The Willowbrook State School opened the door to the public in 1947 with the purpose of treating children with intellectual disabilities. Built to hold 4,000 patients on its 375 acre Staten Island campus, Willowbrook was the largest American state-run institution for people with mental disabilities of its time.
The institution took a tragic turn over time when the patient population increased to 6,000 people. Soon after, a series of investigation proved that the residents were living in overcrowded and unhygienic living conditions and had also been used as guinea pigs for scientific experimentation for the hepatitis vaccine.
Public outcry led to the closure of Willowbrook in 1987, leaving the extensive campus and its buildings to dilapidate until 1993 when the land was purchased as the future site for the College of Staten Island. Due to the level of abandonment, the property required a substantial renovation.