At first glance this modest island in New York appears unremarkable. The 131-acre dark speck of land has crumbling buildings, is off-limits to the public, and has not been occupied for the last forty years. Area residents might know of Long Island Sound’s Hart Island, but few are familiar with its long-standing mission as the largest – and least visited – burial ground in the United States.
For one hundred and fifty years the island has also been home to a prisoner of war camp, an insane asylum, a quarantine facility, a tuberculosis sanatorium, a boy’s reformatory, a disciplinary barracks, a Nike Ajax missile base, and a narcotics rehabilitation center. Read more…
Welcome to Forest Haven, one of the most deadly institutions in the United States.
This asylum for the mentally ill was built not far the nation’s capital in 1925, hidden in forested acreage away from the busy city center. The campus was beautiful, however care and treatment would deteriorate rapidly as the city’s budget tightened. Understaffing issues were common, and for decades reports of resident abuse and neglect went ignored.
The District treated Forest Haven like a dark secret nobody wanted to discuss. A combination of budget cuts and lawsuits eventually forced the institution to close in 1991 after 80 years.
But before Forest Haven was shuttered, hundreds of residents died and thousands more deteriorated while enduring a horrific quality of life.
Originally established in 1908, St. Mary’s Mercy Hospital would see multiple additions and renovations over the years while it expanded to accommodate the city’s growing number of residents. But when the fortunes of Gary turned and the citizens fled, the hospital became economically superfluous; the reduced population base could not financially support operations.
The debt-ridden facility endured a slow and painful contraction before finally closing in 1995. Several attempts were made to reuse the building–including the moving of the city’s police department into the newest wing–but half of the complex was never re-appropriated and left vacant. Today, the remaining structures have deteriorated and are likely beyond repair.