Jon Crispin's Notebook

Hudson River Psychiatric Center

Posted in Architecture, Buildings, History by joncrispin on 10/02/2012

I was in Poughkeepsie on Tuesday photographing at the recently closed Hudson River Psychiatric Center.  I have been there many times and it was a bit sad to know that the facility was closing. / When I was shooting shuttered asylum buildings for my earlier projects, they were all from the 19th century.  Those buildings and their contents came from such a markedly different time which was part of the reason it was such compelling work for me. When I was thinking about my photographs from Tuesday I realized that in the future, someone will look at this photo and have the same feeling.  To our eyes, this isn’t such an unusual scene; fifty from now it will seem truly exotic.

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  1. L.S. Stuhler said, on 10/02/2012 at 1:28 pm

    I thought Husdon River was one of the older state hospitals. Was this a newer building?

  2. Nicole said, on 10/02/2012 at 2:50 pm

    I second that question, I thought it was still in disrepair since the fire?

    • joncrispin said, on 10/02/2012 at 3:16 pm

      Nicole and Lin. Like so many facilities, HRPS had several buildings; some very old and some new. This was the last one used for patients. Jon

      • L.S. Stuhler said, on 10/02/2012 at 4:04 pm

        Is the original building from the 1800s still standing?

    • joncrispin said, on 10/02/2012 at 4:10 pm

      It is still standing for now. It is a beauty.

      • L.S. Stuhler said, on 10/02/2012 at 5:34 pm

        I looked it up on my blog and the main building opened in 1872, three years after Willard. The old Rochester State Hospital and Willard’s main building were torn down years ago. I wonder how many of these old state hospitals are still standing? Next time you’re at the Willard campus you should take some photographs of one of the original “cottages” before it falls down. I’m ashamed that the state has let the building fall into such disrepair; it should be a museum. You sure get around Jon! Thank you!

  3. Kara said, on 10/02/2012 at 2:58 pm

    “Part of this is finding things and documenting them. A lot of things are not going to be here five to ten years from now.” —George Bellows (1882-1925) In that quote, Bellows was talking about his paintings documenting the excavation of the foundation and train tunnels for Penn Station in NY–and the destruction of neighborhoods that had to happen to make way for the new transportation hub. Sounds like the echos of his message in today’s post….

    • joncrispin said, on 10/02/2012 at 3:14 pm

      Kara. Great quote and so true. I’ll have to check out Bellows’ work. Jon

  4. Alison L. said, on 10/02/2012 at 3:07 pm

    In California, the treatment of our mentally ill can best be described as dismissive. Fewer and fewer funds are made available for the care of the mentally ill, thus greater and greater numbers of facilities like the Hudson River Psychiatric Center are closing. I imagine that Hudson River was a haven for many patients, unlike facilities from the 19th century, and feel disheartened to learn of its closing.

  5. Barbara S. said, on 10/02/2012 at 4:55 pm

    This is a very interesting project as well….so many times it is “out with the old” and “in with the new”. Now the “new” has become the “old”…so instead, these days it’s like “out with the new” and “in with the ‘newest’. I love the colour effect. What is happening with the patients? Where will they go? Perhaps to a ‘newer’ facility which will in years become the “old” one to be torn down for another ‘newer’ facility…and the cycle begins. I will be looking forward to your posts on this one too.

  6. joncrispin said, on 10/02/2012 at 5:26 pm

    Barbara, yeah, I love the colors. Patients were moved to another facility. / Yesterday I got an email from the person who escorted me around the building and she said our timing was fortunate; most of the items we photographed have been moved out. / I am so lucky to have access to these sites. I don’t really see this as an ongoing project though as I did this work pro bono and there is no money anywhere for this kind of documentation. Believe me I am not complaining but it would be great to get funding for this sort of thing. I am thinking I could use a modern day version of the Medici family, and I would do nothing but work like this.

  7. sanslartigue said, on 19/02/2012 at 8:26 pm

    I’m in the final weeks of construction of the replacement for the Oregon State Hospital, Kesey’s Cuckoo’s Nest. We rehabbed a portion of the original Kirkbride building for administration and treatment, otherwise it’s all new. We understood that we are fairly unique in building a new 600 bed psychiatric hospital. We’ll be building another smaller facility starting later this year.

  8. joncrispin said, on 20/02/2012 at 10:39 am

    sans, very interesting. Is the new building occupying the same footprint as the original? / Glad to hear the state is spending money for this. It is a bit rare in this day and age. jon

  9. sanslartigue said, on 20/02/2012 at 10:03 pm

    Very different footprint. 22 courtyards, new treatment model, much excitement. The legacy here, similar to your suitcases, are the canisters of unclaimed cremains. David Maisel did a photo book on them, Library of Dust, some years ago that prompted a lot of attention that eventually lead to the replacement of the facility.

    Best of luck with getting a publishing deal, your work is amazing. Are you familiar with Christopher Payne’s book Asylum?

    • joncrispin said, on 21/02/2012 at 10:15 am

      sans, thanks for the information. I have seen David’s pictures; really amazing. I appreciate your interest in the suitcases and would like to stay in touch. Best, jon

    • Barbara S. said, on 21/02/2012 at 8:12 pm

      Very interesting…I have been following the suitcase revelation and found the “Library of Dust” very interesting as well. How unique about the various colouring…I have checked out the web sites you mentioned. Are these cremains going to remain at the site? I wonder if there are any “records” that would reveal more about the people and their family history? Thanks for sharing. Now, I am getting curious…people deserve to be remembered and I just wonder how many of the people had families that did not know the outcome of their families.

      • L.S. Stuhler said, on 22/02/2012 at 10:35 am

        Hi Barbara, I agree with you that these people need to be remembered with dignity. There are a few states that will actually allow engraved headstones be placed on these hundred year old graves such as Oregon, Washington, Massachusetts and a few others. New York State is not among them but I and many others have been trying to change that. It’s not easy to change current law and it is not a top priority in NY. If you are interested in learning more about the situation in NY and in other states, visit my blog at: (related links). Jon’s wonderful photographs of suitcases will hopefully make people aware that there are thousands of people buried in anonymous graves all over the U.S. because they were inmates in state mental institutiions. Thanks. -Lin

      • sanslartigue said, on 25/02/2012 at 3:20 pm

        OSH has a website to search for family member’s cremains that are unclaimed, and hopefully reunite familys:

  10. L.S. Stuhler said, on 24/02/2012 at 3:28 pm

    There is an article that I posted on my blog about the anonymous burial of Sally Green. Her family was never notified until she had been dead and buried for three weeks in an anonymous grave and yes, she lived with a mental illness.

    • L.S. Stuhler said, on 24/02/2012 at 3:37 pm

      Jon, You have got to read this article, it is unbelievable that this is still happening in 2012. Thanks! -Lin (

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