The now Abandoned Bennett College was founded in 1890 at Irvington, New York by May F. Bennett as the Bennett School for Girls. It offered four-year high school with two extra years of study. In 1907 the college moved to its final home on 22 acres (89,000 m2) in Millbrook, Dutchess County, New York. School had an enrollment was 120 students and a faculty of 29. During the early 20th century the school discontinued its high school grades and became a junior college only, changing its name to Bennett College. The two-year curriculum continued through the 1970s. Generations of young women from prominent American families attended Bennett over its 90-year history.
Majors of study included art, fashion design, interior design, music, modern languages, literature, history, dance, drama, child development, equine studies, and domestic science. Activities at Bennett included gymnastics, golf, tennis, horseback riding and skiing. The school was home to a full-time teaching Nursery School for 3 and 4 year olds as well as a riding stable.
At the time of its closing, enrollment was around 300 students.
With the growing popularity of coeducation in the 1970s, Bennett found itself struggling to survive. An attempt to upgrade facilities and convert to a coed college in the mid-1970s left the already troubled college in financial distress. In 1977 the trustees attempted to reach a collaboration agreement with Briarcliff College, a junior women's college in nearby Briarcliff Manor which was also struggling with low enrollment. The plan did not work, however, and Briarcliff instead merged with New York Institute of Technology in 1977 after both Briarcliff and Bennett entered bankruptcy. In 1978 the college closed its doors for good.
The library and records of Bennett College were transferred to The Hayes Memorial Library in Millbrook (now the Millbrook Library) along with other school artifacts.
Bennett College closed a few weeks after its freshman orientation in the fall. The students having already arrived at Bennett for their fall semester were given the opportunity to attend Marist College, a nearby co-ed university in Poughkeepsie, New York.
The main building of Bennett College, Halcyon Hall, was built in 1893 by H. J. Davison Jr., a publisher from New York. The 200-room Queen Anne structure was designed by James E. Ware. It has five stories, a basement and sub-basement. Originally built as a luxury hotel, the building became home to Bennett College in 1907 after the hotel failed to catch on. The Bennett campus also included a chapel, stables, dormitories, an outdoor theater, and the Kettering Science Center, a state of the art building completed in late 1972. The cost of constructing the science building (needed to comply with new state science education requirements), along with other campus upgrades, contributed to the school's bankruptcy.
Halcyon Hall was never reopened and quickly fell into ruin. When the heat was turned off, water pipes burst, causing major water damage throughout the building. Large portions of the roof have collapsed and trees can be seen growing through parts of the building. Halcyon Hall is a popular site for urban explorers and photographers, due to its structure and decay. Several attempts were made in the 1980s to develop the property but all failed and the title was taken over by Mechanics and Farmers Savings Bank. The bank failed in 1991 and its assets were seized by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Halcyon Hall was scheduled to be demolished in 2012 but that never happened.
The property was purchased in 2014, with plans to tear down the remains of Halcyon Hall, and develop a park. In September 2021, the demolition necessary to create the planned 32-acre park began. Each building on the Bennett Campus, except for the centerpiece Halcyon Hall and the old Hale House, will have asbestos removed and then be demolished.
Adjacent to Halcyon Hall are the Bennett Commons apartments. These apartments were originally student quarters but upon closure of the school they were bought by a developer.
As of March 2022, The Abandoned Bennett College has been demolished.