I have always wanted to visit Hudson River State Hospital. It's been a place on the list for a good 10 years now! Fortunately before the borders was closed for the Covid-19 situation, Zenning with Zay & I took our fist road trip to the US together. It was exciting as Zay had never left the country to explore & this was definitely going to be an epic adventure considering the size, age & decay Hudson had to offer!
As with many explores, we started on the top floor of Hudson River State Hospital. The centre of the building was the administration section of a building style called Kirkbride named after Thomas Story Kirkbride. Thomas was a physician, advocate for the mentally ill & the man behind the well known Kirkbride Plan. Krikbride's as they are commonly known, are hospitals with a central administration building flanked by wings on either side from male & female patients accordingly. From above the building resembles a bat! Hudson River State Hospital is a prime example of high Victorian Gothic architecture & construction began in 1868.
The hospital opened on October 18, 1871 as the Hudson River State Hospital for the Insane. 40 patients were admitted to the hospital despite construction not yet complete. In fact, construction continued on the sprawling 293 acres for nearly three decades after it began! Construction went far over budget & schedule. There were numerous cost saving measures put in place such as building a new dock on the Hudson. This would allow construction materials to be shipped more directly to the site. As well, quarrying & cutting foundation stone on site, using locally sourced materials & hiring local craftsmen rather than general contractors.
The board overlooking the project also deviated from the original plan sent to the state. They decided to make the female wing of the hospital shorter than the male wing citing the likelihood of less female patients making this one of the very few Kirkbride's to have asymmetrical wings.
Construction continued over the decades & by the 1950's the institution was treating upwards of 6,000 patients. This was also around the time when advances in treatment such as psychotherapy & psychotropic drugs allowed patients to live more normal lives rather than being committed. In the 1960's a major fire destroyed one of the wings & nearly spread to the administrative section however it was halted by a connecting corridor. The wing was rebuilt & some of the roof beams still showed signs of the fire.
During the 1990's major changes took place where many of the large facilities, including Hudson River State Hospital began to see the end of days. With many patients now being treated within the community rather than being institutionalized. These massive facilities began to consolidate & eventually shutdown as did Hudson in 2003. In 2005 the property was sold with plans of redevelopment however those hit several roadblocks. On May 31st 2007 a light strike set the south wing which housed male patients ablaze causing the biggest fire in history for the county. On April 27, 2018 a fire was intentionally set in the main administration building.
Demolition has been ongoing for a few years with the dense brush removed last year. When we visited, the south-most building was actively being demolished & there was a state trooper parked facing the building we were in. We had spent hours inside the admin & north wing of the hospital. It was enormous, treacherous & just so amazing to explore.
I would have loved to spend more time here but eventually we had to say goodbye to the abandoned Hudson River State Hospital. We still had other places to explore & ended up stumbling across this Abandoned Catskills Resort!