Creedmor State Hospital opened in 1912 as a small farm colony for Brooklyn State Hospital. The patients grew agricultural products in order to provide fresh produce while also participating in therapeutic work. The number of institutionalized mental patients more than doubled in New York State between 1890 and 1910 which led to the expansion of New York mental hospitals.
Architect Lewis F Pilcher designed the four low-rise brick structures that were built in 1922, these included the two patient housing units, kitchen, and powerplants. Rapid expansion of the hospital continued until 1932. Creedmor became its own independent institution in 1935 but soon after, in 1940, WPA funding was discontinued and only a portion of the planned landscaping had been completed.
Prior to 1970, most psychiatric disorders and developmental disabilities were misdiagnosed as schizophrenia. Patients with autism, anxiety, OCD and bipolar disorder were commonly given a diagnosis of schizophrenia and received improper treatment.
After the hospital’s population started to decrease with the introduction of new medications, violent patients were being admitted after release from prison which led to the spike in violent abuse toward staff and other patients. In 1974 the state ordered a crime report to be conducted on the Creedmor campus as the conditions had worsened and crime had become an issue. Within the twenty months recorded, there were three rapes, twenty-two assaults, fifty-two fires, 130 burglaries, six suicides, a shooting, riot, and attempted murder reported. Ten years later, a patient was killed after being struck in the throat by a staff member while restrained in a straightjacket. A 1977 article wrote about a patient who had been committed to the hospital even though he had stabbed his wife sixty times and then strangled his child with an electric cord. The patient was able to easily escape after being granted permission to walk the campus without supervision despite his violent history.
After Creedmor hit its peak population in 1959, patient admittance started to decline and in 2006 parts of the campus were sold and the inpatient population dwindled down to 470. The current property is divided into the north and south campus, both of which are occupied by a number of different independent organizations and state run mental health offices.
The campus has become a sanctuary for squatters, pigeons, and stray cats, even though some of the buildings are still being used as offices, and the larger building across the street is still an operational psychiatric center.
Building 25 had closed in the 1970s but it remains occupied. For the last four decades, countless pigeons have been living inside leaving mountains of guano on the fourth floor which sends a nauseating stench throughout the entire building.