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Mission Statement

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The Mission

The mission of this site is to archive both historical and current information on asylums across the United States and around the world.

The Statement

This site is dedicated to the history of asylums in all forms. The term of asylum is applied to not only what is commonly thought of: mental hospitals, but can also be applied to sanatoriums, state training schools, reform schools, almshouses, and orphanages. These institutions have and continue to play a major part in today's society.

Everyone throughout the United States and in many other countries has in one way or another felt the touch of these institutions. These places have both directly and indirectly affected people and their families. They have shaped lives and created many popular myths about them.

With all that in mind, this site was created to help in the historical research of any institutions that can be classified as an asylum. It was created for both serious researchers, those who are doing genealogical research, and people with an interest in asylums.

Featured Article Of The Week

Willard State Hospital

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In 1853, the site was acquired for the state's first agricultural college. The college - on 440 acres of farmland in the town of Ovid, "the geographical centre and Eden of the Empire State" - opened in December 1860, but it didn't last long. Within months, its president and most of the teachers and students marched off to fight in the Civil War, and the college never reopened. It was superseded by the new state university, established in Ithaca on land donated by state Senator Ezra Cornell.

Soon afterward, the site was earmarked for the Willard Asylum for the Insane, which would represent a second and major step toward transferring responsibility for the care of the mentally ill to the state. From colonial times, the care of insane persons had been a local function. Each county operated a poorhouse, or almshouse, wherein was indiscriminately lodged a hodgepodge of dependant persons: the mad, the feebleminded, the aged and crippled, drunks, epileptics and beggars. The almshouses provided custody and shelter, but "treatment" was not in their vocabulary.

The first step toward state assumption of responsibility was the opening of the Utica Lunatic Asylum in 1843. Utica was established as a treatment facility. It was reserved for new, acute eases and was required by law to return to county custody any patient who was not discharged as recovered within two years. Still condemned to the almshouse were the incurables, who, contrary to the unreal expectations of early asylum enthusiasts, were the norm among the pauper lunatic class. Dorothea Dix, among others including the underfunded county superintendents of the poor, drew the Legislature's attention to the unspeakable plight of the chronically ill. Click here for more...

Featured Image Of The Week

The Utica Psychiatric Center, also known as Utica State Hospital, which opened in Utica in 1843, was New York's first state-run facility designed to care for the mentally ill and was one of the first such institutions in the United States, predating and perhaps influencing the Kirkbride Plan which called for similar institutions nation-wide. It was originally called the New York State Lunatic Asylum at Utica. The Greek Revival structure was designed by Captain William Clarke and was funded through a combination of money provided by the state and contributions raised by Utica residents.

Featured Video

The following hour long film created by CBS in 1978 entitled "Anyplace But Here" follows a few people from their time in Creedmoor State Hospital to their discharge out into the community.

Recent Message Board Posts


In this space you normally would see our forum. This had been a hold over from earlier days before we had a Facebook page. Just prior to our server issues regular users had been barely using the forum with the majority of new posts from anonymous users asking genealogy questions or spammers. The old forum software does not work with our new version while the new forum software does not carry over old comments to the new forum. As a result, the forum will be discontinued in favor of our Facebook page. If you have questions or comments you can ask them there.

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If you have genealogical question here is an information page to help you.