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
2 thoughts on “Letchworth Village”
My identical twin uncles grew up in Letchworth Village from the early 1940’s to the late 50’s. They were horribly abused and hit with baseball bats as young children by the attendants. My one uncle is deceased but my living Uncle Charlie never misses an opportunity to ask if he’ll ever have to go back there. He knows yet needs continuous reassurance that places like Letchworth no longer exist and that he will never have to go back there and be horribly mistreated again. He is so happy and proud to be living in a group home for the past 28 years. The stories of abuse they have told us over the years are heart wrenching. God Bless my Sweet Uncles, George & Charles Finn. Kim Murphy
Thank you so much for sharing. My best thoughts with your uncles!