Plants Have Taken Over These Abandoned Greenhouses

Atlas Obscura
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Jan. 29 2014 11:59 AM

Revenge of the Plants at the Boyce Thompson Institute in Yonkers

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Just off Route 9 in Yonkers, a half-hour drive north of New York City, is an abandoned agricultural institute where the plants have gone wild.

The Boyce Thompson Institute, a collection of fields, greenhouses, and laboratories, opened in 1924. Its purpose was to improve society through the study of plants. William Boyce Thompson, an American mining magnate, established the institute after traveling to Russia with the Red Cross in 1917 and witnessing poverty and starvation.

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Concerned about the USA's growing population and the possibility of the food supply, Thompson returned home with a plan:

"I think I will work out some institution to deal with plant physiology, to help protect the basic needs of the 200 million [people in the USA]," he said at the time. "Not an uplift foundation, but a scientific institution dealing with definite things, like germination, parasites, plant diseases, and plant potentialities."

The institute — built across the road from Thompson's 67-room country estate, Alder Manor — operated until 1978, when increasing air pollution and property taxes warranted a move to Cornell University's Ithaca campus.

The city of Yonkers currently owns the property. Since 2005 there has been talk of turning it into a commercial building and wellness center, but for now the buildings sit in limbo — windows smashed, walls covered in graffiti, and plants slowly enveloping the greenhouses.

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