Photo of the Week
FROM THE SCHS LIBRARY ARCHIVES
“How shall we know it is us without our past?”
– John Steinbeck
KINGS PARK STATE HOSPITAL, 1885 – 1996
by Wendy Polhemus-Annibell, Head Librarian
Kings Park State Hospital, 1925. (Image from the Smithtown Pictorial Collection of the Suffolk County Historical Society [176.29.2]. Copyright © Suffolk County Historical Society. All rights reserved.) This photograph by P. Hildenbrand was taken from the top of the power plant’s smokestack, at “215 feet high,” according to the photographer’s notes. In the background are the Nissequogue River and Short Beach.
The Kings Park “Lunatic Asylum” was established in 1885 on 800 acres. The state took over control of the facility in 1895, and the name was changed to Kings Park State Hospital. A self-sufficient farm community was established, providing work for staff members and nurses. In addition, about 70 percent of patients worked various jobs on the hospital grounds. In 1900, the hospital housed nearly 3,000 patients and almost 500 staff members, giving the hospital a larger population than the Town of Smithtown. There were over 150 permanent buildings, including a laundry, bakery, library, nursing school, recreation hall, bandstand, and many repair and construction shops. Kings Park constructed its own railroad spurs in order to bring in coal and supplies from the LIRR line. The LIRR also had a Sunday-only passenger train to and from the grounds of the hospital for visitors. Kings Park State Hospital closed in 1996. Its mentally ill population peaked in the late 1950s with over 9,000 patients.