Oct 142013


Update: as of 2015, the Boyce Thompson building has been bought by Simone Development and renovations have begun to turn it into a commercial and office space.

rendering and webcam photo c/o Simone Development

The Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research is still a functioning facility in Ithaca, New York, but its first incarnation is now a skeletal ruin in Yonkers. Half of the property is comprised of beautiful, abandoned greenhouses, and the other half is the bombed out school building, which is a total dump, but the once ornate details are still visible under the graffiti.



The institute was founded in 1924 by copper mining magnate William Boyce Thompson, of the famed Alder Manor, located just across the street from the school. Thompson’s interest in botany began a few years earlier while in Russia, where he witnessed starvation and diseases he believed could be conquered through the science of agriculture. In his own words, Thompson defined his mission as the study of “why and how plants grow, why they languish or thrive, how their diseases may be conquered, how their development may be stimulated by the regulation of the elements which contribute to their life.”


In a New York Times article regarding the school’s opening in 1924, a time when common language was eloquent yet punctuation undetermined, it was reported, “there will open next Wednesday in Yonkers an institution which aims to be to plant life what the Rockefeller Institute is to human life. Whereas the great institution of medical research on the banks of the East River is concerned primarily with human diseases, the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research…has within its province the improvement in growth of plants and the scientific investigation and solution of their ailments.”

On the left side of the above photo are the greenhouses pictured below:

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Thompson teamed up with Dr. William H. Crocker, director of the institute, to develop a broad method of plant research to be approached as a “coordinated attack.” The institute sought to encourage teamwork and eradicate the frequent “jealousy between experts in different branches,” that inhibited research. By having a place where botanists, chemists, bacteriologists, and other experts could work together under one roof, the two men hoped to solve agricultural, medicinal, social and economic issues through the study of plant life.

Photo c/o the NYT archives

Photo c/o the NYT archives

Today, the current institute in Ithaca states that its research “has the potential to improve important food crops, to demystify plant and human immune systems, and to reveal alternative, sustainable sources of energy.”

Construction of the greenhouses, c/o bti.cornell.edu

Construction of the greenhouses, c/o bti.cornell.edu


The inside of the school has been cleaned out, squatted in, graffitied and vandalized. The entire second floor of this wing is gone.


This stone ball used to be atop the grand entrance to the school, but was knocked off, rolled inside and then pushed down the basement stairs.


Here’s a terrible iphone photo of the basement. I was stuck in here for awhile, since the cops came and took their afternoon snooze right outside in the courtyard.


I got kinda obsessed with this green, murky drainage pool, see below:



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A semi-hidden side entrance to a pathway leading to the greenhouses.





To see more photos, go to the Boyce Thompson Institute Flickr set.

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 10/14/2013  ALL POSTS, New York, schools

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