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Before and After of Halcyon Hall, Millbrook, NY.

Halcyon Hall, located in Millbrook, New York, is an iconic building with a rich history. Originally built as a luxury hotel in 1893, it later became the main building of Bennett College, an all-women’s school, until the college closed in 1978. Since then, Halcyon Hall has fallen into a state of severe disrepair, leading to its current status as an abandoned, dilapidated structure.

Before: Halcyon Hall in its Prime

Historical Significance: Designed by architect James E. Ware, Halcyon Hall was a beautiful example of Queen Anne-style architecture. The building featured intricate woodwork, steep gabled roofs, and large wrap-around porches, symbolizing the grandeur and elegance of its time.

As a Hotel: When it first opened, Halcyon Hall was a luxurious destination for wealthy New Yorkers. It offered amenities such as spacious rooms, fine dining, and various recreational activities, catering to the affluent clientele seeking a retreat from city life.

Bennett College Era: In 1907, Halcyon Hall became the centerpiece of Bennett College. The building was repurposed to house classrooms, dormitories, a library, and administrative offices. During this period, the college thrived, and the building was well-maintained, serving as a hub of academic and social life for its students.

After: Halcyon Hall in Ruins

Post-Closure Decline: After Bennett College closed in 1978 due to financial difficulties, Halcyon Hall was abandoned. Without maintenance or security, the building rapidly deteriorated. Roofs collapsed, windows broke, and nature began to reclaim the structure.

Current State: Today, Halcyon Hall stands as a hauntingly beautiful ruin, with its once-grand architecture overtaken by vines and trees. The interior is largely gutted, with debris and decaying materials scattered throughout. Despite its decay, the building remains a poignant symbol of forgotten history and faded glory.

Safety Concerns: The current condition of Halcyon Hall poses significant safety risks. The structure is unstable, and the surrounding grounds are often overgrown and difficult to navigate. Efforts to preserve or restore the building have been hampered by the extensive damage and high costs involved.

Photography and Urban Exploration: Despite its dangerous state, Halcyon Hall attracts photographers and urban explorers who are drawn to its eerie beauty and historical significance. The juxtaposition of its decayed state against its former grandeur makes it a compelling subject for artistic documentation.

Visual Comparison

Before: Photos from the early 20th century show a vibrant, meticulously maintained building bustling with activity. The exterior is pristine, with freshly painted walls and neatly trimmed gardens.

After: Contemporary photos reveal a stark contrast, with the building’s frame exposed, walls crumbling, and vegetation overtaking the structure. The windows are broken, the roof has partially collapsed, and the once-inviting porches are now unsafe.


Halcyon Hall’s transformation from a symbol of luxury and education to an abandoned relic underscores the impermanence of human endeavors and the relentless passage of time. Its history continues to captivate those who encounter its story, whether through old photographs or firsthand exploration of its ruins

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Detailed History of Halcyon Hall

Early Years: Luxury Hotel (1893–1907)

  • Construction and Design: Halcyon Hall was constructed in 1893 and designed by renowned architect James E. Ware. The building was a magnificent example of Queen Anne-style architecture, characterized by its asymmetrical façade, ornate woodwork, and grand turrets.
  • Amenities and Attractions: As a luxury hotel, Halcyon Hall was equipped with all the modern amenities of the time. Guests could enjoy fine dining, social gatherings, and recreational activities such as boating on nearby lakes and hiking in the scenic Hudson Valley.

Transition to Bennett College (1907–1978)

  • College Acquisition: In 1907, May Bennett, the founder of Bennett College, purchased Halcyon Hall to serve as the main campus building. The college, originally established in Irvington, New York, relocated to Millbrook, utilizing Halcyon Hall for various academic and administrative purposes.
  • Educational Hub: During its years as part of Bennett College, Halcyon Hall housed classrooms, a library, dormitories, and offices. The building was the heart of the college, buzzing with the activities of students and faculty. The college offered programs in liberal arts, with a strong emphasis on preparing women for careers and higher education.
  • Closure and Abandonment: Financial difficulties forced Bennett College to close its doors in 1978. Since then, Halcyon Hall has remained abandoned, suffering from neglect and exposure to the elements.

The Current State of Halcyon Hall

Decay and Neglect

  • Structural Deterioration: Over the decades, Halcyon Hall has experienced significant structural damage. The roof has collapsed in many areas, leading to water damage and further degradation of the interior. The once sturdy wooden beams are now rotting, and the floors are unstable.
  • Natural Reclamation: Nature has taken over much of the building. Vines crawl up the walls, trees have grown through floors and roofs, and the surrounding grounds are overgrown with dense vegetation. This natural reclamation adds to the eerie beauty of the site but also contributes to its instability.

Safety and Preservation Efforts

  • Safety Hazards: The building is extremely dangerous to enter due to its unstable structure. Falling debris, weak floors, and sharp, rusted metal are just a few of the hazards present within the ruins.
  • Preservation Challenges: Efforts to preserve Halcyon Hall have been sporadic and largely unsuccessful. The cost of restoration is prohibitively high, and the extent of the damage makes preservation a daunting task. Some local groups have advocated for saving the building, but no comprehensive plan has been implemented.

Cultural and Historical Impact

  • Local Landmark: Despite its ruinous state, Halcyon Hall remains a significant landmark in Millbrook. It is a poignant reminder of the area’s history and the once-thriving Bennett College.
  • Urban Exploration: The site has become a popular destination for urban explorers and photographers. The juxtaposition of decay and historical architecture provides a unique and compelling subject for artistic exploration. However, this interest also raises concerns about safety and further damage to the site.

Visual and Artistic Depictions


  • Historical Photos: Images from the early 20th century depict Halcyon Hall as a vibrant, bustling center of activity. The exterior is pristine, with a well-maintained façade, expansive porches, and manicured gardens. Inside, photos show well-furnished rooms filled with students and staff engaged in various activities.
  • Architectural Drawings: Original blueprints and architectural drawings highlight the intricate design details and the thoughtful layout of the building, emphasizing its grandeur and elegance.


  • Contemporary Photos: Modern images show a starkly different picture. The once grand hallways are now filled with debris; graffiti covers many of the walls, and the structure appears ready to collapse at any moment. These photos capture the haunting beauty of decay and the relentless passage of time.
  • Artistic Interpretations: Artists have used the ruins as inspiration for various works, capturing the melancholic beauty and historical significance of Halcyon Hall. Paintings, photographs, and even literary works have been inspired by the building’s dramatic transformation.


Halcyon Hall’s journey from a luxurious hotel to an academic hub and finally to a haunting ruin is a powerful narrative of change and impermanence. Its current state serves as a stark reminder of the fleeting nature of human achievements and the inevitable march of time. While efforts to preserve or restore the building face significant challenges, Halcyon Hall continues to captivate the imagination of those who encounter its story, standing as a testament to the past’s grandeur and the present’s transience.

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