Monday, December 29, 2008

Pilgrim's Progress

Pilgrim Hospital Cemetery - December 2008

O. Jackson lies beneath the turf just south of the Long Island Expressway, in a remote section of the grounds at one of Long Island's enormous psychiatric hospitals, in a huge field with rows of rough concrete markers flush with the ground, and probably hundreds of other, unmarked graves.

Oswald, or Otto, or Opal, or Ophelia, forgotten by family and lost in the system. They outlived their treatment and their relatives, and were buried in the back. Without even the span of their years in this world noted on the stone, just a four digit number. And a cross. I guess it was the Christian thing to do.


Pilgrim State Hospital is located just off the Sagtikos Parkway in Brentwood, not too far from Kings Park, and immediately adjacent to a nature preserve which itself is the site of another state hospital, Edgewood. No structures remain at Edgewood, though an extensive system of tunnels is rumored to run throughout the acreage.

Unlike Kings Park, which has only two or three buildings still in use, the Pilgrim property fairly bustles with life, especially on its west side. The entire site is envisioned to become, essentially, a new town, and many of the low-rise dormitories have been demolished into themselves, leaving several long stretches of road with weeds growing amidst the rubble, and overgrown sidewalks, each leading from the road to a pile of bricks and cinderblock.


Not everything is coming down, though, and for the foreseeable future, not much will be going up any time soon, either. The water tower, at the right, is slated for preservation. It still looks like it's in pretty good shape, despite the graffitti. Being an empty shell, the tank having been removed years ago, and mostly built of masonary, and so not too flammable, it has survived the years, and is expected to be a center of the new community, whenever that may be.

MEGO data: Both these pictures were made with the 5D set to shoot in monochrome. I used the 17-40mm lens full wide. For the water tower, I was shooting vertically, and trying to keep the structure symmetrical, straight, and keep the light shining through the two upper windows.

8 comments:

Sherry said...

If this ain't asking for screenplay treatment, I dunno what is. Imagine...the ghostly (ghastly?) howls of psych patients awaken the residents of sleepy Pilgrim, New York. And on All Hallows they ring the water tower and recite Arthur Koppit plays...

Sharon said...

Yeah, you're evoking up a storm with these shots.

Oakland Daily Photo said...

The monochrome underscores the somber nature of your post.

Julie said...

Neil neil neil .. that second paragraph is such a ripper!!

Thank you for this reportage plus chilling images. You succeeded with that bottom one, according to your aims.''We have a major psychiatric hospital - which has outlived its usefulness - on the shores of Sydney Harbour. I have no idea where its inmates are interred. I shall have to enquire.

I have an image of a water tower from Gore Hill Cemetery. I wonder what they used them for? Surely not for for general landscaping.

Great stuff ... yet again.

Sondra said...

The photos are perfect!! Well Done! I can only imagine the horrid life lived in these places....I was an Emt/Paramedic and went into some high security lock down units...pretty scarey.

Julie said...

Need to ask, also, if that is a Russian Blue in your header, Neil?

Neil J Murphy said...

No Julie, Betsy is just a short-haired gray cat. Her sister is jet black, and her brother is a long-haired gray. But she acts like a pure-bred.

Ann said...

The water tower is beautiful and the lonely, almost unmarked grave very sad.