KPPC: A Journey Through History
KPPC Historical Timeline
KPPC Historical Timeline
1837 – The Kings County Hospital was established on land that was bought from the Martense family for $3,000. It was located in Kings County, which would eventually become the borough of Brooklyn in New York City. In earlier times it was called the Kings County Lunatic Asylum.
1837-1858 – Building 48A was built sometime during these years prior to the existence of the KPSH. When the hospital was established this house was used as the Head Farmer’s House. It was later renumbered as Building 33.
1869 – Episcopal priest William Augustus Muhlenberg arrived at the Village of Indian Head and began the Society of St. Johnland, which would usher in a new trend of buying up the area’s farmland to set up farming communities. This was the inspiration behind the future Kings County Farm and Asylum and the other Long Island farm colonies.
1872 – The section of the Long Island Railroad connecting to what would soon become the town of St. Johnland during the same year was completed replacing the Long Island Sound as the region’s main trade and travel route.
1879 – Dr. John C. Shaw became the director of the Kings County Lunatic Asylum in Brooklyn and would usher in several important changes at the hospital.
1880 – Dr. John C. Shaw abolished the use of restraints in the treatment of patients.
1885 – Dr. John C. Shaw strongly believed that the patients would benefit more from being moved to a rural healthy environment rather than the dark dank basements of the hospital on Flatbush Avenue. As a result, Kings County established a farm colony in St. Johnland on the northern shore of central Long Island called the Kings County Farm and Asylum consisting of 873.8 acres of land despite townspeople voting against the idea.
1887 – Three temporary wooden buildings were erected on the farmland belonging to Kings County and the first 55 patients arrived to fill them, 23 female and 32 male. Construction began on the first 16 cottages. The Town of Smithtown filed an official complaint to the Lunacy Commission regarding escaped lunatics causing an annoyance.
1889 – Construction on the first 16 cottages came to a completion. By this time there was also a laundry building, a heating plant, several barns, and sheds. An additional 49 male patients arrived and were put to work on assisting with the construction of new hospital buildings, as a form of occupational therapy. By the end of the year there were 450 patients.
1890 – The Kings County Farm and Asylum began the construction of its own railroad spur in order to bring in supplies from the Long Island Railroad line. Construction also began on Buildings 38, 49, 50, 51, 52, 59, 60, 61, 68, 74, 77, and 78.
1891 – The Long Island Railroad changed the name of its station from the St. Johnland Station to the Kings Park Station because of the Kings County connection. At this point the name of the town was also changed to Kings Park. The asylum became known as the St. Johnland Branch Asylum, and then the Long Island Branch of Kings County Lunatic Asylum.
1892 – Buildings 38, 49, 50, 51, 52, 59, 60, 61, 68, 74, 77, and 78 were completed on this year. Nurses and attendants began wearing the first official uniforms.
1893 – Construction on Buildings 8-11 was started by Kings County to ease with the overcrowding at the hospital. Workers began building two water reservoirs, a lower one on the main boulevard and an upper one near Old Dock Road.
1895 – Construction was started on Building 32. Dr. Oliver Dewing waged a successful campaign pushing for major changes and as a result along with numerous complaints made by the public and the medical staff regarding corruption, loss of money, and wasted resources the state took over the hospital.
1896 – The railroad spur connecting the Kings Park Station to hospital was completed. A tailor shop was built on the current site of Building 94 numbered as Building 28. The School of Nursing was established. A new telephone system was installed connecting the new asylum to the main hospital on Flatbush Avenue. A fire alarm system was also installed, but wasn’t operational until after 1896 due to a lack of fire alarm gongs. A canal was built just before the area that would become the Veterans’ Group starting from the main boulevard and heading out to the area previously known as Cornish’s Dock, or the Kings Park Bluff. This canal would later become the current boat basin.
1897 – The hospital was referred to as the New York State Hospital. Buildings 8-11, more commonly referred to as Buildings A-D, were completed by the state after the state took control of the hospital. Building A became the main administration building and the location of the telephone operators. The water reservoirs were completed, although both later proved to be a tremendous waste of money. The upper reservoir was leaky and the lower one was eventually abandoned due to surface drainage. The hospital’s General Superintendent, Dr. Oliver Dewing, moved onto the hospital grounds.
1898 – The 10 buildings of Group 1 opened up on Kings Park Boulevard consisting of Buildings 111-120. They were referred to as Buildings 4A-4J or simply as “The Group” and could house up to 1,000 patients. St. Joseph’s Catholic Church was built on the east side of Church Street just south of Old Dock Road. It was designated as Building 121 only because it was built on hospital property. The first nursing class graduated from the hospital’s School of Nursing.
1899 – Hydrotherapy was added using hot and cold wet packs and tub or spray baths.
1900 – Building 32 was opened as the Employees’ Club House. The community store was added a few years later. On May 1st the hospital officially separated from the Kings County Lunatic Asylum on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn and was renamed the Long Island State Hospital at Kings Park. Patients could now be admitted directly into the hospital without having to go through the facility on Flatbush Avenue. By this time there were 2,726 patients and 454 staff members. It was so overcrowded that the population was greater than that of the Town of Smithtown, where it was located.
1903 – Construction began on Building 34, also called Dewing Hall or Building H, along Kings Park Boulevard as a residence for nurses. According to a map of Kings Park the hospital was referred to as the State Hospital for the Insane. Sewing machines in the tailor shop were converted, so they could run by use of electricity.
1904 – Dr. William A. Macy was appointed as the new Superintendent.
1905 – The hospital’s name was changed to the Kings Park State Hospital, a name it would carry for approximately 80 years until the 1970s. The School of Nursing was registered with the State Department of Education.
1906 – Building 34 opened. Building 33, the first laundry building, was badly damaged by fire with a loss estimated at $86,677.25.
1907 – A fire department was organized for the hospital with 10 volunteer employees.
1908 – Construction on a new power plant began numbered as Building 6.
1909 – Construction on Building 5 began. The remainder of Building 33 was used as a temporary dorm housing 300 patients.
1910 – Building 5 opened as the new laundry building. It would later have many other uses, such as the work control shop and lock shop. Building 6 was completed becoming the second power plant. Construction began on Buildings 143 and 147 of Group 3 to house patients that were overcrowded as the census had reached 3,291.
1911 – Building 57 was built for maintenance storage. Ida Marker became the principal for the School of Nursing. Building 33 was removed.
1912 – Building 122 was the first building of Group 2 to be completed and opened for patients, while Building 137 was added to Group 3. Construction began on the rest of Group 2, which at the time consisted of Buildings 123 and 124. A moving pictures machine was purchased and afterwards movies were shown on a regular basis. An auxetophone was also purchased from the Victor Talking Machine Company to amplify sound for music shows and dances.
1913 – The original Group 4 cottages opened along Old Dock Road as the TB Ward. Construction began on a piggery for the hospital. Formal training began for attendants with classes meeting for one hour twice a week.
1915 – Buildings 123 and 124 were completed, while the original Building 45 was built as the piggery just north of Old Dock Road. It was the first of the farm buildings to be built.
1917 – Building 46 was added as a root cellar making it the first dairy farm building. Building 90 was built as a clerical office building and nursing school called Macy Home, and later Macy Hall, named after Dr. William A. Macy. The Soundview Hotel opened its doors on the West Bluff at the location that would later become the site of Building 135. In the meantime, hospital workers would use the hotel as a resort. The staff became seriously depleted due to the onset of World War I and several outpatient mental hygiene clinics were established in Kings County and Nassau County to help ease the burden.
1918 – Macy Home opened for business and during the same year Dr. Macy died.
1919 – Macy Home was completed. Construction began on Building 2, which would become the first building of Group 5. A small garage was built behind Building 90 for staff members.
1920 – Building 55 was constructed along the canal to act as a boathouse. Cornish’s Dock, formerly known as Solomen’s Landing until 1844, located at the northern most end of the hospital became known as Kings Park Bluff. A 13% salary increase was implemented for staff members by the state.
1921 – Construction began on a new reservoir with a capacity of 1,500,000 gallons. The valve box shed was referred to as Building 27. It was during this year that 37 members of F.B. Keith’s Vaudeville Exchange performed at the assembly hall.
1922 – Sewage hot beds were built and numbered as Building 70. The 2-year nursing school course was increased to 3 years. During this year 1,144 patients were admitted bringing the census of the hospital to 5,332 with a capacity of only 3,600.
1923 – Building 2 was completed and opened as a female patient ward. The Group 4 kitchen and dining halls also opened. New wings were added to Macy Hall. The new reservoir was completed. Construction began on the Veterans’ Memorial Hospital Unit with the ground breaking done by Governor Alfred E. Smith on July 4th.
1924 – A blacksmith shop was built as Building 86. Plus, a large amount of cottages had begun to open up for staff members starting with Buildings 95-99, formerly known as Building 81A-E. Some of the original female cottages were removed to make room for these cottages. Building 92, which was the grandstand, was erected on the area that would soon be called Tiffany Field. Construction began on Building 83, which would be used as a firehouse, and on a new boiler house for the second power plant, which would become the original Building 84. The Soundview Hotel was removed to make room for the Veterans’ Group.
1925 – This was by far the busiest year of expansion at the hospital. Construction was completed on Building 83 for the Fire and Police Safety Department, Building 89, which was a public bathroom for Tiffany Field, and Building 84. More staff cottages were built throughout the grounds designated as Buildings 126-129, 130-134 (staff cottages F-J), and Building 142. Construction began on the Veterans’ Memorial Hospital Unit with Building 125 as its administration building. Building 135 would be used as a self-support house. Building 136 was added to Group 3 as a medical support building. Building 138 was for patient wards with Building 139 as a kitchen and dining hall. Building 140 was built as a crisis residence, but used as an isolation house. The hospital’s photographer, Peter Hildenbrand, climbed to the top of the power plant’s smokestack to take aerial photos of that area.
1926 – Construction began on Building 31, which served as a bowling alley on the site of where Building 93 now stands. Octagon-shaped dayrooms were added to Buildings 122, 143, and 147, while extension corridors connecting Building 137 to the newer Building 136 were added. The new firehouse opened up and a children’s ward was established for boys under the age of 12.
1927 – The Veterans’ Memorial Hospital Unit is dedicated on September 24th and the hospital’s main administration center was relocated from Building A to Building 125.
1928 – Construction on Building 82 began, while Building 144 was built as Home T, a residence for attendants. A refreshment room was added to the Employees’ Club House. Construction began on Building 80.
1929 – President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered an investigation of the conditions at the hospital after charges of disease, malnourishment, and abuse became public. The bowling alley was opened and Building 135 was completed to treat sick employees.
1930 – Construction on Building 1 began, which was the second building to be added to Group 5. Building 53 was built as a sewage pump house. Building 82 was completed and opened as the new laboratory and mortuary.
1931 – Construction began on Buildings 35-37 for staff members along with Building 39 for patients of the Veterans’ Group. Construction had also begun on the new Group 4 buildings, 41-43. Building 91, a 6-car garage, was built to replace the old garage behind Macy Hall. The hospital census was 5,775 with a capacity of 3,712. To ease with the overcrowding 600 patients were transferred to other hospitals like Rochester and Marcy. The clinic services expanded dramatically to include Cumberland Hospital in Brooklyn, as well as hospitals in Mineola, Huntington, and Riverhead.
1932 – Building 40 was added to Group 2 as a children’s ward and daycare center, while Buildings 41 and 42 of the new Group 4 buildings were completed for geriatric patients. The old Group 4 TB wards were demolished. Building 80, known as York Hall, was completed as a playhouse for shows, plays, concerts, and to serve as a synagogue for Jewish patients and staff members. A community store was also added inside. The hall was named after Reverend Monsignor John C. York, who served the hospital for 20 years. Pilgrim State Hospital opened nearby and helped ease the patient population. Superintendent Dr. William J. Tiffany was promptly transferred there from Kings Park.
1933 – Building 43 was completed to form the area that together with Buildings 41 and 42 are known as the Quad. Surgical wards and an operational center for the acute were added to Building 136 completing its construction.
1934 – Building 1 opened as the male reception building for Group 5, while Building 3 was built for the administrative nursing staff. Buildings 35-37 were completed to house staff members and Building 39, which was known as Building 73Q, was added to house patients. Building 44 was built as the storehouse and bakery. Building 59’s coal shed was being used as an ice plant. Building 136, or Building 73L, opened. The athletic field was officially named Tiffany Field after Dr. William J. Tiffany in a dedication ceremony. The railroad trestle that crossed over St. Johnland Road and went past Group 2 to the original power plant was removed.
1935 – Building 66 was built as the sewage treatment plant. It would later be renumbered as Building 72. The capacity of the hospital was at 4,086 with the actual number of patients being 5,019 versus 566 hospital workers. Johanna Bonnyman became the principal for the School of Nursing replacing Ida Marker.
1936 – The new Group 4 officially opened for female patients. The new storehouse and bakery officially opened. The new sewage treatment plant, Building 66, was put into operation. The School of Nursing expanded to include students from general hospitals for 3-month instructional periods on caring for the mentally ill. Two wards were set aside for convulsive therapy using insulin on patients with Schizophrenia. By this time the hospital was 10% overcrowded with over 5,000 patients being managed by only 562 hospital workers. Buses were provided to transport patients to the hospital, so the Long Island Railroad was no longer used for this purpose.
1937 – The hospital began using insulin therapy. Cafeteria service began for employees and patients. Construction began on the Senior Director’s residence, Building 67.
1938 – Buildings 75 and 76 were car garages built on this year.
1939 – The hospital began using shock therapy. This was also another busy year for expansion. Building 15 was added for patients under the name the Wisteria House, while Buildings 18 and 19 were built to house medical staff. Building 65 was erected as a greenhouse, Building 67 was completed as a residence for the Senior Director, and Buildings 62 and 71 were additional garages that were added. Building 66 was completed. An addition to Building 6 was built as a steam pipe junction pump room and numbered as Building 85. Construction began on the ominous structure that would become Building 93, which would be used to house geriatric patients and drug addicts. Some of the original male cottages were removed to make room for this project.
1940 – Buildings 18, 19, 67, and 93 were completed. With Building 46 out of the way construction began on new farm buildings numbered as 47, 48, 81, and 88.
1941 – The new farm buildings were completed at the dairy farm near Old Dock Road with Building 47 as the dairy barn with three silos, Building 48 as the horse barn, and Building 81 as the chemical feed house. Building 93 opened for patients, while Buildings 18 and 19 opened to house staff members. Building 15 was completed as a maximum-security area for dangerous patients.
1942 – Hospital roads were rebuilt over a 25-year period. Former Superintendent William J. Tiffany, who had become the State Mental Hygiene Commissioner, appointed Dr. Arthur E. Soper as the new Superintendent.
1943 – Building 88 was completed as the slaughterhouse for the dairy farm section.
1944 – The hospital expanded the use of group therapy.
1947 – Recreation departments were established in NYS hospitals. The first TV was placed for patients in Ward 85 of Building 135. In February there was a train wreck that occurred when a train discharging passengers along the spur backed onto an open switch derailing 5 cars and injuring 40 people.
1948 – The Shock Therapy Department occupied the third floor of Building 93. The hospital census climbed to 8, 538, which included 1,748 veterans from World Wars I-II and from the Spanish-American War. In late December there were 6 male patients, who escaped from a violent ward. By the next day 4 of them were returned to the hospital by authorities.
1949 – A fire destroyed several industrial shops of Building 59, but there were no deaths or injuries.
1950 – Buildings 100 and 101 were added as staff cottages near St. Johnland Road along 4th Street.
1951 – By March of this year the census reached a whopping 10,246 with a capacity of 6,527. By December Dr. Meyer Rosenberg began performing pre-frontal lobotomies on selected female patients.
1952 – Buildings 100 and 101 were completed. A mattress shop was opened in Building 59. Dr. Charles Buckman was appointed as the Senior Director. The Children’s Unit was organized to include both boys and girls under the age of 16 and divided into teenagers and adolescents.
1953 – Building 94 was built to replace Building 5 as the laundry building. Building 82 was converted into an employee lounge leaving the hospital without a morgue until Building 7 was completed over 10 years later. There were a total of 55 televisions installed on patient wards. The Physiotherapy Unit was formed and a Physical Therapist was appointed to the hospital. The Family Care Unit was also established. Dr. J. Louise Depert, a renowned child psychiatrist from Cornell Medical Center began monthly consultation with the new Children’s Unit. On January 22nd a total of 17 male patients made their escape. Within 24 hours 15 of the 17 escaped patients were captured.
1954 – Building 32 was renovated and new additions were added. The hospital reached 9,300 patients and had over 150 buildings. By the fall the use of Thorazine and Serpasil was initiated on an experimental basis as part of a pilot program. And on Christmas the employees of Republic Aviation and Bankers Trust donated 8 additional televisions to the hospital.
1955 – By the end of March 5% of the patient population were receiving psychotropic drug therapy and the use of restraints declined by 50%. The use of psychosurgery was also in a decline. New York State completed the Mental Health Study Act, which called for the abolition of state hospitals and the redirecting of federal funds to build community centers for the mentally ill and finance research into psychoactive drugs. By this time the farm buildings were gradually phased out, as they were no longer needed. It became far cheaper to import food.
1956 – A library was added along the main boulevard next to Building 59.
1957 – The slow construction process began of Buildings 21 and 22 with both being connected by a corridor.
1958 – Six water wells were added around the complex near the main power plant under the new Building 84 designation.
1959 – The water tower was built near the piggery, as the new Building 45.
1964 – Construction began on the final power plant, Building 29. The old Head Farmer’s House, Building 48A, located where the Kings Park branch of the Smithtown Library now stands was burned for fire fighting practice.
1965 – The School of Nursing terminated its affiliation with city hospitals in favor of an affiliation with Huntington Hospital. Medicare and Medicaid were established. Both contained provisions for mental health treatment, but the care provided by state hospitals was not covered and mentally ill people under the age of 65 were ineligible for Medicaid benefits. This resulted in the transfer of large numbers of elderly mentally ill from state hospitals to nursing homes. About 100 acres of land was sold off by this time, as it was no longer needed. Some of that land was used to build a high school and a library for the town of Kings Park.
1966 – Building 7 was built to take over as the medical building and morgue. An indoor corridor was added linking it to Buildings 21 and 22. In November of this year a Narcotic Addiction Unit was opened in Building 21. The School of Nursing moved from Macy Hall to Building 7 and a geriatric area was also added to the building. Building 30 was removed.
1967 – Building 7, 21, and 22 were officially opened. The second power plant’s boiler house, Building 84, was removed followed by the second power plant, Building 6. Also removed during this year were Buildings 34, 50, 51, and then 52. The old hospital barge was permanently beached at the boat basin and a clubhouse was built on top of it.
1968 – Building 29 was completed. The last passenger train rode into the Kings Park State Hospital on a Sunday of the same year.
1970 – The hospital began its slow and steady process of closing its many buildings leaving them abandoned, which would eventually include Buildings A-D and all of the buildings from Group 1. Despite that Building 23 was added as a recreation center for the patients complete with its own bowling alley, theater, gymnasium, and swimming pool. This building was named Buckman Hall after Dr. Charles Buckman.
1971 – The hospital welcomed its first blind volunteer, Marcia Stark of Commack, who helped out in the Children’s Unit. The decision was made to install sprinkler and alarm systems in all buildings.
1973 – Building 56 opened as Cafe 56 for patients and visitors.
1974 – New patients were sent to the hospital from Willowbrook. The hospital took on its new name, the Kings Park Psychiatric Center.
1975 – Buildings 31 and 32 were demolished simultaneously.
1976 – Traineeship Programs were initiated.
1978 – The cooking services at “Kitchen O,” or Building 139, which served Brooklyn Units I & II, were shut down. Building 5 became commonly known as the “Lock Shop.”
1987 – The last coal train rode into the Kings Park Psychiatric Center and twin mirror image Buildings 150 and 151 are built as community residences.
1988 – Buildings 150 and 151 were completed. The Kings Park Psychiatric Center railroad spur was permanently shut down.
1990 – Home T, or Building 144, was officially closed.
1993 – The New York State Community Mental Health Reinvestment Act mandated that all savings realized from the closure of unneeded state psychiatric centers would be funneled into various community mental health programs. This act was propelled partly by the Office of Mental Health’s decision to close several facilities.
1995 – An independent film directed by Daniel Robert Cohn entitled “Eyes Beyond Seeing” was released using some of the buildings at the Kings Park Psychiatric Center for the settings under a different name with emphasis on Building 93’s exterior.
1996 – In December of this year the Kings Park Psychiatric Center finally closed its doors with the exception of three buildings and the hospitals’ remaining patients were transferred to the nearby Pilgrim State Hospital. Those buildings that still remain open under the control of the Office of Mental Health are Buildings 1, 150, and 151.
2000 – Legislature is passed and the northeastern grounds of the Kings Park Psychiatric Center east of St. Johnland Road were transformed into the Nissequogue River State Park, which preserved the land from any future commercial or residential development.
2001 – Kings Park Boulevard was reopened to public traffic making it possible to travel through the complex between Route 25A and St. Johnland Road. Also in this year a large study of the land is made by a real estate developer making several recommendations for possible redevelopment options available for the remainder of the land.
2003 – The old railroad spur route was converted into a Hike and Bike Trail open to the public. Leo Polaski’s book “The Farm Colonies” was published detailing the history of the Long Island Farm Colonies, which includes the Kings Park Psychiatric Center.
2004 – A book by David M. Flynn, “Early Houses of Kings Park,” was released showing a special look at how the town has developed throughout its existence.
2005 – A rally was led by a Suffolk County police officer demanding to do something about the asbestos infested decaying property, which is responsible for leaving countless former patients roaming the streets of the quiet suburban town.
2006 – The rest of the land was transferred to the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
2007 – News reports stated how the property has become a haven for teenagers to trespass upon in which some went as far as to video tape themselves repelling off the top of the Quad, and then posted the video on YouTube.com. Long Island Oddities published their book entitled “L.I. Asylums Revealed: Kings Park Psychiatric Center,” depicting building blueprints and maps. I first learned about the old abandoned asylum the same year from a friend of mine named Linda Soriano. After months of research I made my first few visits to the grounds, which included entering Buildings 93 and 15.
2008 – Anti-Terrorism training exercises were performed on hospital grounds, where Group 1 was formerly located, in which explosives were used by the FBI and Suffolk County Police Department in conjunction with the Kings Park Fire Department and the NYS Parks and Recreation Department.
2009 – The FBI continued using parts of the abandoned facility to conduct training exercises, such as the Quad. Plans were made public for the demolition of 14 structures throughout the property. A low budget film entitled, “Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet,” written and directed by Frank Sabatella was released based on the popular Long Island urban legend using the abandoned hospital for a part of its story. A book by Miles B. Borden detailing the history of Kings Park is printed entitled “History of Kings Park in Words and Pictures.”
2010 – Nissequogue River State Park, which houses a large part of the asylum, was closed for the year along with many other parks statewide due to a funds shortage. I began working on my book and made my first visit to the Kings Park Heritage Museum. It would be the first of many. I also began research at the library at Kings Park.
2011 – I attended the Kings Park Psychiatric Center Reunion on June 10th and met with many former workers. By this time my book was more than halfway to completion having successfully gathered detailed information on the buildings, cemeteries, patient care, town history, and many stories from numerous sources, which include former patients and employees. In the fall the demolition of 14 structures was postponed until spring of 2012. Towards the very end of the year I finished writing the bulk of my book with only editing to do and hundreds of photos to sort through. Also around this time the second floor of Building 57 collapsed onto its first floor due to severe weather corrosion. No one was injured. This is one of the buildings scheduled for demolition.
2012 – With the last minute details of my book completed early in the year I decided to delay my search for a publisher to await the demolition project, which began in the summer of this year. Scheduled to be demolished were Buildings 6, 23, 35, 36, 55, 56, 57, 59, 60, 82, 122, 123, the barge, the sand/salt pyramid, the smokestack from the power plant, the fuel tanks, the remainder of the trestle, and the farm buildings, 46 and 48. This totaled over the original estimated 14 structures originally planned for the project. By the end of the year, Buildings 6, 46, 48, 56, 82, 122, 123, and the salt shed were indeed demolished, while Hurricane Sandy heavily damaged the barge.
2013 – Buildings 23, 55, 59, 60, and the barge were demolished, during the early part of the year. Hopefully, I can begin working on my next book on the hospital, “Kings Park Psychiatric Center: A Photographic Journey,” which will be an elaborate collection of leftover photos of the buildings, tunnels, and hospital grounds focusing on how the KPPC looks now.