Mar 172014


It seems like a good time to run some Harlem Valley photos, because the asylum is currently undergoing renovation by Olivet.* Soon, it will be a college campus subjected to all kinds of dumb horror stories, and curious students will start discovering the underground labyrinth of utility tunnels that explorers and scrappers have been fucking around in for decades. Eventually enough time will pass, and most people will forget it was ever an asylum, except the quiet, milky eyed janitor who’s been there maybe for forever. Before you’re like “pffft no one will forget what it was,” please see: Columbia University. The college now stands where Bloomingdale Insane Asylum used to be (one structure still remains) and although the main building was demolished, there are still tunnels that run under the school, and I’m willing to bet (based on having done this) if you ask a bunch of random Columbia students if they know about any of that, most of them will say no. Because all the ones I asked did.

*Olivet’s renovations were stopped  by the city in November 2013, when it was discovered they were doing illegal asbestos abatement. Olivet claimed there was “no such project,” but the city called bullshit, and construction was halted temporarily. In the end they were charged with a 2.3 million dollar fee, only 700,000 of which they’ll end up having to pay, despite lying to the city, putting their worker’s health and safety in danger and generally just being shitty lairs. I saw the illegal abatement happening with my own eyes when I went exploring there shortly after exterior renovation (the only legal access they had) began on the buildings. But inside (which they didn’t have legal access to yet) they removed the asbestos tiles, bagged them and them dumped them in the halls and tunnels where asbestos dust floated freely. YIKES. I’d been ready to testify if needed, however thankfully it was not as the city didn’t buy their excuses. Olivet is also attempting to hide the history of Harlem Valley, as it clashes with their Christian ideologies, but that is a grave disservice to not only the workers and patients of the hospital, but to the incredily important history of mental illness treatment in America, the outcomes of which are still being dealt with today.

NOTE TO ALL FUTURE STUDENTS: If you find out about the history of your school, which you can with just a google search, I’m more than happy to provide you with information about tunnel access, and other parts of the asylum campus that Olivet can’t touch, like the patient graveyard across the street.


Harlem Valley State Hospital, later known as Harlem Valley Psychiatric Center, began operating as a institution for the mentally ill in 1924. Prior to that, the buildings were used as the Wingdale prison. There were many escapes from the facility that upset the residents of Dover, some of who live right next to the campus. And I mean right next to it, there’s a residential street that ends just a few feet from where the hospital property starts, and just a few yards from the children’s ward. A few escapes are almost film worthy, I’ll explain another time.

Like all asylums, Harlem Valley saw a sharp decrease in patient numbers in the 50’s and 60’s due to the discovery of thorazine and mass deinstitutionalization. The hospital closed in 1994 as a result of the dwindling patient population, the economic turndown and (mostly) government budget cuts. It was abandoned until 2013 when Olivet began legally clearing the land on the property, and illegally removing asbestos from inside the buildings. I’m glad the property is being saved and restored, rather than demolished, but what a bunch of idiots.

I really hate to cut this history so short, but I gotta go do work that pays rent. Enjoy these photos, make sure you make it all the way to the end for photos of when I spent the night there and got to see the campus shrouded in fog the next morning and it was goddamn fucking lovely. PS: Some of these pictures are pretty bad, quality wise, since a long time ago I just took a bunch of horrible photos is all.

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Storage/Power House

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Obligatory hallway shot

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Storage/Power House

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The skyway between the old medical building and the new one during the day…


And the skyway at night.


The morgue in the new med building, which was attached by the skyway to the old med.


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View of the skyway from above.


Utility tunnels you will start seeing on youtube in the next few years, featuring irritating college kids who just watched Session 9 and probably also that one movie that’s about sorority girls who discover their school used to be an insane asylum, except they probably didn’t finish that movie it because it was really bad and also the computer kept pausing to buffer and finally they were like “fuuuuck this,” and just watched Bones instead. Or whatever, I don’t know.

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Kitchen floor of solid ice


Injection kits from Dec. 1956

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Power house with coal mirrors


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I haven’t seen it with my own dumb eyes, but supposedly this theater has been all cleaned up and restored.

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View of the powerhouse from Admin.





Of course I hardly have any exterior shots. I also don’t have any of the children’s ward because of course the camera battery died, but it had some pretty good wall paintings, mainly of Sesame Street and the creepiest vacant eyed children, because of course.

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Just some lil’ bros hanging out together in the tunnels, nbd.


The “Gate of Heaven” entry to the asylum graveyard.

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There was a cemetery restoration project in 2012, during which the grounds were weeded and grave markers were uncovered, but the field has since grown over again and they’re not visible. Especially not under three feet of snow.

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Every time people see this cremator, coincidentally located directly across from the morgue, they’re like “oooooh, that’s where they cremated the bodies!” but if you actually look at it, it’s clearly not. It’s not deep enough to fit a body, and there are signs near it that have instructions for burning plastic and other materials, so I don’t even wanna hear it. Unless I’m wrong for some reason.

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Above, and the following seven photos, are what used to be the old Wingdale prison. The two buildings are really beautiful, with high ceilings and lots of natural light.


One end room has three walls on which shapes are painted and I’m not sure why but I really like them. The color scheme is strange, but oddly pleasing.

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Mold and moss have taken over one of the old prison buildings.



I let some kids use this for an album cover, but I never heard from them again, so, it may or may not be out there on someone’s record, who knows.


Art painted directly onto the glass panes of a door. I really hope Olivet saves these, along with the other window paintings elsewhere in the hospital, or at least removes them and gives them to a museum.IMG_7103

And here’s the view we saw the morning after spending the night at Harlem Valley, on the roof of new med. From there you can see the roof of the Wingdale buildings and Admin, and the smoke stack of the power house.

There’s nothing left to explore at Harlem since Olivet has taken over, but you can still see the buildings, since the Metro-North stops right between the hospital and the power house at the Harlem Valley-Wingdale station.

For more photos, go to my Harlem Valley Flickr set or Imgur.


Disclaimer: If any information on this post is incorrect, if you have more info or would otherwise like to tell me something, feel free to contact me at juliajwertz(at)gmail(dot)com. 

If you’d like to contribute to my exploring/research efforts, please consider donating or purchasing something from me in my Etsy store. Any and all support is much appreciated. 

PRINTS: I have a large selection of prints available, however you can also purchase a print of photos from this post. To request a print, please email me at Print prices run from $15-$35. 

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