A Last Look Inside a Demolished Staten Island Castle

A castle known by various names towered above the sleepy Staten Island community of Thompkinsville for 124 years. The stunning red brick castle might have served as the scene for a fairy tale until thirty years of neglect turned it into the ideal Gothic horror film location. It is perched on a six-acre hilltop covered in creeping vines. When most of the island was still asleep in the early morning hours of March 2012, demolition equipment gathered at the Frost Memorial Tower of the former Samuel R. Smith Infirmary. The hospital burned to the ground in a couple of hours. Many people came to see her fall.

The building’s roof collapsed in 2011 as a result of the weight of the winter snow. Any chance of salvaging the building was dashed when Hurricane Irene inflicted more damage in the same year.

Members of the Preservation League of Staten Island and its supporters now see the demolished site as a sign of lost heritage and lost hope, despite their ardent and persistent attempts to persuade the Landmarks Preservation Commission to conserve the structure. The building was in a condition of progressive collapse, according to city engineers who examined the structure, and would have posed a risk to firemen trying to enter the structure in the case of a fire.

A few components were saved before they were destroyed.

The Samuel R. Smith Infirmary was established in 1863 as the borough’s first private hospital, bearing the name of a physician who devoted his life to the care of the underprivileged. The organisation, dubbed as the “Pride of Staten Island,” was the borough’s high society’s pet project and was primarily supported by opulent charity dances. The Infirmary outgrew its old home at the turn of the 20th century, and the foundation was set for a brand-new structure that was given the name Frost Memorial Tower in honour of the rich philanthropist who had donated the mountainous piece of land. It was supposed to become one of the most opulent structures on Staten Island.

A doorway is illuminated by a swath of sunshine in a spectral manner.

Although the Smith Infirmary was built with the needy in mind, it rapidly welcomed guests from all walks of life and changed its name to Staten Island Hospital in 1916. There, among other puzzling cases, were treated a number of famous actors, attorneys, and politicians. In 1907, the spouse of a previous patient who had died following surgery killed an infirmary doctor. In Cypress Hills Cemetery, the damning evidence that resulted in the man’s execution is still there. The plaque on his wife’s tomb reads, “Revenge renews our happy love in heaven forever.”

The most stunning aspect of the inside was this enormous stairway.

By 1974, the complex’s once-rural surroundings had become densely inhabited, leaving limited possibility for growth. At the time, parking had become a significant issue since 100 patients were waiting for admittance every day. The hospital moved to a new structure on Seaview Avenue in 1979, leaving the site in ruins.

The property had amassed millions of dollars in tax liens at the start of the twenty-first century, resulting in an unrecoverable condition of neglect.

Despite its architectural and historical value, the Landmarks Preservation Commission decided not to designate the Smith Infirmary’s iconic edifice in 1983. The abandoned hospital swiftly developed a reputation for criminal activity in the area that had grown harsh, and its landmark designation was likely to prevent reconstruction. Early on, a number of residential construction plans that never materialised were aimed for the property. As the edifice decayed, it turned into a hub of real estate fraud and a refuge for the homeless in the area, but many people still had warm sentiments for the building—locals referred to it as “the Castle.”

Many hospital rooms were constructed with circular walls since it was believed that corners may harbour germs during the time the infirmary was created.

The Infirmary’s deteriorating walls, sagging ceilings, and unstable flooring were completely destroyed by the elements during its 33 years of disuse. The room was filled with the scent of decay and mould. Its second story landing was buffeted by wind, which caused random boards and pieces of debris to slam and rattle. These were the last gasps of a treasured piece of architecture that was lost. Staten Island Castle, rest in peace.

On the top story, walls gave way to open sky under a jumble of shattered timbers where a ceiling had fallen.