Exploring Bennett Collegeby Nadia Chaudhury
The Bennett School for Girls in Millbrook, New York, also known as Bennett College, was abandoned in 1978 after filing for bankruptcy. Its ruins now stand desolate, which for us means it is time to go exploring. We pretend to walk towards Carroll Hall, once part of the college, but now converted into luxury apartments with central air, a pool, and a tennis court. Double-checking to make sure no one sees, we make a dash through the thick green surrounding the building and duck under cobwebs as we enter the dusty school.
Founded in Irvington, New York by Miss May F. Bennett in 1890, the college moved to Millbrook in 1907. It was a private all-girls school and offered Bachelor’s degrees to its students. The rising popularity of coeducational facilities and a failed attempt to merge with the nearby Briarcliff College led to Bennett College filing for bankruptcy in 1977. The school was officially closed a year later.
Everywhere in the now empty, peeling halls of Bennett reveal hints of its previous life: solitary hangers in open closets, springs from old box springs, shredded mattresses, and faded wallpaper in the dorms. A tag on a wall declares, “Don’t go in there.” The floor is strewn with crushed beer cans, cigarette butts, and even toilets. As we pass the rooms with wide, open windows, we are careful not to catch the attention of the neighboring condo residents. We make our way to the basement, crawling through a tiny opening. We use candles to light our way through the boiler room. As we climb higher, we have to watch our steps to avoid falling through collapsing floors. In some areas, we edge along the wall to avoid the soggy centers of the floor.
Now, Bennett is for sale. The school’s 29 acres are being pitched as another educational facility, a conference location, or a health-related complex.
After wandering up and down every floor and through every room, we leave covered in dust and scraps. We rush back to the street, acting as if we just played a set on the Carroll Hall tennis courts.
Nadia Chaudhury is a former Layout Editor for the Rail.