February 4, 2017 – Beacon, NY
Disclaimer: Exploring abandoned and/or ruined structures can be dangerous and you could be trespassing. Should you choose to enter the property of any of the places featured on this site, do so legally.
Beacon, NY was originally settled as the villages of Matteawan and Fishkill Landing in 1709, which were among the first colonial communities in Dutchess County. During the 1960’s, urban renewal led to the destruction of some significant historic buildings. In the late 1970’s, a decline in the economy shuttered most of the factories. This decline quickly became an economic downturn that lasted from about 1970 to the late 1990’s, during which almost 80 percent of the city’s commercial business spaces and factories were vacant. Some buildings were placed on the National Historic Register and thus saved from the wrecking ball and some lay in abandon and/or ruins. There were a few such places that piqued my interest and I wanted to visit and photograph them. Since I reside about an hour away, I decided to visit multiple sites on the same day and work in a hike as well.
It was a cold January morning with temps in the mid 20’s, but sunny. A perfect day to do some exploring. Our first stop would be an abandoned cemetery that sits behind the Reformed Church of Beacon. Originally the Reformed Dutch Church of Fishkill Landing, is a congregation of the Reformed Church in America. It claims to be the oldest church in Beacon. The original church started out as a small and simple white frame structure. It wasn’t until the late 1850’s that a new church had to be built because it was outgrown. The 2 1/2 story Victorian Gothic church was completed in 1859 and made the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.
According to their website, “The Holy Spirit is alive and moving at the Reformed Church of Beacon.” That doesn’t seem to be the case for the cemetery, which lays in abandon just feet away.
The family burial vaults that were built into the hillside are now empty and exposed to the elements.
Colonel William Few, a signer of the U.S. Constitution for the state of Georgia, was once buried in the family vault in this cemetery. Due to the condition of the cemetery, his remains were removed in 1973 and re-interred in Augusta, Georgia.
Its graves date from 1813 to the early 20th century, but some have been re-interred elsewhere in the years since the cemetery fell into decline.
I am not sure if the same can be said for those that were laid in the ground.
From the inside looking out.
Our next stop was an old school, located not too far away. In Historic Beacon Robert J. Murphy and Denise Doring Van Buren wrote: Designed by renowned architect Frederick Clarke Withers the building is unexpectedly churchly in appearance – and, in fact, it was once used as a chapel. Built in 1865, it is our oldest schoolhouse extant. Its long history even includes hospital duty: during the Great Flu Epidemic of 1918 the Red Cross used the school as an emergency hospital to treat the overflow of Beacon’s sick.
I spotted this building on Google Maps while searching for the abandoned cemetery and at first I thought that the cemetery was here. Even after I pinpointed the location of the cemetery, I thought that this place warranted a visit as well. Besides the information above, I could not find anything else of note online.
The school sits on a desolate section of town, a stone’s throw from Fishkill Creek. The property around it is overgrown and neglected. I took a walk around the building to get a better look and the back door which was a sheet of plywood, was ripped off and laying on the ground. I heard some noises coming from the inside so I did not attempt to enter. Someone or something was moving about and I did not want to come face to face with them. I was able to capture the ensuing image from the doorway.
The front entrance is on the west side of the building.
There is also a small outbuilding close by.
I’m not sure what the purpose of this building was for, but it had a small wood burning stove and a chimney built in.
A safety screen was peeled back and I was able to get a peek inside.
Within feet of the outbuilding there is a tennis court that has seen better days.
Tennis anyone? I would have borrowed a racket from whomever was lurking inside the school, but that was a terrible racket.
Once we were done checking out the school, we left the vehicle parked alongside the road and began to walk up the hill. Our next stop was The Craig House Institute which was just up the hill right alongside Route 9D. Originally built for Civil War General Joseph Howland in 1859, the Victorian mansion was the first American privately owned psychiatric hospital. The architect was Frederick Clarke Withers, once a partner of Calvert Vaux, better known as co-designer with Frederick Law Olmsted of Central Park in Manhattan. For decades it was America’s most prestigious rehabilitation home, the perfect haven for patients to be cured. In reality it was a place of great sadness and despair.
I had read about this place and it seemed like an interesting subject to photograph. As we walked up the hill I saw a paved road that led into the woods. It looked as it may have been a service road that led onto the property. I had read about numerous other buildings on the grounds that had either burnt down or had been torn down. I decided to take this route and see what may be hiding away back there. Not too far from where we entered, there were ruins of a building to the left. I bushwacked through the thorn bushes to get a closer look. I did not notice any remnants of any interior walls along the ground and it appeared to me that this building had an open floor plan. Perhaps a dining hall or a gymnasium?
I walked over to the doorway to get a look inside. The room sat underneath the road that we had just walked on and had a similar appearance to an old wine cellar although that would not be practical for a sanitarium.
We continued on the service road until it led us out onto one of the main roads of the property. We walked up to the front of the mansion to get a close up view of this palatial hospital. This is some information that I have gathered about its most prominent residents. Zelda Fitzgerald, the wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald, was committed in 1932, after years of struggling with mental illness. She died in 1948 during a fire in another psychiatric hospital in North Carolina. Frances Ford Fonda the wife of Henry Fonda and mother of Jane and Peter Fonda, committed suicide here in 1950 at the age of 42 by cutting her throat with a razor. Her suicide came just days after Henry Fonda personally asked her for a divorce.
Rosemary Kennedy spent time at Craig House after a lobotomy left her in a virtually infant-like state. Jackie Gleason used Craig House as a place to relax, recharge and dry out. It is rumored that he had donated a pool table for the residents to use. Marilyn Monroe checked in under an assumed name to deal with her many issues.
Apparently left over from a former renovation.
The once exclusive hospital closed in 1999, but the tragedy of the house doesn’t end there. It was bought in 2003 by Robert Wilson, a Wall Street hedge fund founder. In December of 2013 at age 87, he jumped to his death from a window of his Upper West Side apartment building.
“I love that the story can’t be changed again and one more place is haunted – old sorrows and a half-forgotten happiness are stored where they can be recaptured.” ~ Zelda Fitzgerald
It was an quite an intriguing morning in Beacon. So much so that I decided to pen two blog posts about this day behind the lens. I hope that you enjoyed the images I captured along with the information that I provided. I actually learn more during the writing of my blog than I do before my visits to these historical places. As always, please don’t forget to follow my blog and feel free to share this post with your friends. Comments and/or suggestions are always welcome as well.
found your site by a happy accident ! really glad i did – love it !!! im in brooklyn- found you looking for info on welwyn preserve- my son and i are venturing there tomorrow. super site you have- really generous of you to share all of this information !!! we have visited many of the same places- but im seeing many new ones here as well- very excited for spring adventures ! happy hunting ! take care
Thank you for your interest, I am glad that you found some new places to explore. Feel free to share any gems as I would love to learn about any interesting places to visit.
Did you go inside the Craig house? I’m interested in visiting but I want to be sure it’s worth the trip
The Craig House is #1 on my bucket list!! Since I was a young kid I have been fascinated by it. I have no idea why but it sucks me in. I was born in Beacon (in the old, old Highland Hospital that was on Verplanck Avenue). I don’t live in Beacon anymore but I’m only 20-25 mins away. I have been dying to take a hike on the grounds and explore but I heard the cops swarm that place 24/7 so I have been hesitant and stayed away. My #2 wish is the Poughkeepsie psychiatric hospital. That place is HUGE but I would love to spend the day there exploring. Another place I heard is patrolled constantly. When you went to the Craig house did you see any cops? Did anyone stop and say anything to you? Also, have you been to the Poughkeepsie Psych hospital? I haven’t looked through your whole page yet but from what I just read above, I love it!! Thanks so much for sharing your experiences with us. Safe travels and keep the updates coming… Take care.
I have been wanting to go to the Zelda Fitzgerald sanitarium for a while now but have been hesitant for the cops because I haven’t read much, but I have visited the Poughkeepsie Psych center many times. I guess I have gotten lucky and not been caught by the cops but i have been into most of the building that are still standing, and i would recommend the visit. the place is enormous and absolutely incredible in terms of exploring and photography. There do seem to be homeless people and junkies living in some parts though.
It is patrolled sometimes, but i have been many times and know people who have gone many times as well. If you are concerned about being caught, it is the owners who have been trying to stop people from going in and out, but still an amazing trip if you’re willing to take the risk. Hope this helps (:
I too, was born in Highland Hospital. They have torn the building down and are turning the location into a senior living facility.
Hi, I’m planning to take a trip up here tomorrow. I was wondering if there is any hiking to get up there and also if there is a way to actually gain entry to the building? Any help is appreciated. Thank You. 🙂
A very popular hike with fantastic views is the Mount Beacon Fire Tower.
Another hike with some Hudson River views is Madam Brett Park to Denning’s Point State Park and Long Dock Park. It covers three parks which connect.
I was born and raised in Beacon, even still reside here and yet I have never known of that school to exist. Thanks for the info. This was an informative and fun read about my hometown. Also, the Craig House just sold quite recently. I believe it sold for around 4 million dollars. Not quite sure to whom and what it will be used for wether residential or commercial, but I’d love to know.
In case you were still curious about the more recent history of the school in the pictures, it was used by Craig House as gym. The out building was not used at that time, but I believe it’s original purpose was for caretakers of the school. The tennis courts were also part of the grounds of Craig House. On the road between Craig House and the school there was a small white house that was used as a school for the adolescent wing of the hospital. There was an art studio on the grounds as well that could have been where you found the building ruins…hard to say.
Wow memories, I happened to run across this site when looking to see if anyone has turned Craig House Hospital into something again. I worked at Craig House from 1984 to 1987 adolescent wing. As Paul stated the little white house along a gravel road was the school house and played tennis on those courts many times. There was a small indoor pool at the end of the gravel road. I too was born at the old Highland Hospital and worked there too for a time. It was first sold to as a rehab hospital not sure what it turned into now. Someone should turn that place in an exclusive resort it has LOTS of History!
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I found this site after studying some of the personalities you have described as being here. This is indeed “the romance of the ruins.” So haunting and formerly filled with life and hope. Thank you for doing this.
The old school was used by Craig House as a gymnasium upstairs with a half basketball court. Down stairs was a large therapy pool and jacuzzi room. Across the pond from the tennis courts was a spring fed unground pool. Up the hill, where you described a underground room, this was used as a root cellar, next to it was the craft shop where the patients were instructed in painting, ceramics, knitting, etc. near it was a patient cottage, later used as a school for the adolescent patients. There were many cottages used as residence for the patients with separate staffing up until the new wing of the hospital was completed and all patients were moved there. Doctors offices and administration offices were across 9d in a large brick building, destroyed by a fire some years back.
The Reformed Church is in full use now! The graveyard has been completely overgrown, however, and the old empty mausoleums demolished, I believe.
The Craig House is being renovated into a spa, and I’m not surprised it has a wine cellar-looking thing, as it was originally a home, part of the same estate the Tioranda School belonged to.