Letchworth Village

Letchworth Village was a mental hospital that opened in Thiells, New York in 1911.

Letchworth was built in response to current mental health facilities. It aimed to provide more humane treatment than the asylums before it.

Those that could work grew crops and tended to livestock.

By 1921, the hospital was more of a work camp. A doctor at the facility suggested that they not accept those that couldn’t work. In addition to farming, patients unloaded coal and built roads.

Patients were divided into 3 categories: “idiot, imbecile or moron”

There weren’t enough nurses to maintain all the patients and they would often shovel food into their mouths to speed up the feeding process. Several patients choked to death in the 1920s.

At this time, more than ½ the population of the hospital were children under the age of 16.

There was evidence of malnutrition and neglect of the children living at the facility. The children were not offered any kind of education. The institution was overcrowded.

Photos leaked in the 1940s showed patients that were dirty, naked and crammed into a facility that couldn’t accommodate them.

By 1950, approximately 4000 people lived in a facility built for just over 1000.

On February 26, 1950, the first live Polio vaccine was administered. The patient was an 8 year old resident of Letchworth. A total of 20 patients were given the vaccine as part of an experiment. Fortunately, the results were positive. Unfortunately, this was not the only experimentation patients were subjected to.

In 1972, Geraldo Rivera included the treatment of patients at Letchworth in his exposé, Willowbrook: The Last Great Disgrace. The investigation centered on the Willowbrook State School on Staten Island, New York.

Patients living in Letchworth were uncared for and living in overcrowded, dirty conditions. The facility was understaffed and the children living there were still not receiving any kind of education.

There is a cemetery on the property where the numbered graves of hundreds that died at Letchworth were buried.

The mental facility was shut down in 1996. The grounds remain open to the public as a park.

A video summary of this week’s post can be found at

Sources/Photo Credits

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