Exploring ruins of the Hudson Valley is a hobby of mine. Last year, I made several trips to an abandoned college campus, and wrote about it in my web journal. This is a compilation of all those visits.
King's College was abandoned back in 1994, and it's been slowly falling apart since then. After driving around the winding backroads a while, we eventually found it. The place was huge. Dormitories, gymnasium, classrooms, tennis courts, running track... it's all there. For the most part, the buildings are boarded up. Xakor, Windsinger, and I wandered up the hill, poked around and took pictures, and eventually found a boarded up doorway with the bottom half of the board missing. So in we went.
The inside was pretty messy. Peeling paint, broken glass, and debris everywhere. We heard a weird rattling noise coming from one of the offices, which upon investigation we found to be venetian blinds rattling in the wind that was gusting in the broken window.
We found a stairwell and headed up... third floor... fourth floor... fifth floor... sixth floor... a lot of ground to cover. We walked down a long hallway, with dorm rooms on both sides. At the end of the hallway there was an elevator, and (ta-daa!) stairs up to the roof. It was a very windy day, but it was sunny and we had a nice view of the river and surrounding area. We took some pictures from the roof and then headed back down. The stairwell here had ornate railings, and an open center shaft which someone had thrown a door down into. Probably made a hell of a noise when it hit.
We explored the fifth floor, and then the fourth. Somewhere along the line, Xakor ditched us and hid in one of the dorm rooms, waiting for us. I wasn't falling for that old trick again, though. I told Windsinger about the time back when I was in high school, we had been exploring an old abandoned house up around Fahnestock State Park:
"We had just gotten to the second floor, and I opened a door in the bathroom I thought was a closet. I was surprised to see stairs leading up into the attic. We were about halfway up the stairs when a laundry basket came hurtling down at us. We screamed and ran, not stopping until we reached the first floor.
"And then we heard Jenny, who had snuck up into the attic when nobody was looking, laughing her silly head off."
The fourth floor connected up with the old building here, so we crossed over into what was originally a resort called Briarcliff Lodge. The sprawling Tudor-style building was built by Walter W. Law back in 1902. (Walter W. Law also donated the Briarcliff Manor railroad station to the Putnam Division.)
While wandering through the old building, we noticed someone had written "NO" on a lot of the bathroom fixtures and walls in black magic marker. We got into the habit of yelling "NOOOOO!" every time we found a room where it was written. Since we were often in different parts of the building, it evolved into a weird version of Marco Polo at times.
(in distance) NOOOOO!
The building is so huge, Xakor said at one point he was yelling at the top of his lungs and didn't hear us answer back.
We found a lot of interesting clutter in the rooms, stuff that had been left over after they abandoned the college. Keys. Identification cards. Memos dated December 1994. Clothing. But by far the most interesting moment was when we found an old letter from 1926 hidden under a trapdoor in one of the rooms, obviously a remnant of the time when it was a resort.
We wandered down to the first floor, and into the huge main lobby with the large, ugly fireplace. The staff offices were on this floor, as well as the library, and an auditorium with a stage. (I found a blackboard in one of the offices and wrote the URL for my modern ruins page on it.)
Down another level, there was the cafeteria, with grass growing in a corner of it. We explored the kitchen a while, examining the rusty oven and dishwashing machine/torture device. There was a dark hallway leading down to the end of the building, but we didn't have flashlights and opted out this time.
Second trip to King's College/Briarcliff Lodge
Rigel's parents were in the city, so he spent the day with them while Xakor, Lisa (Xakor's girlfriend) and I went on another fun-filled adventure to King's College. I had been there a few months ago, but I found out recently that it's going to be torn down, so I wanted to do a more thorough search for artifacts. The door we had gotten in through last time was boarded up, so we hunted around for another way in. This time there was an open window by the front door. After covering up the broken glass on the windowsill with an old piece of carpet, we crawled inside.
Obviously people had been there since we last visited. There were several bathtubs lined up in the main lobby, one of which had "COFFIN" written on it. Xakor wanted to show Lisa the grass growing inside the cafeteria, so we headed downstairs. We found the grass was mostly dead, though. We were on our way into the kitchen (which is a somewhat dark and scary place) when I noticed a can of red paint that had spilled all over the floor, and offhandedly remarked, "Hey, look at all the blood." This wasn't very reassuring to Lisa, who apparently was already creeped out by the place and opted to wait for us out by the car.
After escorting Lisa out, we headed upstairs to the fourth floor to check out the secret compartments in the closets for more goodies. I found the closet where we had discovered the letter from 1926 last time and opened the trapdoor. The compartment was filled with a sort of fluffy black substance. I poked around in the compartment with a stick and found a few pencils and a spoon, but not much else. We continued making our way through the fourth floor, checking every closet we came to for trapdoors. Most were filled with junk. Old textbooks, magazines, and more of the mysterious fluffy black stuff, which Xakor and I eventually guessed was insulation of some kind. Then, in room 456, we hit paydirt. I thought it was an empty envelope at first, but then I unfolded it...
What is it with King's College and the students leaving all these notes for people to find? This is the second note we've found from former students. They apparently knew the college was going to be closed. It's an interesting glimpse into the state the college was in during its decline.
Xakor and I wandered around a bit more, taking pictures as we went. Even though I used up three rolls of film last time I was there, one can never have too many pictures of abandoned places. Once they're gone, that's it, they're gone. I noticed the fire exit instructions had blueprints of the main building on them, and so I got one from each floor to add to the webpage. I also found some King's College brochures in a pile of trash on the first floor which contained a map of the campus, although they were stuck together. (I managed to salvage them somewhat.)
On Sunday, we took another quick trip up to King's College just to show Rigel what it was like. A trash bin had been placed in front of the window we climbed in on Saturday, so someone had obviously been there. Then we noticed the German Shepard. We didn't see the owner, and it was slowly making its way toward us. It wasn't wagging its tail, but it wasn't charging at us, either. We weren't sure if it was friendly, and decided our best course of action was to make a mad scramble through the window into the building as it approached. Rigel scraped his shoulder on the windowsill as he climbed in. As we were standing in the lobby, we heard voices down one of the halls, and after a moment the owners of the Harmless German Shepard appeared. We chatted a bit about the state of the building, and then moved on to show Rigel the dark and scary kitchen. Rigel is actually interested in returning sometime to do more exploring.
Third trip to King's College/Briarcliff Lodge
I drove my car up along the service road to the Main Building, and we parked next to the loading dock for the kitchen. We wandered around the south side, noticing chairs from the cafeteria hanging halfway out of broken windows. There was an open window, but it would've been difficult to reach, so we opted for finding another way in. As we rounded the corner to the front, we surprised a man and woman walking along, carrying bits of ornate molding. "Souvenirs," he said, as he passed by. I guess we're not the only ones who know the building's going to be torn down. I just hope that was stuff that was lying around outside and not stuff he pulled off the wall himself.
The front window we had entered through last time we went there had been boarded up, so we wandered around back to see if there were another way to get in. We peeked into the lower level of the new addition, but there everything seemed to be boarded up tight. We had almost given up, when one of the boards on the windows drew my attention. Something about it didn't look quite right. I wandered over and was surprised to discover it was only held on by one screw on the windowframe. In other words, some Very Clever Person had made it like a little door, where one could pull back the board, enter the building, and then pull the board closed behind them so the entry wasn't obvious.
Astor and I got out the flashlights and went in (pulling the plywood shut behind us) and started exploring the basement. We ventured down a long, dark hallway with pipes that ran the entire length of the building, shining flashlights into the rooms along the way. Within minutes, we found the old elevator shaft, and looked up to see the elevator stuck on the first floor. Next to this was the room with big rusty elevator gears and machinery. Across the hall was what appeared to be the mailroom. Another room further down contained a pegboard with dozens of keys scattered about. Debris littered the floor everywhere: The receiver from a phone, chairs, desks, empty bottles of chemicals, programs from a play the Drama Club put on, and various articles of clothing. At the north end of the hall, we found stairs leading to the sub-basement, which had a workshop and various storage areas. Very dark and spooky.
We wandered back down the hall toward the kitchen, occasionally passing through the dim light shining down the stairs from the first floor. While poking around in one of the rooms (littered with discarded Christmas decorations) I noticed a set of stairs leading up, where I hadn't expected there to be any. Curious, we followed them to the top, and came out a small door underneath the staircase in the main lobby. I never realized it was there. We headed back downstairs, and I pointed out the giant evil industrial strength dishwasher in the kitchen, which looks like a big torture device of some sort. Leaving the kitchen, we made our way down a side hallway and found a room with a bunch of "Visiting The King's College" brochures all over the floor. These were in much better condition than the water-damaged ones I had picked up on our last visit. I took a handful and headed off to the cafeteria, noticing along the way that someone had pried open the doors of the other elevator, which sat silently at its final resting place on the basement level.
The cafeteria is a big room, accented by square pillars with smashed mirrors on them. Grass grows in a corner of the room where sunlight shines in one of the windows. I took a moment to sort out the better quality brochures, leaving the rest propped up on one of the dusty metal chairs in the center of the room.
The main building of King's College is gargantuan: Four stories of wonderful turn-of-the-century Tudor-style mansion to explore, and that's not including the basement and the 1911 addition which, while not as architecturally interesting as the main building, takes quite a long time to explore itself. It's hard to explore the entire building in one day and see everything. Heck, I've been there several times now, and I still don't think I've seen everything.
It was getting a bit late in the day, so we decided we would head off for dinner and come back tomorrow after I got my camera problem taken care of. All this time we had been wandering around, I hadn't been able to take any pictures. We headed back out of the building, carefully shutting the secret plywood "door" behind us as we left. I scattered a few leaves in front of it to complete the illusion that it hadn't been used. Before heading out, we took a quick drive around the rest of the campus. The Music Building had apparently caught fire since our last visit. It was still standing, but now it had a big charred section. All the other buildings appeared to be intact, at least as best an abandoned building could be intact.
Fourth trip to King's College/Briarcliff Lodge
We met up with my Mom, who brought along two cameras and some black and white film to take pictures of the inside of King's College. I parked at the bottom of the hill this time, and we walked around getting pictures of the Music Building, Miller Circle, and the old gas pump at the bottom of the hill. According to the map there used to be an Environmental Services building at the bottom of the hill as well, but it's been torn down. Oddly, while none of the other buildings are fenced in, the area where the Environmental Services building used to be has a high chain-link fence around it for no apparent reason.
We headed inside the building once again through our secret "door", and wandered around the basement once more. A room directly off from the kitchen was full of various kitchen equipment: Coffee pots, water pitchers, and on one shelf, a ceramic gravy server. It was in fine shape. I brought it out to the kitchen, and set it on a broken scale to get a picture of it. Suddenly, Mom half-whispered she'd seen someone walking past the window. We didn't want to make our presence inside the building obvious to folks on the outside, so we headed out down the long dark hallway once more. Astor found a safe (still locked) in one of the rooms we had apparently missed on our exploring on the previous day. We had found another safe in one of the rooms on the first floor which had been broken open, but this one was still intact. I wondered what was inside it, if anything. After all, the people at the Phoenixville Steel Mill left their refrigerator full of food when the mill was suddenly abandoned, so maybe someone at King's College forgot to take whatever was in the safe out too. We don't have the combination, though, and the safe was far too heavy to carry around with us, so I guess we'll never know.
Mom wanted to get some pictures of the Hudson River from the roof, so we all went upstairs to the top floor of the 1911 addition. Once Mom was finished taking pictures on the roof, we went back down to the basement to the old elevator shaft. I peeked up into the elevator shaft again, wanting to get a picture of the elevator stuck at the first floor. As I was getting ready to take the picture we heard footsteps outside again. Someone was walking through the leaves right next to the building, and we saw a flicker of shadow through the cracks around the plywood covering the door. Had they heard us talking? Were they looking in? We switched off the flashlights and stood in the half-light, listening. After waiting a minute and not hearing anything else, I decided to venture over and peek out the crack to see if whoever it was was still there. I was about ten feet from the door, and slowly began tiptoeing over, being vewwy vewwy quiet...
...until I stepped on those paint chips that were all over the floor. We giggled quietly. I peeked out the crack, but whoever was out there must have just been walking by.
We were running out of daylight, so we headed up to room 456, where we had found a letter from former students on one of our previous trips. I took a few more pictures of the room, and other pictures on the way out so I could finish up the roll of film. Mom wanted to check out the pond down by the athletic field before we left, so we drove down there and she got a few pictures of the ducks.
Fifth trip to King's College/Briarcliff Lodge
Monday, Xakor and I stopped off at King's College on the way up to Ralph & Cindy's, since I heard from Yaz McBoo that they were going to tear it down and build a retirement community there. The little guard shack was boarded up, and an RV sat empty in the parking lot. There was a NO TRESPASSING sign on one of the trees, but nobody was around so we ventured in further. The greenhouse in the science building had fresh plywood all over it. The gate up the hill to the main building was open, so I drove up to check it out. The main building had been boarded up with new plywood. We speculated as to why it was getting all boarded up if they were just going to tear it down? Insurance purposes? Or maybe they were thinking of renovating the main building?
By the way, my pictures of this place are online:
Disclaimer: Urban exploration can be fun but dangerous. This writeup should not be taken as encouragement for unauthorized persons to visit.