Seaside Sanatorium, Waterford

April, 2017 by Ray Bendici

Image by Ray Bendici

The Damned Story: Originally built as a facility to treat children with tuberculosis, Seaside Sanatorium has had a long history serving as a medical facility. Overlooking Long Island Sound, it has also been a home for the elderly, a medical hospital and a facility to treat the mentally handicapped.

Opened in the early 1930s, the building itself was designed by the renowned architect Cass Gilbert, who also designed the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington as well as the famed Woolworth Building in New York City and the landmark Union Station in New Haven. Its first young inhabitants were sent there as a remedy for their affliction as it was thought the fresh air and sunshine would be beneficial. In 1958, the building took on a new purpose for three years, treating elderly folk, then became a home for the mentally challenged. Unfortunately, in the early 1970s it came to light that some patients were being violently abused by some of the staff; in the mid 1990s, patients were turning up dead a at a higher rate than normal.

With many unanswered allegations and after decades of service, Seaside Sanatorium was closed in 1996; it has passed through the hands of a few developers, getting hung up in various protracted legal battle. Eventually the state gained ownership.

In 2016, the state of Connecticut announced plans to make the property a state park. The goal is "to expand shoreline recreational opportunities for state residents and visitors." A few of the architecturally significant buildings are being rennovated, and the grounds are being spruced up.

The New England Paranormal Video Research Group investigated this place in 2007, thinking that with Seaside's long, dark and sometimes tragic history—and spooky, abandoned vibe—it might be a good target for paranormal investigation. They were able to capture a few EVPs [Electronic Voice Phenomena] and a few spirit orb photographs. The group's resident sensitive also experienced some strong sensations.

Our Damned Experience: Cameras in hand (as always) we visited Seaside Sanatorium on an overcast day in late April 2011. We parked outside the main entrance with all the other people who were enjoying the grounds—it must've been "Bring Your Dog to Seaside Day"—and walked onto the property.

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Image by Kate Geruntho Frank

It's easy to see why you would build a facility dedicated to helping people convalesce at this peaceful, scenic location—it has a wonderful view of Long Island Sound and the salty ocean air is refreshing.

The buildings are all boarded up, but it's easy to see that when they were open and functioning, that the whole place must've been very appealing. Unlike many other state institutions, time and effort was clearly put into the aesthetic qualities of building design—it's reminiscent of a classic New England private school.

We wandered around the buildings—as you can see in the photo gallery, the exteriors have been allowed to rot and the interiors are pretty much trashed at this point; it appears that some equipment was even left behind. We didn't notice or see anything unusual or weird, although Kate says she felt some odd vibes. Like any abandoned place, there's a certain level of inherent creepiness, to be sure. (Especially the abandoned playground equipment!)

Unlike many other visitors, we didn't encounter any security guards on the grounds, but then again, we never tried to get into any of the buildings—even with all our tetanus shots up-to-date, we were content with sticking our camera lenses through the broken windows and snapping away. The place looks like it's ready to come down fairly easily.

Still, even without going inside—which we do NOT recommend or condone—it's still well worth a visit.

If You Go: Seaside Sanatorium is located just off of Shore Road in Waterford (down the street from Harkness Memorial State Park), on a scenic stretch of Connecticut coastline. The grounds are open to the public, but the buildings are absolutely off limits. It is recommended to park away from the property and walk over to it.

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Submitted by Rick (not verified) on
I used to live in one of the houses right next door to Seaside and it is a beautiful place to live but the buildings are dangerous and should not be gone into. The security guard there has the power to detain and arrest you for trust passing in the buildings as I have seen him do many times. They don't mind you walking all around the property but you cannot go in any of the buildings. When I moved in 2011 the property was sold and is going to have condiminiums built on the property for people 55 and older.

Submitted by Melissa (not verified) on
I was there a couple of months ago with my dog and someone had pushed the front door open in the building with the car port like structure in the front. My dog ran straight in and i had to follow him to get him back. He went running up the stairs and I was so scared because it is very dark in there and dangerous. I finally got him in a room on the left that seemed like It might have been a dining room. Just as I was getting his leash back on,the door that we had come in slammed shut and it was pitch dark. It was terrifying and I finally got out using the light from my phone. I would never have gone in there willingly and I would urge people to stay out. The floors are rotten and the ceilings are falling down and I'm shure all that dust is toxic. I showered myself and my dog when we got home. The grounds and the beaches are beautiful. If you bring your dogs please pick up after them.

Submitted by Lolita Ayres (not verified) on
Ive been in the building many times since i go to school around there. The furthest building that actually housed the patients is pretty safe there are only certain areas on the bottom floor that have hanging wires and lighting fixtures. The building has been greatly vandalized within the past month by other people like a piano got knocked over as well as ALOT of graffiti and shattered windows. The only way in right now is a small window on the bottom right floor next to the inner playground facing the water. If you do go please wear a mask because there is asbestos and mold in the buildings.

Submitted by Sadie (not verified) on
@ Tessa, thank you for your response. I feel a little less crazy now! I wish someone could explain that. It's such a beautiful place and has an eerie calm about it. My brother and I walked the property, but we did not attempt to go inside out of respect, but we did walk through the garden, so that I could get some pictures of the water behind the garden. I think someone did call a guard on us cause they thought I was trying to break in. We were from TN and I was on my honeymoon and with me being a nurse, I have a deep interest in the history of medical science.

Submitted by Z (not verified) on
I remember back in the '80s Seaside was still in operation, to a certain extent. I used to be in Girl Scouts when I was a kid, and our troop had an outing there, where we were allowed to come in to use the pool, the trampolines and gym equipment, and the bowling alley. It was a lot of fun. I remember it was a big place, but we were limited to using only a certain area. This wasn't very long before they closed it altogether. I think it's sad that they've let the place go. It should be renovated and used again. I'd like to go exploring there at some point, but I don't want to run into the Rent-A-Cops, or whoever else might be watching the property for trespassers. I think urban exploration is great, and it can be very interesting. But I also think it's the jerks who go into a place and break things, steal items, vandalize, and are a nuisance, who ruin it for everyone. It only takes one jackass breaking up the place and spray painting shit on the wall to cause people to hire security guards, and start running people off. If people want to take something, take pictures. Take nothing else, and leave nothing else. except, perhaps, footprints.

Submitted by Bob (not verified) on
Found this place while working for a data comm company in the late 70s early 80s to service their equipment..Found the buildings and grounds beautiful with a nice beach with clean sea water....also found that beach was open to public and scuba divers,all that was needed was a sign in sheet at main office.......while at beach you could hear screams and other noises associated with mental illness.....was very disconcerting,now that i know why it was closed.....

Submitted by Braxton (not verified) on
Pictures from recent visit. Check out the strange light anomalies my camera picked up in the dorm basement (untouched) - https://picasaweb.google.com/114284815575510998671/AbandonedSeasideSanitoriamWaterfordCT#

Submitted by Patricia Wester (not verified) on
I worked at Seaside for about a year back in the 70's. I never witnessed any abuse from the counselors or staff. The school was run in a professional manner and the residents were taken care of. Oh, by the way I was not a counselor. I remember the event of Christmas in August , what a fun time for the residents , their families and the staff. It was a real treat . Lot's of fun. For the times and for the purpose Seaside served it's residents well. To bad it's fallen into disrepair , such beautiful grounds and buildings . Maybe somesome someday can bring it back to it's former beauty. So sad.

Submitted by AuntE (not verified) on
I would have loved rummaging through this building. I worked there in the 80's and 90's. It was a very functioning building with lots of caregivers who had relationships with their patients that would last in our memories forever. Some of these men and woman I still see and they remember their units and the staff that worked there. Up on the top floor there was a small room that I designed from painting the walls, decorations, furniture, etc. Would love to check that out. Back in 70's there were not many regulations or plans of action to settle down an outburst from some of the more aggressive patients so there were people who were rough in order to get this patient settled down. Some who could have hurt themselves very badly. There are rules set in place now for that type of behavior. Seaside was a nice place for this type of residential facility. I do not necessarily believe that all these separate type of housing/houses bought now is the right thing to do. Besides adult day care there was much more socialization interaction at a facility. I loved working there, although very hot with no A/C in the summer giving showers, feeding, making beds, etc. I would love a breezy night when the big sliders/windows would be open for the breeze to flow in. I could go on and on about what an incredible building this is. And the other buildings on the property also. I worked in one of the main houses that had offices on first floor, but the second floor of this incredible huge house had all antique furniture in the bedrooms. Including jewelry boxes with jewelry in it, old clothes, and the attic was filled with neat stuff. Wonder if it all sits there still or went to auction. All so interesting. Thanks for sharing this.

Submitted by Zac (not verified) on
I spent the day there yesterday. We went around 630 and walked around the beach and facility until dark just scoping out the area. They did have a guard stationed who immediately came up to us, took our names, and asked our intentions. He simply warned us of the buildings safety hazard and told us to enjoy the view and leave when it got dark. So we hung out on the beach then did some laps around the building looking for our way in. The fog rolled in really strong as soon as we got there and it made the entire experience very pretty and exciting. We left, got some food, and came back around 9:30. We got into the building by going through some bushes in the back by the courtyard on the right side, then up a path and hopped the gated fence to the 2nd floor balcony where a door was open. We gained access to the rest of the building through a hatch in the wall. It was strange and I can't imagine what it was used for, but without it every other door was bolted shut. The building itself is very cool, it's easy to get lost. The only way we found our way out was remembering graffiti on the walls. We went to the top and then worked our way down. We found a few rooms with some old toys and paintings, it was clear it was home to children and made it very creepy. We even explored the roof which according to some people we met is the"haunted"area. We got onto it through a window on the top floor on the far right end(If your back is to the water and you're looking at the courtyard. That right side.) We got to a tower of sorts on the right edge that was empty except for a large cage in the middle. Makes me wonder what went on here. I highly suggest going here. Even if you don't go inside, it is a very nice area with a beach.

This is near Old Lyme / Niantic, I believe forest path goes to the beach?

Submitted by melissa (not verified) on
Hi, curious I see it has been a few years since anything recent was posted on this thread. I notice the area around seaside has been heavily developed in waterford, is there anyway to get to the grounds, just to walk around? We found the main road, but it was gated with "no trespassing signs" all over. I just wasn't sure if there was another way, possibly to access the grounds from a beach perhaps & walk up. Thanks!

Submitted by Ben (not verified) on
I went there a couple of months ago and it was very easy to get in. I parked off a side street directly behind Seaside, right next to a smaller facility, which had some buses. We hopped the gate and walked right up to the abandoned building right next to Seaside. Before entering, some people who were also on the grounds warned us about the black mold that was inside of that building. So we decided to just go into the main building. We found a broken window and climbed in through there. Didn't see any security or anything like that.

Submitted by Ben (not verified) on
I went there a couple of months ago and it was very easy to get in. I parked off a side street directly behind Seaside, right next to a smaller facility, which had some buses. We hopped the gate and walked right up to the abandoned building right next to Seaside. Before entering, some people who were also on the grounds warned us about the black mold that was inside of that building. So we decided to just go into the main building. We found a broken window and climbed in through there. Didn't see any security or anything like that.

Submitted by belinda (not verified) on
i'm now 65 yrs old,i lived at seaside 60 yrs ago for 5 yrs. i had tb in my spine. i visited the hospital 6-28-14 with friends. the filling was so real, i was back there as a child again. i seen a nun and 2 kid friends. i learned to walk all over again. i was admitted at 5 and left when i was 10yrs old. i was the 1st case in ct with tb in my spine. then it took 5yrs in the hospital now it maybe a 6 month stay. wow look how far tech has come. the hospital is just as i remembered it.

Submitted by Sarah (not verified) on
Thanks for sharing your story, what an experience to have!

Submitted by Laurie Pribyl (not verified) on
Wondering if there are records of the young patients that were there. I have an aunt that (according to family tradition) died there and had a broken back (highly suspicious). My uncle was also there till he was 13. My Dad never knew his brother till he was 13, but supposedly he did not have TB? Anyone who could shed light on it is dead or suffering dementia. Growing up never questioned the broken back story but now wondering how that happened. My grandmother was evil and I wonder if she was the cause, but just generally wonder what happened to both.

Submitted by Steve (not verified) on
Sorry, not sure how to research that, but post here if you find anything out. Seems odd that kids with a broken back would be sent there with everyone suffering of TB. Let us know

Submitted by Laurie (not verified) on
She wasn't sent there with a broken back. She died of a broken back she somehow got while there. Hence the highly suspicious comment.

Submitted by Laurie Pribyl (not verified) on
I never thought she got the broken back at the facility, I don't suspect anyone there. The comment about TB in the spine is interesting. Perhaps my aunt had it there but did not survive?

We visited on 9/9/14 during the day. We parked at Harkness Memorial State Park (which might I add, is a very beautiful place!) and walked over to Seaside from there, but you can park at the parking lot before the gate. We hesitantly walked over to the path to the left of the paved street that’s gated off from cars. We later discovered that it was legal to walk the grounds. When trying to find a way into the main building, we saw a security guard who was parked in front of the building (side closest to the water, near the main entrance) but we remained unseen.The whole time we were inside the building, the security guard was outside and even drove around the building once, but he never noticed us. However, we did refrain from using flash on our camera near the windows as a safety precaution. If you’re facing the building with the ocean behind you, we got in on the right side through a door with the top glass broken (no glass remaining on door). Once you get in that section, we went up the staircase to the 3rd floor which was the only accessible one. Most of the other ways in mentioned by other commenters seem to have been boarded up or changed, or weren’t as easily accessible. When we got to the 3rd level, pigeons were inside and “guarding” the door but they are easily scared away. Be careful touching this staircase though, because there are dead pigeons and feces on the majority of the floor. Once you get through the door at the top of the staircase, be careful because you are in a room filled with windows. We had to crouch down so we wouldn’t be seen by the security guard. Once you get past the room filled with windows, it’s pretty much smooth sailing from there. We went through most of all the levels, except the basement and part of the 4th floor. When we were in there, we didn’t see any dead animals that some of the other posts mentioned except for the pigeons. Nothing strange happened when we were in the building, but we do agree that there is a smell so we recommend bringing a mask as well as a flashlight. Structurally speaking, the building seemed fairly safe. We exited the same way we came in but we had to wait for a few minutes due to a woman walking her dog fairly close to our exit. After we exited nonchalantly, we noticed the security guard parked just around the corner (probably 10 feet away from us, but blocked eyesight by building) and he didn’t notice us at all. I wouldn’t be that discouraged from going if the security guard is there but stay away from windows and just be quiet, and do us all a favor and don’t vandalize. Photos available of our visit at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/127003531@N03/sets/72157647581502855/

Submitted by Ann (not verified) on
Wondering if you can tell me how long of walk it is to get there if you park at harkness memorial park. I am planning on going next week and that sounds like the easiest and least noticable way to get in. I don't see me scaling any fences.

Submitted by jlc6938 (not verified) on
I'd say between 10-20 minute walk depending upon how fast you walk and where at the park you park your car. Keep in mind you can park right near the grounds, it is open to the public. Here is a picture of the parking area https://www.flickr.com/photos/127003531@N03/15227719061/in/set-72157647581502855 we have more in our gallery. Good luck!

Submitted by Amanda (not verified) on
Anyone who has successfully gotten inside the buildings at Seaside be willing to go with me and show me how? Or at least make a map or something? I visited yesterday and took pictures but Id like to look around on the inside.

Submitted by Sonia (not verified) on
I would also like to go inside .

Submitted by Julie (not verified) on
I would also like to get inside. unfortunately I don't live in the area but will be there the week of thanksgiving I f anyone is offering...

Submitted by beach goer (not verified) on
I frequent seaside very often throughout the entire year. I was there when the enviromental studies were being done a couple weeks ago and talked to one of the guys doing it. The were in the first building as you walk down the hill (the long skinny building). He stated that the buildings were extremely unsafe, not just from lead and asbestos, but that many of them, especially the larger buidling next to the beach are at risk for the roof collapsing in. In fact, he said he was surprised it hasn't already. Just a heads up for anyone planning on going in. He also said the state is just going to tear them down because of people going in, getting hurt, and suing the state for their own negligence.

Submitted by Hannah (not verified) on
I was born in 1996, the year the sanitarium shut down. My grandparents live right next door to the property, and they have for more than 60 years. My dad grew up playing with the children there and I grew up playing on that creepy playground equipment. Even venturing inside a few times with my dad when I was younger. He'd been inside many times when it was open and he knew where to take me. Over the years I have taken an unnecessary amount of photos of Seaside and I will continue to take more. It is tragic that the site has just been left to decay. If the state had had more prethought they could have done some beautiful things with those buildings. Even now they can't allow the area to be destroyed for condos. It is one of the rare, peaceful, less touched beachfront properties in New England and to bring in commercial property would absolutely ruin in, not to mention the people living around it that use it every day for their simple, unobtrusive walks. I walk my grandparent's dog their on a regular bases. It's possible and probable I, my dad, or my grandparents were there when this investigation occurred. I would like to see Seaside be declared an official state park and left alone. Don't let it deteriorate too much more, the buildings can be saved. And allow this beautiful site to love on. And you never know, knock those buildings down and you might release some spirits. Tony, the security guard and a good pal, would not be very pleased with ghosts running amok. Thank you very much.

Submitted by Meg (not verified) on
I planned to go here today with some people and saw that the rode for it, Seaside Drive, it gated off and state property. I parked at Harkness and figured we could walk over there but when you walk across the boardwalk it says "no trespassing" and there's water blocking. We don't plan on going inside but would love to see it. How can we get there? Thanks!

Submitted by Adam (not verified) on
Well you see Meg, by your name, I assume you are Hispanic. Therefore embrace your inner Latina and hop the fence. Then you will be inside the compound. Good luck!

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