Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research - Atlas Obscura
Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research is permanently closed.

AO Edited

Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research

An abandoned horticulture institute gloomily presides over rows of derelict and vine-wrought greenhouses. 


The Boyce Thompson Institute vacated its original Yonkers location decades ago, but the greenhouses that it left behind remain lush with plant life, now growing from the outside in.

Rising from a sea of suburban commercial sprawl, the empty Boyce Thompson Institute looms menacingly. Years of neglect have allowed it to be thoroughly vandalized and marauded, leaving the vacant shell of a building that was once at the forefront of plant research. Rows of empty greenhouses have been taken back by nature, forested in moss and overgrown with vines. Leafy foliage creeps its way in through the broken glass, lending a strange beauty to the deteriorating structures and their slow decay.

William Boyce Thompson originally made his fortune as a copper magnate in the early 1900’s, purchasing 22 acres of land in northwest Yonkers with the intent of building a summer home that would overlook the Hudson river. Always a lover of plants and gardens, Thompson was actively involved in the process of planning and planting the landscapes surrounding his new manor.  On a 1917 trip to Russia, Thompson found himself deeply moved by the poverty he observed.  He returned home convinced of the need to find a sustainable food supply for the world’s ever-growing population.  Inspired by the idea that agriculture and social justice were intricately linked, Thompson determined to build a horticulture institute on his remaining land in Yonkers.  The Boyce Thompson Institute was established in 1920 to research plant growth, germination, potentialities and disease, and Thompson remained passionate about the study of horticulture for the remainder of his life.

In 1978, facing a steep rise in Yonkers’ city taxes and with heavy urban air pollution becoming increasingly problematic for their research, the Boyce Thompson Institute relocated their facilities to the Cornell University campus.  The building left behind in Yonkers was actively leased out for use until the mid-1990’s,  but the greenhouses have been in disuse and left to their own accord ever since the 1970’s. 

The property currently belongs to the city of Yonkers which is actively seeking out proposals for new development, but for the time being the Boyce Thompson Institute stands vacant and seemingly forgotten.  Vandals, vagrants and nature continue to take their toll on the abandoned building and Thompson’s greenhouses are left to the plants.

Update: In 2015 a development corporation began renovating the building. The building is in the process of being transformed into a multi-use business and shopping center.

Update: it appears this place has been renovated, with some of it torn down. 

Know Before You Go

From Saw Mill River Parkway North take exit 9 for Executive Boulevard. Make a left turn onto Broadway and the grounds will be to your left.

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