I recently posted about scouting Alder Manor, a dilapidated yet beautiful abandoned mansion in Yonkers. The manor was owned by William Boyce Thompson, an extremely rich copper magnate in the early 1900′s. This past winter, I had the opportunity to check out the former Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research, a beautiful brick structure located across the street from the manor, and in far, far worse condition.
In 1917, Thompson took a trip to Russia and was dismayed by the level of poverty and starvation he encountered there. He began to look at agriculture as being of the utmost importance for a nation to maintain its population, and created the Institute for Plant Research in order to investigate “why and how plants grow, why they languish or thrive, how their diseases may be conquered, how their development may be stimulated by the regulation of the elements which contribute to their life.”
The institute was located in Yonkers until the 1970′s when, due to high property taxes and urban pollution, it relocated to the Cornell University campus. The former property was used until 1997 by outside groups. In 1999, it was leased to the Yonkers Board of Education, who recently sold it to a developer who is looking to raze the property in favor of an office park-style complex similar to the one that abuts the rear of the property.
When I called the owner to scout the property, he told me I could go check it out on my own. This struck me as very odd – on most occasions, when a scout wants to shoot a site for a film, SOMEONE (owner, manager, etc.) will give you a tour. The fact that this property is abandoned and fully boarded-up makes it all the more unusual. I asked if there were vagrants living inside. “Of course not!” he said, as if I was crazy to even consider the idea. “How will I be able to get inside?” I asked. “Isn’t it all boarded up?” “Oh, I’m sure you’ll figure something out. There are a few loose boards.” Weird.
I went on a snowy day in December and found a way in to the left wing.
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