New York

St. Lawrence State Hospital in Ogdensburg, New York

Closed in 1983, the St. Lawrence State Hospital in Ogdensburg, New York was an integral part of the local community for nearly a century. It treated thousands of mentally ill, disabled, and epileptic patients. Today, most of the hospital’s old buildings are abandoned, but several were sold and opened as private treatment facilities and a NY State minimum security prison.

In 1886, a state commission selected Airy Point on the St. Lawrence River in Ogdensburg to build a “State Asylum for the Insane.” Architect I.G Perry designed it in a “cottage plan,” meaning it would be made up of several smaller buildings rather than one large institution. Construction began in 1888 and it opened two years later. A nursing school opened at the location in 1890.

According to Brenda Sandburg, whose grandfather was the St. Lawrence State Hospital senior business administrator for 37 years, in the 1940s and ’50s the hospital had poultry, dairy, and vegetable farms to produce food for its approximately 2,000 patients. It had its own fire and police departments; a post office and telephone system; carpentry, plumbing, and paint shops; a tailor shop; theater; and a store.

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Abandoned Catskills

From the 1920s to the 1970s, New York City Jews flocked to Catskill resorts in the summer months to escape the stifling heat of the city. There were once over 500 resorts and hotels in the area, known as the “Borscht Belt“. Many famous comedians and entertainers got their start here. With increasing religious tolerance and the advent of widespread commercial airliners, many families chose to vacation elsewhere and dozens of these establishments now lay abandoned.

Some were re-purposed as condos, but those also failed. Many owners hope casinos will revive the area, while these magnificent structures slowly rot away. It’s surreal how many millions of dollars were sunk into these places over the years. Now it’s all just a faded memory.