Halcyon Hall / Bennett School For Girls, Millbrook, NY

Preservation Magazine recently published an online article about the fate of Halcyon Hall in Millbrook, NY, which has an October 1 date with the wrecking ball.

The eclectic assemblage of Shingle, Tudor revival and Queen Anne architecture was built as a resort hotel c. 1891-1893. In 1907 it became the home of the Bennett School For Girls, which was later known as Bennett Junior College. The school closed in 1977 and Halcyon Hall has since been a favorite site for ruin photographers on the grand tour of abandoned buildings in the Northeast USA.

Throughout the last three decades the site has been proposed for renovation or threatened by demolition and neglect. Halcyon Hall popped up in the news again this summer when a dormer window collapsed, and subsequently when the village ordered the site to be fenced off. (Access to the buildings remains remarkably easy but the property is regularly patrolled by police, who will enter the buildings to look for people whose cars might be parked outside.) The building has been officially condemned for some time now by the village but the lack of municipal funds and lack of initiative by the owner means that demolition may not yet happen so soon. An “accident” or the effects of time may act first, but for a building that has seemingly escaped fate for longer than it should have, the end seems nearer now than it ever has before.

Before I leave you with some very recent images below, here is a link to an archive with many great historic images of Halcyon Hall, and the original Hudson Valley Ruins entries for Halcyon/Bennett by myself (c. 2005) and Tom Rinaldi (c. 1998-1999).

This entry was posted in Demolition Alert, Dutchess County. Bookmark the permalink.

85 Responses to Halcyon Hall / Bennett School For Girls, Millbrook, NY

  1. Pamella says:

    Would love to know if this historic beauty was demolished on the date listed. Stopped by it on 9/25/11 and took some lovely photographs. It was fenced in. Sadly haunting it was still quite grande. Looking forward to any information you may provide. I would like to go back with a better camera. I am writing a history of the Hudson Valley and the Victorian era.
    Thank you…
    Pamella

    • HV-Rob says:

      Hi Pamella,

      I drove by yesterday and it was still there, fenced off like you said though. I guess the developer doesn’t have any inclination to spend money on demolishing halcyon hall if they aren’t certain to build there, and the village can’t pay for demolition on its own. Still, I’d go sooner rather than later if you want more photos.

      Thanks,

      Rob

  2. Matt says:

    It’s really a shame, never been here but always liked looking at pictures of the place. Looks like its fate is pretty much sealed, there’s probably not much of the structure that’s solid enough to salvage at this point. And even in this state it manages to be a beautiful building. Was it ever demolished?

    • HV-Rob says:

      It’s still there. At least I haven’t heard of it being razed. I’ve seen photos online as of late October. The village sure won’t pay for the demo job, and there doesn’t seem to be any kind of enforcement or incentive for the landowner to do so either. Actually, i think quite of lot of the details and woodwork are salvageable. At least for parts. If you mean to keep it standing, well it would probably require a gut reconstruction. That roof always looks brand new to me though.

  3. Glenn Griffith says:

    Was just there today and it still stands…mostly. This building really needs to be saved. From what I’ve read it is on the national register of historic sites. It has well over 100 years of history. Millbrook officials need to grow up and start seeing what they can do to save the history instead of constantly whining that they don’t get to throw the history down the drain. Millbrook, build your stupid condominiums some place else. FDIC, give the building to a developer with some vision that can save the history.

  4. Elise says:

    I went to Bennett College back in the 1970′s just before it closed and I have fondest memories of the place. They had the best teachers and the classes were small. So sad to see it in it’s present state! Let’s hope for a miracle…

    • HV-Rob says:

      Hi Elise,

      thank you for your note. I bet it was awesome to attend school at the Bennett College. A miracle would be great.

      -Rob

  5. Robert Tompkins says:

    I worked on a painting crew in the 1950s and 1960s and painted my way around this building twice. I have fond memories of those days and find it very sad to see it as a ruin. Although I too hope for a miracle to restore it to useful life, I doubt it will happen. I do thank you for your photos on this website.

    • HV-Rob says:

      Thanks Robert. It’s always great to hear from people who knew these places in better days. It must have been fun going through there back then.

      Happy New Year,

      Rob

  6. carol says:

    i don’t know how it can be saved way far gone but I go there every year to see it cos it’s soo mesmerizing and grand

  7. Last year I completed a large oil painting of the ruins of the Bennett School.In the course of researching this work I interviewed many people who shared their memories as students,faculty and maintenance workers.Many had ideas for adaptive reuses for this structure.This is economic obsolescence at it’s most poignant.Thanks go to the photographers at Hudson Valley Ruins,whose photography provided invaluable information.

    • HV-Rob says:

      Hello Daniel,

      thank you for sharing your story and for your kind words for our work. That’s great that you documented Halcyon Hall through the stories of former students and staff of Bennett College.

      -Rob

  8. aida says:

    I have lived in the neighboring town of Dover Plains for about 11 years. I drive by this lovely structure from time to time when I visit Millbrook or drive up to Poughkeepsie. It’s amazing to me with so many wealthy folks owning homes in Millbrook and the neighboring areas why haven’t they pooled resources to save this historic landmark. I am not wealthy, but I would give as much as I could to save it and I am a transplant from the city not native of Dutchess.

  9. ann miller says:

    What a trip down memory lane I’ve had today. The NY Times had an article about a film maker who went to the Millbrook School, class of ’68. He was in a play, “Beckett” that the school staged that year. I was at Bennett College, ’67-’69. Since there were no girls at Millbrook, my friend and I (her brother was at Millbrook) were recruited to be in the play. I just spent the morning googling the Millbrook School yearbook for that year and was very entertained by the photos from the play! I’ve driven by Bennett over the years and have been really saddened that the place was allowed to decay. The last time I went by was last summer. Kind of surprising the place still stands. It isn’t giving up easily. I can remember Christmas carols in the living room with Andrea Marcovicci singing, walking on the porch to the mailboxes, evenings at the Manor, walks to the Millbrook Diner, dance classes in the studio on the hill.

    Your pictures are very sad and powerful. Thank you.

    • HV-Rob says:

      You are welcome Ann, and thank you for sharing your memories! It must have been awesome to attend school there. You’re right, this building isn’t going away easily.

  10. Lacey Grayson says:

    I am completely fascinated with older buildings. It is so sad to see these incredible buildings sit wasting away. I don’t understand why they don’t go in and at least remove the beautiful windows, doors, etc., rather than let nature take them away forever. The craftsmanship is remarkable.

    • HV-Rob says:

      Usually salvage companies do go through these sites when buildings are about to be torn down. Nothing is happening at Halcyon Hall right now, but if the developer were to proceed with demolition on their own (highly unlikely at the moment) they might let some company in for a fee to remove features of the building.The Historic Albany Foundation operates a salvage warehouse. Howard Hall Farm is also starting up a salvage operation.

  11. Joe says:

    Does anyone know the exact location/address of this building? I would love to take a few pictures of it before it is torn down

  12. Rob says:

    JOE, If you go to wikipedia’s listing for this building you’ll find what your looking for in the top right corner of the page. It is phenomenal the number of buildings of historic and architectural significance that have been allowed to fall into ruin. There just doesn’t seem to be any foresight or creativity when it comes to making things happen. Could they not have come up with some sort of solution to create an incentive to restore this?

  13. Jennifer Lyons Mercure says:

    I sit here with a tear running down my face, so saddened for the ruins I see pictured here. The glorious beauty and grand stature of a building I knew so well, in years long since past, still peeks out at me from behind the shadows in your photographs. reminding me that I too am sadly no longer the young girl I was years ago, shuffling through these lovely old rooms, with a whole lifetime ahead of me. Thank you for your efforts to bring this story to light, and for the memories they have brought to mind. May someon with great respect for this glorious piece of archectural history, step forward and rescue her from such a sad fate. I plan to make one last trip back, with every hope that the skeletal remains of a once grand lady, Halcyon Hall, will still be standing there to greet me, from afar. Jennifer ~ Bennett College, Class of 1974

  14. Debra K says:

    Oh, if I only had the money!! I just learned of this amazing place…been looking at all the pictures I can find. It would be an amazing structure to rebuild. But if not it would be great to salvage some of the remains. Either way it should not be torn down without saving some of the wonderful stuff inside & out……thanks for sharing information on this wonderful piece of history!

    • Diane from NJ says:

      I agree Debra . . . if I only had the money . . . such a beautiful place indeed.

  15. Louise says:

    Hi, Rob. We moved away from Briarcliff Manor (King’s College) and now we are near another historic place we love (Bennett School). Please let us know when you have another book.

    Images of America Briarcliff Lodge is wonderful. Please keep those books going.
    …Louise

    • HV-Rob says:

      Thanks Louise! I was just around Bennett recently actually. No plans for a new book yet, but I will keep everyone posted. Tom Rinaldi on the other hand has a new book due out next month, New York Neon!

  16. Erik says:

    Hey Rob,

    Have you heard any news about the old school coming down anytime soon? I’ve been trying to keep a demolition watch to be there to film it when/if it ever happens. We are working on a documentary regarding abandoned/derelict buildings of the northeast and I’ve found myself on your site several times. Keep in touch if you hear anything! Thanks!

    • HV-Rob says:

      Hi there -

      sorry, no word on the demolition of Halcyon Hall. The owner has no incentive to do anything and the town can’t seem to force anything. All seems quiet now that halcyon Hall is fenced off.

      -Rob

    • Mark Vicente says:

      Hi Erik,
      I went to your film site but the links appear to be down. How can I get more information about it?
      Mark

  17. Fred says:

    Dear Rob:

    I recently bought a small silver ring with an owl’s head on top and owl wings on each side of the head at a local Florida flea market. There are two small round sapphires that are the owl’s eyes. Inside the ring is inscribed in beautiful hand engraved script, “Marie L. Leopold Bennett School, NY 1908″.

    I googled the name Marie L. Leopold and found that she was 94 when she passed away in Burlington, Iowa and that she was twenty years old when she attended Bennett School. Her brother was Frederic Leopold. I googled him as well, he was a leading American conservationist. His papers are in the Special Collections Department, Iowa State University.

    My question is how do I get to see a yearbook for Bennett School for 1908? I would love to see a year book picture of Marie L. Leopold (Lord) in 1908. I am wondering if the ring is a school class ring or Bennett School graduation ring.

    Looking forward to hearing from you or the alumni that has contributed to this site.

    Thanks,
    Fred

    • Diane from NJ says:

      WOW Fred what a find! Have you found her photo?

    • HV-Rob says:

      Try the Millbrook library and or historical society, and scour ebay and amazon for yearbooks. I don’t own any copies and I do not know how many if nay exist.

  18. Terry says:

    Has the builder considered allowing a deconstruction team to take the usable parts of Halcyon Hall and put up for sale/reuse? Seems there is alot of items that could be incorporated into new construction and keep some history and beauty alive.

    thanks, Terry

      • Suzanne Robertson says:

        This is really sad. I graduated 1966.

        • Suzanne Robertson says:

          Looking at the pictures makes me want to drive-by. Good memories of great teachers, a student taming a little squirrel and finally bringing him down for all to see. I was the first want to buy the Mamas and Papas in the new store. We stole a lot of the freshmen’s shoes and threw them into the field. I blasted the Beatles “Help” out the window. Beautiful piece of property. I hope they can put it to good use.

  19. Steve Marcks says:

    I just returned to Ridgefield, CT from Scotia NY and saw this place from the road – I couldn’t continue the drive. I made a U-Turn and walked through the entire building. Virtually every room in the place. Surreal thing to do when there’s snow in the building from the collapsed roof panels and the non stop dripping from rain and melting snow on qa 45 degree Saturday afternoon.

    Had to google it up to see the history. Reminds me of the Hotel del Coronado built in 1888 in San Diego. Great era! Sad to see this place in it’s condition but still beautiful in a very unique state of disintegration… I feel very lucky to have gotten and recorded the settings.

  20. Suzanne Robertson Emerson says:

    Graduated in 1966 with memories of very good teachers. I was the first to buy the first Mamax and the Papas in the new small store. We robbed the freshman’s shoes and threw them out on the field. I blasted the Beatles help out the window.
    This really is sad. Does make me want to drive-by. Beautiful piece of property. Hope they can someday put it to good use.

    • HV-Rob says:

      Thank you for sharing your memories.

      -Rob

    • Karen Donnelly says:

      Me too…class of 66. Great teachers great classmates. So sad to see these pictures of the demise of such a beautiful place. Many great memories.
      To Suzanne Robertson, I graduated with you! Karen Quinlan Donnelly (Melba)

  21. George Burke says:

    I was one of the few men living on campus when the school closed. I was only there one semester but it was an amazing time that I will never forget. After a snow storm we would go to President Nystrom’s house and borrow sleds and toboggans and go sledding on the Millbrook Golf Course next door. I made many friends there and I’m saddened to see it in this disrepair. It was truly a beautiful campus. When it closed it had approximately 250 girls and 16 guys living on campus, everyone knew everybody.

  22. Susannah says:

    Beautiful building (even though their isn’t much to look at) if i was super rich id invest in a re-build. So sad to see history deteriorate.

  23. Christine says:

    I was wondering if the building was still standing. I will be in new york in a week. Would I possibly be able to get permission to take photos of the inside….. Thank you

  24. Karen Donnelly says:

    To Suzanne Roberton Emerson…I remember you! We graduated together in ’66!

  25. Sandra Moore says:

    Armed with my freshly-minted BA from Mount Holyoke, I landed my first job as a residence counselor and the director of student activities at Bennett (1973-75). I LOVED it, and have very fond memories of an amazingly talented cast of characters, including dean of students Ida Lewis, English teacher and jazz musician Charlie Hoyt, and a terrific group of bright young women, like Charlotte Gregory, Anne Peterson and Patty van Horne. (If you’re out there, give a holler!) If Bennett had only played to its strengths (fashion, art, drama and equine studies), it might have survived and carved out a unique niche for itself among selective colleges. I drove by campus yesterday (yes, after more than a decade living in Westchester and working at Sarah Lawrence and the New School), I returned to Dutchess County in 1992)…. and Halcyon Hall is literally falling apart at the seams. Still standing, but barely…breaks my heart! Thanks, Rob, for the blog, links and photos!

  26. Sonia T. says:

    I always find myself looking online and keeping tabs on this awesome location. Hopefully I’ll be able to see it at least once before it falls apart completely (or gets demolished).

    Living down in Texas, hopefully I’ll plan a trip to Millbrook. Such awesome history in those walls.

  27. Ben says:

    VH-Rob, I still have the footage and the work in progress for the Halcyon Hall / Bennett tribute. During it’s work, I’m actually waiting to see if the building goes down, which may play a different perspective on the video as a whole. Regardless, I’m still working on it, and I would still like to use your (these) photos too.

    If anyone who attended Bennett has pictures for this project, I would be happy to talk to you about getting an emailed scan. It might have a place that works in the project.

    Hope to talk with you soon.
    Ben

  28. Justsomeguy says:

    Where might i find more information about Miss May F. Bennet, and other faculty? There seems to be a lack of history digitally available so far.

    With respect,
    C

    • HV-Rob says:

      Perhaps the local/county historical society may have more information. Most of the information about locations such as this will come from books and historical archives and not from the internet.

  29. Jane says:

    Hello, i live in the village of millbrook and never understood the story. But why do it look like this if it was only closed down? It’s not like they did that on purpose.

  30. Rick Foster says:

    Rob,

    Thanks so much for the photos. I was at the school the day before yesterday, and it’s still there (if not exactly thriving). What a beautiful, sad place.

    Rick F.

  31. Fiona Hughes says:

    What a beautiful old building. From your photos, I can imagine a place so full of life, lively discussions, laughter and dreams for the future. Whenever I’m travelling I love to explore places off the beaten track and this is a perfect example. Might be the fact that being Australian, we’re so far away from everything we love to make the most of where we are when we have the opportunity to be there. It makes me sad though that Halcyon Hall has fallen into such a state of disrepair, with no-one appearing to care for it’s longevity. What an opportunity to bring the past back to life! Maybe that’s na├»ve, as I’m not sure what the options are for a building like this in the US. I do hope though that I get to see this wonderful place plus many others when I finally get to really explore your beautiful country. Until now I’ve only had fleeting visits, I look forward to getting to know you all better. :)

    • Linda Symonds says:

      Like you, I can’t believe that an incredible structure like Halcyon Hall would just be left to deteriorate. What the hell went so terribly wrong that it was just abandoned??? It is such a spectacular piece of architecture that I can’t believe the Historical Society didn’t step in years ago before all of the damage started wearing away its grandeur. What a pity…….I envy the people who went to school there. I am drawn to it even in the state it is in.

  32. Dona says:

    A friend just posted a picture of Bennett collage on my facebook. It was sad to see, my family passed it every Sunday on our way to church in Millbrook. I left NY in 1978 it was beautiful then. My folks would take us there to see old movies in the auditorium that they would show on occasion. The government owns in now, the bank that took possession of it no longer exists. I remember a builder trying to turn it into condos. Guess it didn’t work, would have been a beautiful place to live.

    • Linda Symonds says:

      I’m sure the cost of renovation would be pretty prohibitive for all but the most wealthy of developers. But I agree with you, if they ever did, I would sure be standing in line to own one!! That facility has an energy that radiates in spite of it’s decline…..doesn’t that say something rather special about it? Maybe somebody will swoop in at the 11th hour and rescue it before it is too far gone. It is too magnificent to just bulldoze into rubble.

  33. Troy Browder says:

    Did this place ever get demolished?? I am a photographer coming up to the NY area in a few weeks and would love to check it out if it is still there, feel free to email me. Thanks! troy@fromthepit.net

  34. Michelle Stecker says:

    I graduated from Bennett in 1971. It was a great 2 years of my life and am in touch (via Facebook) with three friends from those years. We lived on the same hall the second year in an addition wing. I loved it and am very saddened that it can not be saved. I had had a tough time in boarding school (high school) and Bennett showed me that I could soar. I went on to graduate from GWU in DC at the behest of my Bennett teachers.

    Thanks HV Rob! Michelle

  35. Thanks Rob! Also, I would like to connect with graduates of Bennette College (NY). You can contact me via my blog link. Thanks!

  36. Martha Magee says:

    Note: Bennett College was a women’s college, not a school for girls. though I think it had been long ago -( Miss Bennett’s ) before it became a finishing school ~ where aristocratic young women came to learn how to become ladies after graduating secondary school with the emphasis on etiquette.

    Bennett became a 2yr. Women’s Junior College after that which was it’s finest hour!

  37. I bought a wonderful photo from a Rochester, NY Photographer of the Bennett School at an art fair in Lewiston last weekend. I couldn’t walk by the haunting grandure of the decay and not buy it. Thankfully, he was kind enough to share where he took the picture, which led me here. I’ve gone through the comments and the last time I see that anyone knows if this beauty is still there is June of 2013.
    Seeing as how you must live nearby, I wondered if you might be so kind as to tell me if the ruin is still standing? I’d love to drive down Sunday and take a look.
    Thanks,
    Artie

    • HV-Rob says:

      Yes, as far as I know it is still there. If Halcyon Hall gets demolished I will probably post it in several different locations on my site.

  38. I attended Bennett in 1977….It is so sad and horrifying to see those photo’s of that
    grand building and college….I remember my classmates hustling to classes, dining hall,
    library…I was a equine major but most of my friends were in design with Mr. Lee…
    I remember fathers weekend where all our fathers dressed in Black Tie and the
    girls in gowns that looked like they were princesses. And Era gone by….I am now a builder in Greenwich, CT and I have visited the College often trying to get parties interested in bring the great Hall back to its original stand.

    I remember when they told us they were closing, how they didn’t have to but the president took the easy way out and closed this great establishment….

    I will always remember this place as special and the friends I made will always be in my heart as Bennett College will be….

  39. richard says:

    What I wouldn’t give to get INSIDE that beautiful building!!!
    Cheryl,,do you have any connections?, :)

  40. Jessica mcknight says:

    we were just visiting a relative that lives in Bennett commons ( Bennett residence halls turned condos) and halcyon is still there! my relative didn’t have much info about the school so I was trolling the interwebs to see what I could find. love reading all the comments!

  41. Marion Yantis Schmidt says:

    A friend and classmate sent me this link which i did not know about. I have seen these pictures and more of Halcyon Hall in its present condition including pictures with the dripping water. I was a student from ’50-’52, my step-sister from ’47-’49 and my step-mother was graduated in the mid-20s when the college actually put on the Greek tragedies and she would tell us about being in the chorus. There was an outdoor amphitheatre and the indoor amphitheatre was in a building on the Hill by the President’s house. Here is an astonishing addendum to the Bennett Junior College story. In 1989 I met a man on a cruise who had bought the campus and the buildings, was living in the President’s house and intended to upgrade Halcyon Hall and the other out-buildings and use them as a Business Conference Center and weekend getaway from the City. From the look of it I would say the endeavor failed! It was a unique school, dedicated to the arts and as a student we saw the best drama and dance programs available, right there on ourown stage. The food in the dining room was inedible and the tuition was skyhigh for those days. It was an elite school before that term was used for schools. When the school closed, all records and information went to Pace University and they have never allowed alumnae information to be released. I did try to get current names and addresses before our 50th anniversary to see if there was interest in reunions. No luck. If anyone wants to contact me, use this website. But hurry, I’m 80 years old now! Marion Yantis (class of ’50) Schmidt

    • Christina says:

      Hello Marion,

      May I please have your email? I would love to speak to you directly about something that’s in production. If you prefer you can email me at Halcyon_Project@yahoo.com

      Rob, I will also be sending you an email shortly.

      Hope to hear from you,

      -Christina

  42. Virginia Aldrich Munson McTier says:

    I loved Bennett Jr. College and graduated in 1952. What a shame t let such a wonderful place go to ruin!

  43. Judy Patterson Lanyi says:

    I spent two wonderful years at Bennett and graduated in 1959 and my sister Lainey Patterson graduated in 1955. My child study major allowed me 35 years of teaching pre schoolers in New York and Westport, Ct. We now have a farm in Millbrook and I have been haunted for the last twenty years passing by this historical, magnificent structure that was allowed to decay. Perhaps fifteen years ago The Bennett Nursery School held a party in honor of Rosemary Gannon, Head of the Child Study Dept. I was so excited thinking I would see some of the gals with whom I graduated and who shared my practice teaching in the Nursery School. It was a lovely tribute but it was devoted to nursery school graduates and their families. I did have a wonderful reconnection with Miss Gannon. She died several years ago at the age of 95. A month ago the Millbrook Library had an exhibit of the works of Mr. Ralph Della Volpe (now in his 90′s) who taught art at Bennett for many years and is a renowned artist . Anyone who wants to know the background of Bennett should stop in at the Millbrook Library where there is a special room dedicated to the history of the school. It is depressing to see it in such deplorable condition but one tends to block it out and mentally reconstruct the beauty and elegance that filled those magnificent rooms. There were fabulous teachers and many lovely, bright young women in attendance. I am always amazed that the path we walked in to the quaint town of Millbrook still exists across from the Thorne Estate. And the very same diner remains. The movie theatre has been many things through the years and has housed hardware and clothing stores as well. Millbrook is pretty much the same but I don’t believe has ever flourished quite as it did when Bennett had it’s town and gown exchange and all the students shopped at the Charlotte Shop. The photographer has taken some great photos but I can only view them with a brick upon my chest. It was a magnificent structure and an experience that greatly enriched my life.

  44. Shannon Valera says:

    Hey Rob,

    Had a quick question.. Is their any administration or owner who is still around who owns Bennett? For my senior year art show in college I’m doing photography of abandoned places and wondering if their was a way to get in Bennett without having to sneak in or deal with the police. Didn’t know if their was someone I can get permission from or contacting the police before hand. If you know anything can you please contact me on my email . Thanks so much! Email: shannonvalera10@aol.com

  45. Chelsea says:

    Is there no chance at all that it can’t be repaired? I know no one wants to put the money into it but is it physically possible?

  46. Mike Robins says:

    If anyone is interested in seeing pics of Bennett in it’s present condition, email me , I would love to share. If you have memories of Bennett, please share them ! : )

  47. Mike Robins says:

    P.S. My email for pics is LIKRA8@PEOPLEPC.COM

  48. Nolan Johnson says:

    I want it. It gives me a reason to save my money. How much would this building be in a couple years if it still stands?