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Featured Article Of The Week

St. Lawrence State Hospital


The psychiatric center came first. Initially, it was to be call the Ogdensburg State Asylum for the Insane, but the name was changed to the St. Lawrence State Hospital before the first patient was admitted. In the late 1970's, it was re-christened the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center.

The asylum was authorized in 1886 by the state Legislature after being persuaded of the need for such an institution in the northern part of the state. The governor appointed a site selection commission including Dr. Peter M. Wise (superintendent of the Willard State Hospital) and William P. Letchworth (a member of the state Board of Charities who was also instrumental in establishing what is now Groveland). They recommended Point Airy, a 950-acre tract of farmland bulging out into the St. Lawrence River The state purchased the land for $90,500 in 1887.

Later that year Isaac G. Perry, the state architect, consulted a group of experts to plan the asylum. Among them were Dr Wise and Dr. Carlos F. MacDonald?. Dr MacDonald? was superintendent of the Auburn State Asylum for Insane Criminals and, when that was relocated, he became the first superintendent of Matteawan State Hospital (now Fishkill). Dr. MacDonald? was present at the world's first execution by electrocution, and his graphic report on William Kemmler's death at Auburn in 1890 is frequently cited in death penalty studies. Click here for more...