Tea & Sympathy: Exploring an Abandoned Convalescent Home

We’re often asked if abandoned places are haunted, and we always say that while we can’t be certain, we haven’t seen any ghosts yet. And then there’s this place. A former convalescent home located in an upscale New York suburb, “Greenleaf” was the final stop on life’s journey for many.

Walking in, you are immediately struck by one thing – grandeur. Greenleaf understood that growing old did not mean you no longer cared about the finer things in life. Here, residents could listen to a Chopin piano concerto on a warm afternoon in a room so light and airy, you almost feel as if you are in the clouds. With its leaded glass windows and beamed cathedral ceiling, the grandmas and grandpas who gathered here might have felt transported to another, more genteel time. Sadly, the gentility is almost gone completely from Greenleaf as a decade of neglect has taken its toll. While the piano remains (and moves from time to time as photographers position the house’s furnishings to get just the right shot), there is little else that brings a sense of life to Greenleaf. Instead, there is a sense of death, or at the very least, impermanence. As George Harrison said, all things must pass. And here, they did.

Each room has just enough detritus to vaguely suggest who might have lived here. Some rooms still have numbers on the door and labels with the resident’s name. There might be a vase, artfully arranged on a bedside table, creating a creepy tableau, or hangers in a closet, gently swaying with the wind to create a weird, otherworldly chime. In one of the grander rooms, French doors lead to a porch where the resident could have taken in the afternoon sun. In her marble-clad bathroom she might have dabbed just enough Jean Nate to leave a vague impression of youth when she went downstairs for tea.

Of course, we know nothing about the real people who lived and died in these rooms, but their presence could be felt throughout the rambling old mansion. Are there ghosts here? Probably not. But are there reminders to cherish the elders in your life? Absolutely. You never know when a visit could be your last.

Photos: © AHV