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The mission of this site is to archive both historical and current information on asylums across the United States and around the world.
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
Central Islip State Hospital
The Central Islip Psychiatric Center started out as a Farm Colony for New York City in 1889. The patients were transferred from the crowded city asylums on Wards, Hart, and Blackwell Island.
Eventually the asylum was taken over by the state and was renamed the Manhattan State Hospital. The campus consisted of 1000 acres and was the largest asylum by land area. Over 100 buildings were built, 2 of which were quite unique. One being several ward groups connected by corridors that stretched approximately one mile long. The elegant architecture and length of the building led to its name as the "String of Pearls." The other complex with a unique layout was called the "Sunburst," which resembled a spoked wheel - the spokes were treatment wards connected to a central hub, with a curved, circular corridor connecting them all. A fire department with 10 employees was created in 1907, and a large medical building and a secure unit were constructed in the middle of the century.
Therapy consisted in working in the farms or one of the many shops. The center had two rail spurs to serve the main power plant (north colony) and the string of pearls (south colony) and even had its own steam engine. Visitors would also arrive by train and the hospital had its own passenger station. The hospital, later renamed to Central Islip State Hospital and finally known as Central Islip Psychiatric Center, began to become severely overcrowded through the 1950s. It reached its peak population of about 10,000 patients in 1955. Lobotomies, various types of shock treatments, and finally drug therapy replaced the long-gone treatments from the 19th century. The population dwindled in the 1970s and 1980s as de-institutionalization took hold, until it finally closed in 1996. The beautiful String of Pearls was demolished for the shopping mall that now stands in its place, the large 1953 power plant was imploded for condominiums in 2006, and the large secure treatment building called Corcoran together with the wooden 1907 firehouse were demolished in 2008. A few buildings have survived, as some of the campus was sold to the New York Institute of Technology and the structures have found a new use by the college. Click here for more...
Featured Image Of The Week
The Henry Hobson Richardson Complex
, or the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane, as it was originally called, started construction in 1870 and was completed almost 20 years later. It was a state-of-the-art facility when it was built, incorporating the most modern ideas in psychiatric treatment. The design of the buildings as well as the restorative grounds, designed by famed landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted, were intended to complement the innovations in psychiatric care practiced at this facility.
The following nearly thirty minute video on Glenwood State School created by Ray Stewart of WOI-TV Ames, Iowa along with Iowa State University. It is part of the "In Our Care," a 13 week series of documentaries filmed inside Iowa's state institutions. The series won the 1952 National Sylvania Television Award for Production Excellence. The Minnesota Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities is responsible for uploading it to YouTube.
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.
Asylum Projects Facebook Page
If you have genealogical question here is an information page to help you.