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Inside the grotesque Bennett College for girls, abandoned for almost 40 years

Ian Smith

Bennett College was founded in 1890 at Irvington, New York by May F. Bennett. In 1907, the college moved to its final home on 22 acres (89,000 m2) in Millbrook, Dutchess County, New York.

In 1907, the school had an enrollment of 120 students and a faculty of 29. Originally named The Bennett School for Girls, the course of study was six years (four years of high school and two years of higher study).

In the early 20th century the school discontinued high school courses and became a junior college only. The two-year curriculum continued through the 1970’s.

Generations of young women from prominent American families attended Bennett over its 90-year history.

Flickr user Sébastien Barré took a tour and capture the crumbling walls of this  grotesque building that used to be a center of knowledge and education.


The main building of Bennett College, Halcyon Hall, was built in 1893 by H. J. Davison Jr., a publisher from New York. The 200-room Queen Anne structure was designed by James E. Ware.

It has five stories, a basement, and sub-basement. Originally built as a luxury hotel, the building became home to Bennett College in 1907 after the hotel failed to catch on.

The Bennett campus also included a chapel, stables, dormitories, an outdoor theater, and the Kettering Science Center, a state of the art building completed in late 1972.

The cost of constructing the science building (needed to comply with new state science education requirements), along with other campus upgrades, contributed to the school’s bankruptcy.

Halcyon Hall was never reopened and quickly fell into ruin. When the heat was turned off, water pipes burst, causing major water damage throughout the building.

Large portions of the roof have collapsed and trees can be seen growing through parts of the building. Halcyon Hall remains in this state as of April 2015.


Majors of study, included art, fashion design, interior design, music, modern languages, literature, history, dance, drama, child development, equine studies, and domestic science.

Activities at Bennett included gymnastics, golf, tennis, horseback riding, and skiing. The school was home to a full-time teaching Nursery School for 3 and 4-year-olds as well as a riding stable. All photos by Sébastien Barré/Flickr

Bennett School for Girls - Millbrook, NY - 10, Mar - 07

Bennett School for Girls - Millbrook, NY

Bennett School for Girls – Millbrook, NY

Bennett School for Girls .

Sébastien Barré


Source Sébastien Barré

With the growing popularity of coeducation in the 1970’s, Bennett found itself struggling to survive. An attempt to upgrade facilities and convert to a coed college in the mid-1970’s left the already troubled college in financial distress.

In 1977, the trustees attempted to reach a collaboration agreement with Briarcliff College, a junior women’s college in nearby Briarcliff Manor which was also struggling with low enrollment.

The plan did not work, however, and Briarcliff instead merged with Pace University in 1977 after both Briarcliff and Bennett entered bankruptcy.In 1978, the college closed its doors for good.

Bennett College closed a few short weeks after its freshman orientation in the fall.

The students having already arrived at Bennett for their fall semester were given the opportunity to attend Marist College, a nearby co-ed university in Poughkeepsie, New York.