Monday, January 10, 2011

Sea View: Embolishment of The White Plague

Sea View Hospital was not always a hospital, it started out as a poor house in 1829 called The Farm Colony. In its day it was extravagant and prestigious, very well known. When the hospital opened as Sea View Tuberculosis Hospital on October 28, 1912 it was considered to be the finest in the country for the treatment of TB, also known as 'the white plague'. In all there was 8 patient buildings that formed a semi circle, a children's hospital, and a rehab center that had 6 units. In all the total amount of beds the hospital had was 1.402, but with added beds it could accommodate 1,682 beds. The largest amount it ever held was 2,000 in a census that was taken in 1940-41. The final cost of the hospital was four million dollars, which was twice the amount that was originally estimated.


The buildings where decorated with beautiful, and expensive Terracotta murals. I have in fact seen them on the old broken down buildings and wondered why no one has taken them down to preserve. A lot of fancy and expensive things in Staten Island where decorated with Terracotta because of the factory on the island at the time. But the story is different for these because they were made by a company in Holland called Joost Thooft & Labouchere. They made the murals using a technique called Sectile. The difference was that each piece of the terracotta was shaped to the lines of the design, instead of the design being divided over a number of tiles. This company was the first and only at the time to do this between the years of 1900 - 1910. This makes these murals very rare and actually, the best sectile work in America. The architect that designed the hospital, Raymond F. Almirall sketched out these murals to add something a little light to the atmosphere. They where extracted from the decaying buildings sometime after 2005 and now hang in the main building.

There is so much to be said about this place that we now see as ruins and haunted by its mental patients, but was it even a mental ward? 

 I can find absolutely no evidence to support the claim that Seaview was ever a mental hospital. I think what gets people confused, is that the Willowbrook State School was very nearby. The school wasn't built for years after Sea View was, but that school was knocked down and Seaview still remains. We pass by it all the time on Brielle Ave. It does look scary so I guess we just assume that it has a violent history, but in fact Sea View was a historical place where many discoveries where made. By the 1960's the medical staff at Sea view was discovering new medicine, they invented something called isoniazids, this was a treatment for TB. With the new medicine the demand for TB beds went down drastically and therefore Sea View in a way put itself out of business. This medicine, along with fresh air cured TB. The hospital was advance, they even had special houses that had ceilings that opened up to let in the fresh air. In whole the campus had 37 buildings. According to Wikipedia this is the list of houses:  Administration Building (1913), Surgical Pavilion (1913), Nurses Residence (1913, addition 1932), Staff House (1913), Power House / Laundry and Ambulance Complex (1912, addition 1935), Kitchen and Dining Hall Group (1912), and Women's Pavilions (1909-1911). Sanatorium additions include the Auditorium or "New Dining Hall" (1917, now known as Colony Hall), Group Building (1917), and Men's and Women's Open Air Pavilions (1917). Later buildings include the Catholic Chapel and Rectory (1928), City Mission Chapel or Chapel of St. Luke the Physician (1934), Pathology Lab (1927-1928), Children's Hospital (1935-1937), Sputum House (1911 / 1932), and Richmond County Isolation Hospital (1928)
Because the hospital was going to go out of business with the cure of TB, the Farm Colony was turned into a 1,400 bed hospital for older patients with aging problems such as Alzheimers. Since then Sea View has stuck with its purpose of being a home and hospital as well as a rehab center for older patients as well as younger ones with brain injuries or other server injuries. If you ever find yourself visiting Sea View, make sure you stop by the museum that is housed right on the site, it takes you on a visual walk though on the history of the place. 

This is only the 1st post I am doing on Sea View, this post is to simply cover the past of the hospital, such as what it really was and what good it actually did for history and TB. The next post I do will be more about the Sea View we see today, the abandoned and presumed haunted Sea view. As well as my own stories, since after all I spent two years going to school there.


1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting the history of Sea View Hospital. I am researching my family history and it really helped answer several questions I had.