Letchworth Village

Built as a residential institution for the “physically and mentally disabled,” Letchworth Village opened in 1911, in the hamlet of Thiells in New York’s Rockland County. Situated on a massive 2,362 acre site, this “state institution for the segregation of the epileptic and feeble-minded” received high praise for its treatment of residents, many of whom would have otherwise gone to a larger, harsher and more impersonal state asylum. Letchworth was indeed a village, since it was determined early on that no building should be higher than two stories or house more than 70 patients. This type of care was considered revolutionary at the time, ushering in a new generation of compassionate, enlightened care. At Letchworth’s large, self-sufficient farm, enough food was grown and livestock raised to feed staff and residents. Residents also made toys which were sold at Christmas. Sadly, this legacy would not last. By the 1920’s stories of maltreatment and deplorable living conditions were beginning to plague Letchworth Village. Still, treatment continued for many years.  At its peak Letchworth Village comprised 130 buildings, housed 4,000 patients, and received international notice when it administered the first polio vaccine to an 8 year old patient. After years of scrutiny and suspicion, Letchworth Village closed in 1996. Today, many of the buildings remains, as does the eery cemetery of unmarked graves, signaled only by a memorial bearing the words, “Those who shall not be forgotten.”

Additional Photographs: AHV Facebook Page