October 31st, 2011

The Disgrace of Letchworth Village


In 1909, New York opened a newly erected facility for the aid and housing of, as the literature states, the "feeble minded and epileptics" of that state.
The place was named for William Pryor Letchworth, a key player in its creation and a noted humanitarian of the time.
To avoid creating an institutional environment, the grounds were arranged much like a college campus.

The buildings were relatively small, typically not exceeding two stories in height, and were inspired by the aesthetics of Greek architecture.
Walls of carefully hand-cut stone punctuated by arched windows and column-girded doorways could be found at every turn. Short walks across grassy lawns separated the buildings,
and the greater campus, known as Letchworth village, housed its own power plant, farmland, waste disposal and water supply. It was the first of its kind, a facility
that was all-inclusive and could operate completely isolated from the outside world.

During my research we found that even a passing mention of its name is bound to bring out ghost stories. Abandoned places, especially asylums,
are a frequent object of attentions of paranormal investigators, and Letchworth seems to be a particular favorite. Though we are not ones to delve into ghost-hunting ourselves,
we are not opposed to it as a rule. That being said, I do take issue with the manner in which more and more so-called “paranormal investigations” are performed, wherein the investigators
treat an abandoned location as a giant nighttime playground to run through with a digital audio recorder and occasionally a case of beer. Sadly, I find that television shows on the subject
have only helped to promote this attitude. What this attitude lacks, primarily, is respect - Respect for people who lived and died here, but more importantly, the people
who endured lives of unimaginable isolation and pain, tormented by the demons of their own minds that the medicine of the time was helpless to cure.


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