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52 Responses to “Inside Rochester’s Terrence Tower”

  1. Very interesting tour of a structure I often wondered about myself! Being in real estate, this was intriguing for me. Many years ago, a friend and I did a “tour” of the former sanitarium located in Dansville, NY. Your pics and commentary reminded of our adventure back then!

  2. Luke Myer says:

    Well Mike, you have now posted the Holy Grail of Rochester…there’s nothing left, you might as well retire.

  3. Tom says:

    Wow. I’ve gotten hassled just driving through the complex. Lost count of how many times I’ve looked up at the tower wondering…

  4. Anthony says:

    Great essay…we have so many of these buildings around the state that it’s great to see inside them. Another one of the casualties of de-institutionalization. Have you ever seen the movie “Session 9″?
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0261983/

  5. David says:

    Best. Post. Ever.

  6. Jim Flynn says:

    Thank you for making this film. A powerful insight.

  7. jason says:

    Great post, indeed!

  8. Dave Vogler says:

    Absolutely enthralling. Thank you for sharing this essay and short film. Architecture is inextricably linked to human stories, both good and bad. This is especially evident in the case of this building.

  9. Jena says:

    My grandmother worked in that building. When she would get off from her shift my mother would take me there to drop me off to my grandmother before she went to work. The patients were very nice and the building was not scary even for a 7 year old. I heard that the building is sinking that is why they built another building. Just another old abandoned building in Rochester that is going to be expensive to tear down…

  10. really says:

    He wanted to remain anonymous, but his name is on the video…

  11. The video was not made by the same person who shared the photo essay. Sorry. I should have been more clear.

  12. Karen says:

    Very powerful video, and excellently filmed. The personal interviews made a strong human connection to this strongly impersonal building.

  13. Ben says:

    Great stuff anon. Keep exploring

  14. j says:

    I use to live in one of the the state houses behind there. My dad was an exec on one of the top floors. Building shut down bc of asbestos

  15. sally says:

    Great post! Are there plans to make the movie into a full-length documentary? I really liked the interviews – touching reflection on how we treat people with mental illness. And it was so cool to have interviews with former patients and caregivers alike. stories about place are ultimately stories about people.

  16. Cynthia says:

    This post is particularly poignant to me. Having experienced the heartbreak of having a loved one treated there for a period of time was a depressing pal over our group of friends and family. Help was actually found there and I figure we were blessed but I can never erase the memory of my first visit there. Young people huddled on the floors mumbling to themselves, the young man walking in disrobed and thinking he was Adonis and multiple Jesus Christs in attendance. The smell, the distracted blank faces, the doctors drumming up what was left of their compassion.
    I also had a couple friends that were nurses there. They felt they made a positive difference. I don’t know. I do know that those who had insurance to make it to R-Wing were blessed. Those without insurance who were sent here…… well, it was a crapshoot.

  17. Back in 2001, an RIT photography student named Jen Kunz got inside and took these photographs:

    http://jenkunz.com/section/58723_Rochester_Psychiatric_Center.html

    Incidentally, they were arrested and handcuffed. You can read about it here:

    http://web.archive.org/web/20040114213341/www.rit.edu/~jbk0433/PsychCenter/text/psychstory.

  18. Jen says:

    powerful images. it is so important for us not to forget about our past. We need to learn from our past and remember our past
    so as to not repeat history.

  19. Eileen Woods says:

    My Mom was hospitalized in 1955 somewhere I think on South Ave. Was this the building she might have been in?

  20. John says:

    I’m wondering how it is this writer/photographer drove by this place so many times, amazed by it and wondering what it was like inside, then breaks in and write “I’m finally inside a building I’ve only ever seen in my dreams”.

  21. Kay says:

    Am I the only one interested in the hanging plants? They seem so out-of-place in an abandoned building. And if they were fake they would have faded long ago. What’s up with the plants?

  22. greg brown says:

    what an awful place this must have been it has sat vacant for so long now if its rehabital then maybe it needs to e done and made in to low income apartments or sr housing it seems such a waste and it is for sure an eye sore to elmwood ave something needs to be done

  23. @Kay, I found the hanging plants a bit odd too. And then there are all the drugs and medical supplies left behind. This place feels a bit like Pompeii.

  24. Lois Lamb says:

    The Terrence building was my very first job as a graduate registered nurse. It was 1965 and I worked on the alcohol admissions unit. I believe it was the fifth floor at the time. I was fresh out of nursing school and knew that psychiatry was my field. I did tour many of the other wards at the time and found the top two floors were the med-surg units, not my field. The floors I worked on were pretty chaotic as most patients were experiencing D.T’s. The building was still fairly new at the time and didn’t feel as haunting as you described in your article. In fact I remember the pool tables in the large “day rooms” where many of the patients taught me how to play a mean game of pool. I remember the communal showers where people lined up. There was no privacy. Patients slept in large rooms together. I don’t recall any private rooms. I only worked there for 4 or 5 months until I passed my RN boards and moved on to bigger psych units in NYC. I also remember some pretty eerie tunnels that ran underground and went between buildings without going outside.
    Now that was “spooky”

  25. Robert Sigurdsen says:

    My grandmother was a patient there for the last year of her life, before passing away in 1965. She was well cared for there, but it was a very depressing place to visit. We would meet her in the day room, and I remember patients strapped into chairs, humming and shrieking, and once, someone had defecated on the floor.

    I was told last year by a resident in a nearby neighborhood that rumors say that a shell corporation for Wegmans has bought the building, and that Wegmans, which was turned down before for an application to build a store there, is biding its time. Given the enormous cost of demolition including asbestos abatement, this would be a very positive improvement!

  26. Ken says:

    I think that whoever owns the property could get rid of the asbestos, clean the building, and turn it into Apartments, or housing. There are many unused buildings along South Ave, & Elmwood Ave that could be rehabed. If this is too costly, then tear the buildings down. It’s prime real estate locations.

  27. Jeremy Tuke says:

    Great piece, as well as the film! My grandmother was placed here in late 60′s after her dementia mad this the “best” choice for her end of life care. My Dad never took any of us kids here to visit her, and I understand why.
    Thanks!!!

  28. Devin Fogg says:

    Interesting, I find it peculiar that there is no commentary on the graffiti “Help me their behind” and “Dead People” those messages seem rather haunting, were they left by vandals or perhaps patients?

  29. Ryan says:

    Everytime I passed that building I always wondered why it was never converted into highrise housing, or offices, or something of use. It just stood there closed and chained up. Sad to see what the building used to stand for but great to see the advances in psychiatric help. Great video and pictures. Thank you for enlightening us on what was a mystery for most of us.

  30. davin says:

    What do we know about its future demolition (if it is to happen)?

  31. Joel Helfrich says:

    @ Robert Sigurdsen: PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK is still listed as the owner of the building, although who knows.

    *

    As far as the stories about the building sinking, can anyone confirm? This is a great building for conversion to residential (purchase and rent), as well as restaurant space….

  32. LeeAnne says:

    Hi, my mother who was a young nurse, fresh out of school. She worked there briefly before transferring to Monroe Community Hospital. She remembered at one time, she was walking with other nurses and a medical doctor in one of the tunnels where they had Nurses Room, the nurses heard strange scratching sounds. It was dim, and the lights gave weird overcast yellow tone in the tunnels. As soon as they started walking again, mice ran past them, sending my mother and other nurses in a panic and ran. Usually mice try to avoid humans and will run away from you, but in this case, the mice ran pas them. Since that night, Mom and other nurses carried flashlight and walked as fast as they could to get out of the tunnel. She didn’t think it was haunted but it was definitely one of the “spooky” times. I remember walking in the foyer, and playing with a young deaf woman with cards. Thank you for posting this!

  33. Lisa Carter-Hartnett says:

    I worked there as a student nurse in 1980. It was my second rotation of duty. I was young, going to change the world starting there. The patients were contracted, had bed sores. I mentioned this to my head nurse and was told in no uncertain terms”You better learn to keep your mouth shut or I’ll make sure you never sit for state boards.

  34. Michael Delaney says:

    I agree with other commenters. It seems a shame to demolish the building. It seems like it would be a perfect candidate for a mixed-use building servicing UR, MCC, and the rest of the medical complex. Some floors could be transformed into apartments for young medical professionals. Some could be transformed into dormitories for MCC and UR students. Some of the larger rooms on the first few floors could be rented out as space for medical and educational conferences. The conference center could be served by hotel rooms located on the floors above. Some of these large rooms could also be turned into a gym and bar/restaurant for residents and conference-goers.

    Has anyone been able to find a floor plan of the building? It would be pretty cool to try to work up a rehabilitated version.

  35. Matthew Denker says:

    Having spoken to local developers, the entire problem is asbestos. I mean, the city spent $1.5m to abate 88 elm, and as square feet go, this building must be 5x larger, at least. That’s a huge bill to foot before building out units/office space/etc.

  36. Joel Helfrich says:

    True RE: asbestos.

    However, it always needs to be pointed out that you are required by law to abate the asbestos anyway. Demolition will then be on top of that cost. Wouldn’t it be better to abate, then repurpose?

  37. Matthew Denker says:

    @Joel – It would absolutely be better to abate and reuse, although in this case, I do wonder. Largely because continuing the street grid from the north side of Elmwood and building more homes/townhomes/small apt buildings might be better than one large tower in a park. It might be too late for that, though, now that this BS has happened: http://goo.gl/maps/30hR5

  38. Joel Helfrich says:

    About the project at Elmwood Avenue right next to Terrence, called Brickstone Senior Housing Community: That is a Christa Construction project. They are acting like any other parasitic developer, unfortunately. Here is a description from the company’s recent newsletter:

    “With bank financing finally in place, the long-anticipated Brickstone senior housing
    community project moves forward. Officials and guests with ceremonial shovels
    broke ground in a field on Elmwood Ave. in Brighton this past winter, signifying
    the start of a major construction project that will revolutionize the concept of senior
    living in the Rochester area. Construction begins in the spring on Brickstone, a 18-
    acre senior housing community on Elmwood Ave. that is part of St. John’s.

    When fully completed, Brickstone will comprise 102 dwelling units – apartments
    and lofts, one-story bungalows and two story townhouses – situated around the
    natural wetlands that currently exist on the property. The design and layout of the
    development also includes walking trails and pathways and a Village Square that
    will house retail outlets available to residents of both Brickstone and the neighboring
    community in Brighton.

    The Brighton Town Board and its Planning Board approved the project in March
    of 2009. The delay in the start of construction was due to the difficulty in obtaining
    bank financing. The project will cost $32 million.”

  39. Joel Helfrich says:

    What’s more: if you take a look at the buildings and townhomes, some idiot decided it was a good idea to alternate roofing colors to the attached structures! So, you have a green roof, follow by a brown roof, then a black roof, then a grey roof, and so forth.

  40. Joel Helfrich says:

    Click through the photos of Brickstone, some of which show the Terrence Building in the background: http://www.christa.com/index.asp?pageid=17&Catid=12&ProjID=182. I doubt that residents will want Terrence in their “backyard” for long.

  41. Steve says:

    It is really interesting, in a particular way for me that I am from Europe. It is amazing how many neglected buildings with an interesting story you can find in the US. Also considering the story of the RPC before the Terrence Tower construction.
    You have enough space to have the luxury that to build a new building, is cheaper than taking care of an old one.
    If the asbestos had not been a problem, a multipurpose building would have been a great idea.It would be more attractive considering the area and considering what it will be in the near future after the UoR project for the Strong Hospital area will be completed.
    Single purpose building, like students housing, wouldn’t be a great idea. Working at UoR, close to the housing matters, I am pretty sure students would avoid it for many different reasons.
    Anyway Terence Tower’s time will come soon or later.

  42. Cheri says:

    Wow. The documentary was a wonderfully produced, directed, and photographed piece. I’d like to thank the director, and the people who were interviewed, for sharing this important story. I’d like to know if the documentary is available for purchase? I work for the local library system and would love a copy for our collection.

  43. John says:

    So is it actually being demo’d? The floor plan seems hard to reuse, but its a shame to see an interesting building come down. The city/state would be better served to have a cooling period between asbestos abatement and demo for an interested party to step forward and buy the property for re-use. As said before, abatement has to come whether its demo’d or reused, so a final period to allow someone to step forward and reuse it would be good.

  44. Dave Puls says:

    Thanks for posting the video and photos of the old Rochester Psychiatric Center the information is quite accurate, but there may be some parts of the story that could have been explored a little more.
    I worked there for 13 years between 1973 and 1992 as a “Mental Hygiene Therapist Aide” and then as a Rehabilitation Counselor.
    I had some interesting experiences working there and did a little mini-doc (8 1/2 min.) that I have posted on YouTube.
    It’s called “Parallel Worlds.”
    Here’s the link if you’d be interested in checking it out.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=obN2KLxSwGE&list=PLD31BC21FB0FC09BF

    You’re more than welcome to embed or share this video if you know folks that would be interested in seeing this part of the Psych Center’s history.

  45. Nan Burgess-Whitman says:

    This is an amazing, truly captivating story of the lives that were impacted by the Terrance Bldg. and all it offered, represented and took away. As a young mental health worker, I remember the hallways, the community rooms, the pain. And I remember the collaborative nature of the staff to help the patients. Truly we have a ways to go in understanding social mental health treatment…but the foundation of caring was built here. Thank you for this wonderfully accurate and balanced tribute.

  46. Eros Morrison says:

    I need to find an entry point.

  47. gina bee says:

    I too, worked @ RPC 7 years ago, treatment and backlash from staff for engaging with residents is still the same. I left from pressure from staff like the mans video. Still happens today. I recently took pics in the Iola tunnels and got some very disturbing spirit pics. Since then ‘things’ have been happening to discourage me from going back to get more.

  48. Kat Williams says:

    As a young nurse,I worked there in the early eighties. I have to say that the 2 1/2 years that I worked there were the worst years of my total thirty years in nursing. The place so depressed me. I could not have been much help for anyone else because I was so depressed about the conditions of the warehoused people there. But most depressing to me was the feeling of hopelessness regarding the ineffectiveness of the therapies. Let’s face it the mentally ill were simply sent there so that they would be out of the sights and minds of the public. Simply warehoused.

  49. ErosMorrison says:

    In the EOTP video when it shows the outside of the back of the building it looks like their is a security camera above the fenced gate. Can anyone confirm or deny this?

  50. Eileen Woods says:

    My Mother was confined to a facility on state street in 1956. I know you said this building wasn’t opened until 1959. Where would she have been confined? Would I be able to find her medical records? I know she had shock treatments. If anyone can help it would be truly appreciated. Thank you in advance

  51. sarah says:

    If you want more information on the Psychiatric Center, I recommend going to the local history section, in the Public Library down town. You will come across files of newspaper articles dating all the way back to the construction of the center to its shut down. You will be shocked at some of the information you find.

  52. Destiny says:

    how did you get in I want to do an abandoned place for my photo project and this place is perfect


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