Pilgrim Psychiatric Center
Pilgrim Psychiatric Center, formerly known as Pilgrim State Hospital, is a state-run psychiatric hospital
Psychiatric hospital
Psychiatric hospitals, also known as mental hospitals, are hospitals specializing in the treatment of serious mental disorders. Psychiatric hospitals vary widely in their size and grading. Some hospitals may specialise only in short-term or outpatient therapy for low-risk patients...

 located in Brentwood, New York
Brentwood, New York
Brentwood is a hamlet of the Town of Islip in Suffolk County, New York. According to the 2000 Census, the population of Brentwood is 53,917.The colony was established on March 21, 1851, on 750 acres of land on Long Island, New York, by Josiah Warren and Stephen Pearl Andrews...

. At the time it opened, it was the largest hospital of any kind in the world http://www.omh.state.ny.us/omhweb/facilities/pgpc/facility.htm. Its size has never been exceeded by any other facility, though it's now far smaller than it once was.


By 1900 overcrowding in New York City's psychiatric asylums had become a serious problem. There were several strategies implemented to deal with the escalating patient overload. One was to put the patients to work, farming in a relaxed setting on what was then rural Long Island
Long Island
Long Island is an island located in the southeast part of the U.S. state of New York, just east of Manhattan. Stretching northeast into the Atlantic Ocean, Long Island contains four counties, two of which are boroughs of New York City , and two of which are mainly suburban...

. The new state hospitals were dubbed "farm colonies" because of their live-and-work treatment programs and emphasis on agriculture. However, these farm colonies as well as other psychiatric institutions, such as Kings Park State Hospital, which was later named Kings Park Psychiatric Center
Kings Park Psychiatric Center
The Kings Park Psychiatric Center, known by Kings Park locals simply as 'The Psych Center', is a former state-run psychiatric hospital located in Kings Park, New York...

 and Central Islip State Hospital (later named Central Islip Psychiatric Center
Central Islip Psychiatric Center
The Central Islip Psychiatric Center was a psychiatric hospital in Central Islip, New York, USA from 1889 until 1996.The center was one of the four major hospital "farms" in central Long Island to house the sick from New York City; the others were Kings Park, Pilgrim State Hospital, and Edgewood...

), became overcrowded, like the institutions they were meant to replace.

NY state began making plans for a third farm colony, which was to become Pilgrim State Hospital, named in honor of the former New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

 State Commissioner of Mental Health, Dr. Charles W. Pilgrim. The state bought approximately 1000 acres (4 km²) of land in Brentwood and began construction on the hospital in 1930. Pilgrim State Hospital opened on October 1, 1931 as a close-knit community with its own police and fire department, courts, post office, a LIRR
Long Island Rail Road
The Long Island Rail Road or LIRR is a commuter rail system serving the length of Long Island, New York. It is the busiest commuter railroad in North America, serving about 81.5 million passengers each year. Established in 1834 and having operated continuously since then, it is the oldest US...

 station, power plant, potter's field
Potter's field
A potter's field was an American term for a place for the burial of unknown or indigent people. The expression derives from the Bible, referring to a field used for the extraction of potter's clay, which was useless for agriculture but could be used as a burial site.-Origin:The term comes from...

, swine farm, church, cemetery and water tower, as well as houses for staff and administrators. A series of underground tunnels were used for transporting food from the kitchens to the buildings, as well as housing steam pipes. Each set of buildings were known as quads, a pattern of four buildings situated around a center building, where the kitchen was located.

The hospital continued to grow as the patient population increased. Eventually, the state of New York bought up more land to the southwest of the facility to construct Edgewood State Hospital
Edgewood State Hospital
Edgewood State Hospital was a tubercular/psychiatric hospital complex that formerly stood in Deer Park, New York, on Long Island, New York, USA. It was one of four state mental asylums built on Long Island , and was the last one of the four to be built.The hospital was built in the...

, a short-lived facility that was a subsidiary of Pilgrim State Hospital. In fact, Pilgrim State Hospital was so large that it reached into four Suffolk towns: Huntington, Babylon, Smithtown and Islip, and had two state roads passing through its bounds.

During World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, the War Department
United States Department of War
The United States Department of War, also called the War Department , was the United States Cabinet department originally responsible for the operation and maintenance of the United States Army...

 took control of Edgewood State Hospital, along with three new buildings at Pilgrim State Hospital, buildings 81, 82, and 83. The War Department constructed numerous temporary structures and renamed Edgewood State Hospital and buildings 81-83 "Mason General Hospital
Mason General Hospital
Mason General Hospital was a psychiatric hospital run by the United States War Department on Long Island during World War II.The facility consisted of all of the buildings that comprised Edgewood State Hospital and three buildings from Pilgrim State Hospital, in addition to numerous temporary...

," a psychiatric hospital devoted to treating battle-traumatized soldiers. Renowned filmmaker John Huston
John Huston
John Marcellus Huston was an American film director, screenwriter and actor. He wrote most of the 37 feature films he directed, many of which are today considered classics: The Maltese Falcon , The Treasure of the Sierra Madre , Key Largo , The Asphalt Jungle , The African Queen , Moulin Rouge...

, who received a special commission in the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War II, made a documentary
Documentary film
Documentary films constitute a broad category of nonfictional motion pictures intended to document some aspect of reality, primarily for the purposes of instruction or maintaining a historical record...

 at Mason General Hospital called "Let There Be Light
Let There Be Light (film)
Let There Be Light is a 1946 American documentary film directed by John Huston.The film, commissioned by the United States Army Signal Corps, was the final entry in a John Huston trilogy of films produced at the request of the U.S. Government. This documentary film follows 75 U.S. soldiers who have...

", which showed the effects of war on mental health. The film sparked a controversy and was not seen by the public until 1981.

After World War II, Pilgrim State Hospital experienced an increase in patient population that made it the world's largest hospital, with 13,875 patients and over 4,000 employees. In fact, at one time it was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest mental hospital in the world. In the 1950's more aggressive treatments, such as lobotomy
Lobotomy "; τομή – tomē: "cut/slice") is a neurosurgical procedure, a form of psychosurgery, also known as a leukotomy or leucotomy . It consists of cutting the connections to and from the prefrontal cortex, the anterior part of the frontal lobes of the brain...

 and electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) were implemented. The best known controversy about this surrounded the case of Beulah Jones, a patient there between 1952-1972 who received both such treatments and was left seriously impaired. However, Pilgrim State Hospital and the other state hospitals began to decline shortly afterwards with the advent of pharmaceutical alternatives to institutionalization.

Dr. Henry Brill
Henry Brill
Henry Brill was an American psychiatrist and educator. A native of Bridgeport, Connecticut, he earned both his undergraduate and medical degrees from Yale University. After receiving his M.D...

 served as the director Pilgrim from 1958 to 1974 and presided over both the introduction of the new anti-psychotic medications and the large numbers of discharges related to good response to these medications.

Death of the "Farm Colonies"

As psychiatric medication and community care became an increasingly viable alternative to institutionalization, large mental institutions began to decline. Edgewood, the last psychiatric hospital to be built on Long Island, closed its doors in December, 1971, following decentralization. Kings Park and Central Islip State Hospital remained open, while slowly downsizing. During this time Pilgrim State Hospital and parts of the campus began to close, continuing to downsize into the 1970s and 1980s. Buildings 81-83 were briefly used as a correctional facility in the 1980s, but after community protest they reverted back to psychiatric use. In the early 1990s, with declining patient populations in the three remaining hospitals, the New York State Office of Mental Health (formerly the Department of Mental Hygiene) began making plans to re-organize the Long Island hospitals, which were implemented in the fall of 1996, when Kings Park and Central Islip State Hospital were closed, and the remaining patients from those facilities were transferred to Pilgrim State Hospital. Parts of Central Islip Psychiatric Center became a campus for the New York Institute of Technology
New York Institute of Technology
New York Institute of Technology is a private, non-sectarian, co-educational research university in New York City. NYIT has five schools and two colleges, all with a strong emphasis on technology and applied scientific research...

, as well as a residential and commercial development. At Kings Park, three buildings housing community residences administered by Pilgrim remain open. Much of the former campus has become a state park, while the rest sits unused.

Pilgrim Today

Today, the much smaller Pilgrim Psychiatric Center is the last of the state institutions still operating on Long Island. The farm was sold, the land developed, and it became the Western Campus of the Suffolk County Community College
Suffolk County Community College
Suffolk County Community College is a two-year public college on Long Island, NY sponsored by SUNY and Suffolk County, New York in the USA....

 in 1974.

Gerald Wolkoff bought the property 462 acres (1.9 km²) for $21 million in 2002 and announced a plan to build a $4 billion residential/office complex, called Heartland Town Center, on the site which borders his Heartland Business Park, which is to the west of the complex. In preparation, several former hospital buildings were demolished, however, rebuilding has not yet begun. Other abandoned structures, like the former administration building, medical/surgical building, doctor's residences and utilities section remain, though plans have been made for their demolition.

Pilgrim Psychiatric Center hosts a museum, which displays items from Kings Park, Central Islip, Pilgrim, and Edgewood, such as photos, newsletters, relics from abandoned and demolished buildings, and other historical information.

Another proposed project for the site is the Pilgrim Intermodal Freight Transportation Center, which would be a facility for transloading
For the data downloading process, see sideload.Transloading is the process of transferring a shipment from one mode of transportation to another. It is most commonly employed when one mode cannot be used for the entire trip, as for instance when goods must be shipped internationally from one inland...

 freight from trains to trucks. It would be built on a 120 acre (0.4856232 km²) tract owned by the state and use a rail siding of the Long Island Rail Road
Long Island Rail Road
The Long Island Rail Road or LIRR is a commuter rail system serving the length of Long Island, New York. It is the busiest commuter railroad in North America, serving about 81.5 million passengers each year. Established in 1834 and having operated continuously since then, it is the oldest US...

 that previously carried freight and visitors to the hospital.http://www.nytimes.com/2003/08/17/nyregion/freight-yard-faces-questions.html https://www.nysdot.gov/regional-offices/region10/projects/long-island-intermodal/repository/appendix-g-2030-freight-rail-forecast-update.pdf


In 1985 the movie "Murder: By Reason of Insanity", starring Candice Bergen, was filmed on the grounds of Pilgrim State Hospital, in Building 14. This movie was based on Adam Berwid, who had murdered his wife on a Day Pass from the hospital. Staff working at the facility were able to audition for small roles. The case was also the subject of a 1980 segment of CBS
CBS Broadcasting Inc. is a major US commercial broadcasting television network, which started as a radio network. The name is derived from the initials of the network's former name, Columbia Broadcasting System. The network is sometimes referred to as the "Eye Network" in reference to the shape of...

's 60 Minutes
60 Minutes
60 Minutes is an American television news magazine, which has run on CBS since 1968. The program was created by producer Don Hewitt who set it apart by using a unique style of reporter-centered investigation....


Allen Ginsberg
Allen Ginsberg
Irwin Allen Ginsberg was an American poet and one of the leading figures of the Beat Generation in the 1950s. He vigorously opposed militarism, materialism and sexual repression...

's mother, Naomi Livergant Ginsberg, who suffered with schizophrenia throughout most of her life, died at Pilgrim State Hospital in 1956. "Pilgim State" is mentioned in "Howl", which is widely considered among his greatest works.

External links

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