All the Rectangular Rooms
Central Islip State Hospital
Located in Central Islip, NY
- Also Known As:Manhattan State Hospital, Central Islip Psychiatric Center, CISH
- Genre:Psychiatric Hospital
- Age:129 years
- Demo / Renovated:N/A
- Decaying for:20 years
- Last Known Status:Abandoned (parts of the campus have been re-used as a college, much has been razed)
Photo © 2005 Tom Kirsch, opacity.us
Central Islip State Hospital History
While psychiatric patients from Brooklyn were being moved to the Kings County Farm Colony (later known as Kings Park State Hospital) on Long Island, the borough of Manhattan sought a similar solution to alleviate the overcrowding in its mental hospitals. In 1887 the city purchased 1,000 acres of remote pine barrens in Central Islip, Long Island. Forty-nine male patients were admitted in 1889, and followed by forty female patients, all working under a treatment described as "O&O" and "R&R" (Occupation and Oxygen, and Rest and Relaxation).
Much like the farm at Kings Park, the colony was eventually purchased by the state of New York and became known as the Manhattan State Hospital, where it then grew into a vast complex housing thousands of patients in over 100 buildings. Two notable complexes were built here; one being several ward groups connected by corridors that stretched approximately one mile long. The elegant architecture and length of the building led to its name as the "String of Pearls." The other complex was called the "Sunburst," which resembled a spoked wheel - each spoke was a treatment ward connected to a central hub, with a curved, circular corridor connecting them all. A hospital fire department with 10 employees was created in 1907.
The hospital had its own locomotive, baggage car, and wooden coach car that was equipped with barred windows, until patients were brought in by van during the great depression (photos here). The hospital was very self-efficient, as daily tasks regarding clothes, food, laundry, craftsmanship and labor were all performed by the patients and employees. In the earlier days of the hospital, the staff lived on the grounds and were not permitted to leave the hospital campus, even during off hours, except for a few days a month.
The hospital, later renamed to Central Islip State Hospital and finally known as Central Islip Psychiatric Center, began to become severely overcrowded through the 1950s. Around this time, a large unit called the Corcoran building was constructed to increase the number of available beds. Central Islip reached its peak population of about 10,000 patients in 1955. Lobotomies, various types of shock treatments, and finally drug therapy replaced the long-gone treatments from the 19th century. The population dwindled in the 1970s and 1980s as de-institutionalization took hold, until it finally closed in 1996. The beautiful String of Pearls was demolished for the shopping mall that now stands in its place, the large 1953 power plant was imploded for condominiums in 2006, and the fire house and Corcoran was demolished in 2008. A few buildings have survived, as some of the campus was sold to the New York Institute of Technology and the structures have found a new use by the college.
Central Islip Psychiatric Center was one of four large mental health systems located in central Long Island; the others being Kings Park Psychiatric Center, Pilgrim Psychiatric Center, and Mason General / Edgewood State Hospital.