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Pilgrim State Hospital

Page history last edited by Mary Ann Koferl 12 years, 10 months ago


Pilgrim State Hospital was the largest mental institution in the world when it was built in 1929. It was named for Dr. Charles Pilgrim, Commissioner of Mental Health, who contributed much to the mental health profession in the early 1900’s. The New York State legislature appropriated money to build a 10,000 bed mental institution to alleviate the overcrowded hospitals in the New York metropolitan area. It was necessary to locate a hospital of this size in the country where enough land could be purchased to support its needs. Eight hundred and twenty five acres of land were acquired in the pine barrens of Brentwood, NY to build this mammoth medical institution.   Pilgrim State Hospital was an independent community that had everything from utility facilities, to a fire department, police department, courts, church, post office, laundry, store, athletic fields, greenhouses a cemetery and a farm. The 200 acre hospital farm had a piggery of 800 and a hen house of 300 animals. There also was a large vineyard and many acres of fruit and vegetable crops. The facility opened officially on October 1, 1931 with 100 patients who were transferred from Central Islip State Hospital. The patient census grew steadily reaching its peak in 1954 with 13,875 patients. Brentwood’s civilian population increased dramatically as a result of Pilgrim State Hospital providing jobs for about 2,500 employees. This landmark institution was an important part of Brentwood’s history because it helped thousands of people. It provided health care for the sick and it provided jobs for Brentwood residents.


-A. Bennett, Local History Newsletter,  November 2006


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