Beacon Citizen Network (BCN): a place for neighbors to get the word out, be heard and stay informed in all matters concerning Beacon, NY.



Superhero School: An Epicenter for Disruptive Innovation


(this is a cross-post from my blog, emergent by design. i drove by the old craig house hospital a few weeks ago, and it inspired me to write this. i've been working with innovators/entrepreneurs in the tech space around the world for several years now, and i would really love to manifest this vision of a coworking space meets hackerspace meets residency meets events space meets sustainability demonstration center hub for the hudson valley. if anyone knows the owner of the property and could make an introduction, i'd appreciate it! - venessa)




I put a short post up a few days ago in an online group I’m in, with the above image and this brief description:

superhero school. center for disruptive innovation. continuous learning zone. collective intelligence. live/work startup incubator. community center. hackerspace. makerlab. autonomous zone. permaculture and sustainable food production. cooperatively owned communications infrastructure. resilience. r&d lab. a place for creative troublemakers. hudson valley. i want this to exist.

It blew up to over 100 comments in less than 48 hours, with many people sharing their own thoughts and plans and existing initiatives to create similar things in their areas. I was inspired! Is this an idea whose time has come?

If you take a look around the world right now, you will see that this is already happening. Everywhere. You can see it in the themes of the ‘sharing economy’ ‘collaborative consumption,’ and the maker movement; in physical locations like hackerspaces, fab labs, and co-creation spaces. We see it in chaordinated events, in barcamps, innovation camps, unconferences, workshops, and maker faires.


It is happening in a new blendings of continuous learning/education/entrepreneurship - check out the KaosPilots in Denmark, the Unreasonable Institute in Colorado, Maison Notman in Montreal, Blackbox in Silicon Valley, General Assembly in New York City, the Knowmads in the Netherlands, West Lexham in London, Team Academy in Finland, and the Hubs across 5 continents and 26 cities.


For strategies in environmental sustainability, local resilience, and self-reliant living, look to the Mycelium School, Friends of Gaviotas in South America, Gaia University, the Center for Alternative Technology in Wales, the Eden Project in Cornwall, and Schumacher College in South Devon.


For full-on experiments in intentional living, look to Damanhur in Italy, Findhorn Foundation in Scotland, Twin Oaks in Virginia, Tamera in Portugal, the kibbutzim in Isreal, or live/work artists’ spaces like AS220 in Rhode Island. Current ideas to launch such initiatives are floating in the noosphere as well - look to Lion Kimbro’s “The Plan,” or the “House of Rethinking” by Until We See New Land.


All of these examples inspire me to believe that we are reaching the tipping point, where we’ll accelerate the construction and deployment of these epicenters for disruptive innovation, creativity, imagination, healing, and Becoming. Gathering together and creating the world we want to live in.  Getting linked. Now.


The particular location pictured above which has captured my imagination is right here in Beacon, NY, an estate vacant for 12 years now, sitting on 63 lovely acres of property. It is less than an hour and a half train ride from NYC, and surrounded by nature, the Hudson Highlands, the Hudson River. It’s not isolated out in the desert somewhere, not a rejection of civilization, but embedded within it.


It brought into focus for me all the conversations and theories I’ve been having in the clouds of the future, and grounded them down into something that could be a reality.


And this is simply a location near me... but couldn’t it be in any number of places? There are a nearly limitless amount of charming, historic buildings everywhere.. sitting vacant and aching to be retrofitted for something useful.


And there seems to be no shortage of passionate people eager to roll up their sleeves and implement these ideas on the ground, share their successes and failure, and spend time being human together.


Could aspects of the above initiatives be rolled into a bold experiment in social evolution?


A live/work campus with elements of a university, Plato’s Academy, an ashram and a monastery. A place to feed your mind, body and soul.


Where people express what their humanity means to them through art, technology, music, experiential learning, sustainable practices, aesthetics, and togetherness.


An action-orientation of prototyping, experimenting, risk-taking, rapidly iterating, and propagating what works. Incubating startups and projects. A collaboratory to bootstrap local and regional solutions to our most pressing ‘wicked problems.’


I can see something magical forming just over the horizon, and it makes me ask:


What will happen when these types of locations begin to integrate into a global network?


What happens when we have real trust networks that transcend boundaries, and share the information and resources to aid us all in a higher function civilization?


How will these globally networked creative economies interoperate and build wealth together?


Can we open source the models so they can spread and morph as quickly as possible?


What is the role of complementary and local currencies within these networks?


What does it look like when we engage in commons-based peer production and build towards shared infrastructures?


What does a balanced model look like where both individual and group interests are being served?


How will this improve the quality of our lives and our communities?


The world is only becoming more tumultuous and complex, and there is no one to “save us.”


We need to cultivate superheroes and create the world we want!


Can we build it now?

Views: 1025

Tags: center, craig, hospital, house, innovation, learning, residency, resilience, school, superhero, More…sustainability


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Comment by James Michael Krivo on November 23, 2011 at 12:46am

Dear Vanessa and friends,

I am new to Beacon, an also have just learned about the Tioronda estate. The more you look into it the more you learn.The horticulturalist for the estate was originally a man named Sargent,who was one of the first people to really bring landscaping and horticulture to our nation. Sargent discovered a tree on the site never known before, and planted a cucumber tree there, which is very rare. His close friend was Downing, who conceived Central Park, but died so he never got to see it. When Downing died, Sargent published a book , so Downing's widow would have some finances to support her.  The original Tioronda estate was owned by General Howland, who volunteered to serve in the Civil War and was wounded. He also became New York State treasurer,and as such worked to develop a mental health system for the state. He was the first superintendent of the mental hospital in Poughkeepsie , designed by the same architect as designed his home at Tioronda.  The original estate included 95 acres of what is now the area of the University Settlement camp.  That camp was a gift from Mrs. Howland, after her husband had died.  ...a gift to the University Settlement Camp in NYC.  The founder of that camp, Stoval, was also the first Parks Commissioner in NYC, and the creator of the first park there, Seward Park on the lower East side.  Before there was a settlement Camp, however, the white building there had  been owned by Reverend Henry Ward Beecher, who was important in the history of our nation, in that he inspired a lot of people  to address  slavery . His sister wrote Uncle toms Cabin.  The estate also became the Craig House , where many wealthy people came for mental health issues.  One of the original psychiatrists who founded Craig House had been at the  Mattewan facility for the criminally insane. His idea was to treat people with mental disorders in a more compassionate way.

Understanding this history and learning about it is very worthwhile in my opinion....If anyone is interested in all of this, a group of us meet on Monday at 11  AM at the Banks Square Coffee House. We are a working group, part of the Sargent Gardens Garden Club. Also, if any of you want to know more about the estate , read Richie Cabo's book, the Mystery of the Cucumber Tree.

Jim Krivo


Comment by Venessa Miemis on November 22, 2011 at 8:40pm


Comment by brianpjcronin on November 22, 2011 at 8:16pm
That's what I love about Beacon. Even our ghosts are awesome.
Comment by Ben Royce on November 22, 2011 at 7:46pm

Brian, here's one famous ghost:


History of Craig House

Craig House was an American private psychiatric clinic located in Beacon, N.Y.

Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of the American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, was a patient at Craig House, under the care of Dr. C. Jonathan Slocum.


The collection consists of psychiatric evaluations, correspondence, and reports concerning Zelda Fitzgerald when she was a patient at Craig House, Beacon, N.Y., under the care of Dr. C. Jonathan Slocum. Included are 18 letters, telegrams, and notes by F. Scott Fitzgerald, letters by various doctors and from Mrs. A. D. Sayre (Zelda's mother), copies of reports, some in French, and statements from Johns Hopkins Hospital and Prangin, Switzerland, as well as a stenographic transcript (114 pp.) of a conversation between Mr. and Mrs. F. Scott Fitzgerald and Dr. Thomas Rennie in 1933.


Back in America, Scott went to Hollywood where he tried screenwriting and began a relationship with the movie columnist Sheilah Graham. In 1936, Zelda entered the Highland Mental Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina. Scott died in Hollywood in 1940, having last seen Zelda a year and a half earlier. She spent her remaining years working on a second novel, which she never completed, and she painted extensively. In 1948, the hospital at which she was a patient caught fire, causing her death. Interest in the Fitzgeralds resurged shortly after her death: the couple has been the subject of popular books, movies and scholarly attention. After a life as an emblem of the Jazz Age, Roaring Twenties, and Lost Generation, Zelda Fitzgerald posthumously found a new role: after a popular 1970 biography portrayed her as a victim of an overbearing husband, she became a feminist icon.


Did Zelda die at Craig House in a fire? Or are they referring to a fire at some other facility?


Comment by brianpjcronin on November 22, 2011 at 7:38pm

FYI, one other piece of important info we learned when talking to people who used to work there in the 70's (my wife and I went through a period when we were obsessed with this place and were always sneaking around and taking pictures): The place is supposed to be CRAZY haunted. Hope that's not a deterrent. I actually think it makes the place even cooler . . .

Comment by Ben Royce on November 22, 2011 at 7:22pm

Venessa: if you can the capital, that will be amazing.


If NYU can open a branch in Abu Dhabi, why not an NYU Hudson Valley? ;-) That was the way I was thinking: attract a high profile educational institution to the campus. Or: someone like the Cary Institute


Combine it with BIRE, an educational and research and think thank centered on the environment. We are talking about Scenic Hudson and State parkland here to, all of that can be integrated in some manner.


But heck, if you are confident you can get the money, I am impressed! I thought that would be the biggest hurdle. But definitely, I think if some of us can make enough noise, some institution somewhere would jump on the property in heartbeat, it really is that attractive.


Comment by Venessa Miemis on November 22, 2011 at 7:07pm

@brianpjcronin - thank you. according to this blog by Rob Yasinac, the property is currently owned by an investor and art collector named John L. Stewart. i want to reach out to him and describe the vision and the constellation of people around the country who would help come together to make this happen, but i want to do a little more legwork first. but even having a conversation with him would be nice.


@ben royce - getting the money for the place isn't the main issue... i actually feel pretty confident that i could raise the capital. what's more critical is the PEOPLE that are necessary to be able to deliver on the grand vision. that means i need to roll up my sleeves and spend a lot more time at the ground level here in the area building relationships with people who also share this vision and would be willing to commit to manifesting it. i know everyone is out there. it's a matter of finding them and connecting the dots and building the community, which is the hard work. i've been spending most of my time doing this kind of thing, but with a distributed, global community. now i need to open my eyes and see who's actually around me physically. ;)  and thanks for the heads up about the tioronda school - someone actually *just* told me about that place yesterday - i hadn't been aware of it. i haven't been by there yet to see the layout and property, but the craig house really feels so right in so many ways - historically, aesthetically, etc.


@U. Smith - thanks for the info, really interesting. in my mind, a lot of the things that previously existed there would be restored. i believe strongly in building resilient community infrastructures and food sustainability and energy efficiency, so i can see it being an amazing hub and demonstration site where permaculture practices and food raising can be taught to others. i can easily see people creating local brands to sell the products grown there (like the high school students do with their salsa in beacon). i also love that it was a mental hospital.... in many ways, i want to restore that too.... but as a creative asylum. lol. home to technology innovators, entrepreneurs, people launching social enterprises, sustainability experts, and those really pushing the edge to create new models for capacity building for the commons, and developing methods and practices to benefit 100% of us.

anyway, that's the dream :)

thanks everyone for the feedback

- venessa

Comment by Ben Royce on November 22, 2011 at 6:16pm

U. Smith: great info, thanks

Comment by U. Smith on November 22, 2011 at 6:06pm

In the past the entire estate and this mansion, was owned by Dr. Slocum. The mansion was the main building for Craig House Sanitarium. Knew older locals who caddied for the then available ( now condo's are now there), on- grounds golf course. There was a self-sustaining farm (pigs, and other farm animals) with gardens in order to prepare fresh food for the clients.

There is a large indoor pool in the building on the right, down near the bridge. Cross the bridge, and go left and up the hill, on the left..on South Ave., .is the old school (now also restored as condos)  

 Jonathan Winters, Judy Garland and many notables were reputed to have stayed at Craig House throughout the years, to get help with stress and recovery.    Several years ago, an international spa- retreat Center was very interested and talking about buying the property. That possible purchaser looked into it, however, nothing ever came of it and the possiblity of a positive buyer who could impact the area holistically seemed to fade away over the years. 

For a short period of time, Sylvester Stallone owned part of the property that makes up the new condo's area and a large brick mansion-home down on the road near the condo's.

Some thought Pete Seeger who lives up the road and who was friends with Dr, Slocum's son,( who was also an MD), might help develop the property, however,  that never happened either.  

Comment by PhoebeZ on November 22, 2011 at 5:42pm

i love this idea! let's go!

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