Urban explorers have long held a fascination with what some call "ruin porn"—buildings abandoned and allowed to weather the passing of time virtually undisturbed. Some of the most famous of these sites—and some much lesser-known ones—are hospitals. ER beds sit untouched, waiting for the next patient to be admitted. OR equipment is still set up, waiting for someone to scrub in.
Here's a tour through some of the most interesting abandoned hospitals in the United States and abroad:
The Beelitz Sanatorium, Beelitz, Germany
This 60-building facility an hour outside of Berlin was built between 1898 and 1930, originally to treat the growing number of tuberculosis patients in the nation's capitol. During the first World War, it was transformed into a military hospital, during which time it treated a young Adolf Hitler while he recovered from a thigh injury received at the Battle of the Somme. During World War II, the Soviet army occupied the grounds and Beelitz remained a Soviet military hospital until after the German unification in 1990. The Soviet army withdrew in 1995 and after several attempts to privatize the facilities failed, the hospital was abandoned in 2000. Visitors remark on the ease of access to the grounds, which at one point functioned like a small town with a post office and a butcher's shop. It has since been used as a set for the Oscar-winning film The Pianist and the critically-acclaimed film Valkyrie, starring Tom Cruise.
St. Elizabeths Hospital, Washington
Under pressure from famous penal and mental institutional reformer Dorthea Dix, Congress founded the the Government Hospital for the Insane in 1855. Originally nothing but a single building, the hospital was renamed St. Elizabeths [sic] in 1916 and went on to be one of the grand dames of early psychiatric care. From 1946 to 1958, the hospital was home to poet Ezra Pound. The poet, a known proponent of both Hitler and Mussolini, was accused of treason and pled insanity. Although he was found sane by all the physicians who examined him, according to government documents, the superintendant of the hospital was so fascinated by Pound that he chose to treat him as insane rather than allow him to be prosecuted as a criminal. The old campus is currently under development to be used as the new headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security, but some original buildings—and a Civil War-era cemetery—still remain.
St. Marie Hospital, St. Marie, MT
St. Marie, MT was once home to Glasgow Air Force Base and 7,200 people, including both military personnel and their families. The town grew up around the base and 1,200 additional people lived off the base. Glasgow closed in the late 1960s and an exodus followed. Today, the population of St. Marie is 190. Resident Tim Fox calls it a "modern ghost town." There is little information about the town's abandoned hospital.
Hudson River State Hospital, Poughkeepsie, New York
Cloistered on 300 acres in the Hudson River Valley in upstate New York sits this towering Gothic structure. Built in the 1871, the former psychiatric institution was home to 6,000 patients and employed thousands in its busiest days in the 1950s. When the hospital first opened its doors, patients received what was known as "moral treatment:" beautiful architecture, stunning surroundings and entertainment intended as a cure for mental illness. Designed by the same landscaping team that brought you Central Park, the hospital was made to feel like a summer camp. The site has been abandoned since its sale to a private company in 2005 (medical functions had been transferred to other facilities by 2003) and damaged by major fires in 2007 and 2010.
Linda Vista Hospital, Los Angeles, CA
Built in eastern Los Angeles in 1904 as the Santa Fe Coastlines Hospital, this abandoned hospital once flourished by providing care to employees of the Santa Fe Railroad. Reborn as Linda Vista Community Hospital in 1937, the hospital was hit first by the pressures of the Great Depression and then the dramatic escalation of violent crime in the area. Funding dropped, staff dropped and death tolls rose with the rise of gang violence in the 1970's and 80's. With fewer and fewer insured patients coming through the doors of the ER, the hospital struggled financially. Linda Vista's last patient checked out in 1991. Although much of the facility lies in disrepair and ongoing rumors of ghosts circulate, some Hollywood producers have returned to shoot: Sections of "Pearl Harbor," "Outbreak" and the pilot episode of ER were shot inside Linda Vista.