Return to Desolation: within the remains Pt. 2

“Within the Remains” is a series of photographs giving a glimpse into 22 years of neglect at King’s Park Psychiatric Center. What once was built as a beacon of hope for the mentally ill now serves as a public park that looms heavily in the shadows of decaying buildings ridden with asbestos that serve as both giant grave markers for the past and a breeding ground for vandalism. “Return to Desolation” is the second part of this series.

Established in 1885, the Kings County Asylum was a “farm colony” where patients worked in a variety of farm-related actives such as feeding livestock and growing food. These acts were considered to be a form of therapy.

In 1895, due to overcrowding, New York State took over, renamed the asylum the Kings Park State Hospital and built the hospital into a self-sufficient community. The facility generated its own power, grew their own food, had housing for on-site staff and even had its own Long Island Rail Road Spur. Over 100 buildings made up the hospital campus with some buildings being connected by underground tunnels.

Over time the originally adopted “rest and relaxation” philosophy was replaced by more invasive techniques like pre-fontal lobotomies and electro-shock therapy. By 1954 the patient census peaked at over 9,300 but with the advent of Thorazine in 1955 those methods were being phased out. As medication made living outside the institution more possible, the population began to dwindle. Activists in the 1970’s also worked on legal suits to reduce patient population in major institutes.

By the 1990’s, the Kings Park Psychiatric Center, as it has come to be known, was reduced in size and buildings were either being shut down or reduced in usage. In the fall of 1996 the last remaining patients were transferred to Pilgrim Psychiatric Center. After 111 years, the Kings Park Psychiatric Center was closed for good.


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