View of the front of the house. This side of the property was visible from the fairly busy main road
Frederick Clarke Withers, the same architect who designed the Hudson River State Hospital, designed the gothic style mansion for Joseph Howland in 1859 as part of the Tioronda Estate. About twenty years after Howland’s death, the estate was sold to Dr. Clarence Slocum in 1915 when it became The Craig House which was the first licensed private psychiatric hospital in the United States. The Craig House, also referred to as the “Craig House Sanitarium for Insane in Beacon” has limited information available given its status as a private psychiatric hospital for the rich and famous.
Music room on the top floor with the large organ in pristine condition
Founder Dr. Clarence Slocum believed that through intensive talking therapy, hydrotherapy, fine dining, comfortable leisure and recreational activities, patients could be cured. His son Jonathan Slocum worked closely with him as director of the hospital where they treated patients more like guests. Patients who were able to afford it stayed in individual cottages that were scattered throughout the Tioronda campus while the rest were treated in the turrets of the mansion. Although the goal was to provide patients with a comfortable safe haven to receive psychiatric treatment, tragedy surrounded The Craig House Hospital and Tirionda estate while in operation and after its closure. With the untimely deaths of patients and owners as well as unexpected fires swallowing some of the estate buildings, The Craig House seems to have a growing list of unsettling occurrences.
Fire place in the music room
As of 1996, The Craig House consisted of three inpatient wards and the average duration of a patient’s stay was only seven to twelve days as opposed to its earlier years in operation when patients stayed months or years at a time. When the hospital failed to keep up with the other evolving private institutions of the time, they decided to officially close in 1999.
In 2003, Robert Wilson, a wall street hedge fund manager purchased the property with the hopes of renovating the mansion into a space for art storage. After an auction cleared the mansion of nearly all its furniture and decorations, renovations were attempted but never completed. Since I am used to photographing places with unbelievable amounts of furniture, clothing, and personal items, going inside to see practically nothing was shocking. In 2011, the carriage house and workshop were two buildings separate from the mansion and housing extension that were demolished. The Craig House “curse” didn’t end once its doors were closed. Robert Wilson, the most recent owner, jumped to his death from the sixteenth floor of his upper west side apartment December 23, 2013 after suffering from a stroke earlier that year. A few months later, March 20, 2013, the administration building across the street went up into flames adding it to the list of buildings that vanished from the Tioronda estate property.
After suffering from a botched lobotomy, Rosemary Kennedy arrived at The Craig House in 1941 being twenty-three years old but with the mental age of a two-year old. At birth, Rosemary was deprived of oxygen which was believed to be the cause of her developmental delays. Intellectual disabilities and behavior problems such as mood swings, promiscuity and rebellion paired with violent seizures, concerned the Kennedy’s as it may be a threat to their political prospects. Her father decided that a prefrontal lobotomy might be the only way to cure these issues, but sadly they left Rosemary partially paralyzed and mentally disabled. The Kennedy family felt it would be best to send their daughter and sister to a private hospital where she could live a comfortable lifestyle while also receiving treatment amongst other affluent individuals. Treatment for the year was about $50,000 and an additional $2,400 for each month while Rosemary stayed in one of the cottages separate from the mansion. During her few years stay, none of the Kennedy’s came to visit her with the exception of a few visits from her father Joseph. The “hidden Kennedy” was for the most part abandoned by her family for those years until they came to pick her up, only to send her off to another facility in Wisconsin.
Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald
Zelda Fitzgerald was a talented writer and artist of the 1920s, but most know her as the wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald. After showing clear signs of mental illness, Fitzgerald sent his wife to be treated at The Craig House in the mid 1930s where she was diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Zelda and Scott sent letters back and forth throughout those months during her stay where she wrote to him about golfing, ceramics, and other therapeutic activities she was participating in. Even though Fitzgerald wanted the best psychiatric care for his wife, he was no longer able to foot the bill so he had to find a more affordable institution. The last letter Zelda wrote to Scott was from The Craig House right before she left for the Highland Hospital in North Carolina. The transition from the two hospitals was not an easy one. The rooms of The Craig House were always unlocked, the windows were free of bars, and there were enough staff members to keep order, the Highland Hospital however, kept doors locked, and faced many of the problems state funded institutions did such as understaffing. On the night of March 10, 1948 a fire broke out in the kitchen of the Highland Hospital. Zelda was unable to escape from her locked room and died.
frances ford seymour
Frances Ford Seymour was the mother of Jane and Peter Fonda, and the wife of Henry Fonda. The story of Frances Ford Seymour’s life as well as time at The Craig House is perhaps the most tragic of them all. Seymour was no stranger to psychiatric treatment, when she wasn’t staying in a sanitarium, she was on so much medication that she was unable to interact with her children. When the stress of dealing with Frances’ mental illness became too much, Henry asked for a divorce which led to Seymour’s complete mental breakdown, sending her to her final hospital in a straightjacket. The Craig Hospital would be where Frances Ford Seymour spent the remaining years of her life. After pretending to get better, she was granted permission to return home for day visits. One afternoon, Frances returned home to see her children for one last time, snuck a razor into her purse, and went back to the hospital as usual. That night, April 14, 1950 she slit her throat with the razor in one of the turrets of the mansion. Frances Ford Seymour died on her forty-second birthday leaving her nine-year old son and twelve-year old daughter with unanswered questions about why they were left without a mother. It wasn’t until decades later when Jane Fonda gained access to and reviewed her mother’s medical records did they find the answers they were so desperately looking for. Fonda discovered that in addition to her mother’s mental illness, she had been sexually abused since she was eight years old. Sadly, Frances Ford Seymour wasn’t the only patient to commit suicide in that mansion, she was just the most well-known.
The Tioronda School was designed by Frederick Clarke Withers in 1865 and its churchly design led it to be used as a chapel for a short period of time. In 1918, the Red Cross even used the school as an emergency hospital to treat the overflow of flu patients in the town.
The 1879 Tioronda Hat Works was a factory built as part of the Tioronda Estate and is down the road from the Craig House Hospital mansion.
Inside of one of the Tioronda Hat Works factories
What's left of the waterfront side of the Tioronda Hat Works building after a fire destroyed most of it
Inside one of the Tioronda Hat Works factories
"Let us skate" spray painted on the boards outside of the hat works factory
"Let us skate" written on the wooden boards covering the hole that was once used to get inside the old factory. Local skateboarders transformed the old hat factory into a skate park much like many other skateboarders across the country have in their town's abandoned industrial areas. The brick wall behind it has become a street art mural much different from any other graffiti that is usually found on an abandoned building. Developers and contractors even went as far as to block the boarded entrance with concrete and large rocks to make sure no one can get inside. The "let us skate" seems like a sad cry from young skaters in the area looking to go to their favorite spot to do what they love only to find it has been taken away from them.
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All photos taken by Sami Fego unless stated otherwise