The complex that came to be known as Sunland (or Sunnyland to locals) Mental Hospital was originally the W.T. Edwards Tuberculosis Hospital when it opened in 1952. The five story building was constructed with large banks of windows that were equipped with cranks so they could be opened easily to allow the fresh healing breezes to penetrate the patients’ rooms. Doctors tried numerous ineffectual cures for tuberculosis, many of which caused the suffering patients further misery before their inevitable demises. Eventually, after countless deaths had occurred at the facility, a vaccine was discovered to combat the killer and the hospital was needed no longer. The building’s next incarnation was as the infamous Sunland Mental Hospital.
If you live on Long Island, eventually you will pass the Pilgrim State Hospital site and wonder what the heck this huge building is. There’s really no escaping it. Opened October 1, 1931 (we just missed its 80th Anniversary), it was at one time listed in the Guinness Book of records as the largest mental institution in the world. At its highest capacity, just after World War II, Pilgrim State housed over fourteen thousand patients. The massive property had its own Long Island Railroad station, post office (with its own postmark), power plant, agriculture and livestock farms, cemetery, police and fire stations and water tower. The complex was made up of many different buildings on over a thousand acres.