyes

“I was there at that spot as a student nurse” – Laurie Coy-Wilso

  • Photo: Liz Cooke
  • Photo: A.Milford
  • Photo: AHV
  • Photo: AHV
  • Photo: AHV

“The old Powerhouse. I worked there back in 82 – 86. The ice house was to the northwest of it and the coal trestle right behind it.” – Ken Collier

“My grandfather and uncle worked in the powerhouse. My grandmother worked in the hospital, as did I for a short time. I think my mom cut hair there, too.” – Cheryl Hoffman 

  • Photo: Kelly Ljutichc
  • Photo: Jon Stevens
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    Photo: AHV
  • Photo: Forsaken Photography
  • Photo: Ray Higgins

“I worked 37 years at this hospital.” – Johnson Storts

“My grandfather worked there during the depression” – Skullie Rabin 

“I Remember the H R S H my dad was a cook up there for 15 yrs” – Valerie Goebel 

“Visiting a patient? Did that as an infant when my great-grandmother was there back in the days when you committed members of your family if they were just too blue, sad, or otherwise uncomfortable to care for, I suppose. Professionally? As a student nurse in the early 1990’s I went there inside to be given an overview of the community residence program for certain patients. It was in a classroom at the end of a generic, mid-century office area in one of the absolutely last buildings still in use. I also have a family member who lived as a young girl on Bircher Ave and once spoke of the horror of hearing the screams from the Cheney Building, as her house was right behind it. Not a happy place back in the days before modern psychotropic medications enabled people to have hope and humanity restored.” – Kimberly Draiss

Photo: AHV
Photo: AHV

“I worked as a switchboard operator there in my late teens. It was fun working the PBX with the cords and plugs, just like Lily Tomlin.” – Nan Paulson Perkins

“My mom put in 25 plus years there. I remember spending shifts with her as a kid when she did overnights. That place was huge, and scary for a 6 yr old lol.” – Justin Edmund

  • Photo: AHV
  • Photo: A.Milford
  • Photo: A.Milford
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    Photo: AHV

“That’s the Herman Snow rehabilitation building ? I spent many a day doing maintenance in that building!” – George Hawks 

Photo: AHV
Photo: AHV

“I used to go there to visit my dad, he worked the 4-midnight shift. He was there from the late 60’s thru the early 80’s. Worked in a few of the buildings taking care of the patients. It is sad that it came to this. Years ago I remember that one of the buildings was being demolished, some workers would find loose bricks in some of the rooms and inside of the wall cash and other valuable items. It makes me wonder what else is buried inside of those buildings.” – Debby Wentzell Crecco

Photo: Matt Terpening
Photo: Matt Terpening

“I took care of all the radiators for heat in here, and all through the steam tunnels.” – Ron Rhynders

“Even in its heyday it was one spooky-ass place.” – Ann Areno Tyrrell 

Photo: AHV
Photo: AHV

“My Mom worked there in the mid 90’s, she was an R.N./ floor supervisor, she would be horrified too, I remember she explained one of the buildings as being floor to ceiling marble $$$.” – Tricia Tyler

“I worked there for almost 10 years, what an amazing place it was. What a history, a shame to loose all the beautiful architecture! Memories” – Nancy McCardle Yambem 

  • Photo: AHV
  • Photo: AHV
Photo: AHV
Photo: AHV

“I used to live directly across the road and we often played on the grounds as kids.” – Mearl Rose 

“I was a therapy student there, early 90’s, during the beginning of the ‘downsizing.’ I do have to say that all of the staff members I worked with during that time were truly wonderful, caring people. I learned so much about working with individuals with some extreme behaviors….this experience has served me well.” – Jennifer Reinhold-Foss

Photo: Liz Cooke
Photo: Liz Cooke

“My dad worked there yrs.ago he may have made those curtains, he was a seamstress. Before he worked there he had his own business, did tailoring made custom suits, which is pretty much unheard of today.” – Allan Legname 

  • Photo: A.Milford
  • Photo: Liz Cooke

“Just consider all the lives that were mainstreamed and all the jobs that were lost. Not to mention the beautiful architect that we will never see again. Sad very sad” – Sally Brien

“It’s closing left a huge hole in the community….but I do get a kick at seeing the window of my old office!” – Sue Mowris 

“My parents met there and worked there. I used to hang out in the admin building. If walls could talk! Creepy!” – Rachel Davies