Newark State School

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Newark State School
Newark State School
Construction Began 1879
Closed 1991
Current Status Closed
Building Style Cottage Plan
Architect(s) Stephen Keener
Location Newark, NY
Architecture Style Georgian Revival
Alternate Names
  • Newark State School for Mental Defectives
  • State Custodial Asylum for Feeble-Minded Women


The New York State Custodial Asylum for Feeble-Minded Women reflected a shift in belief that almshouses (poorhouses) were improper places for ‘feeble-minded’ women. It was thought that feeble-minded women in almshouse settings acted promiscuously, and as a result frequently had illegitimate children who, then became dependent on the state for their welfare. Women of child-bearing age, fifteen to forty-five, were admitted to the New York State Custodial Asylum for Feeble-Minded Women , in order to “prevent them from multiplying their kind and so increasing the number of the dependent classes on the State."

While it was initially referred to as a school, before its name change, the asylum in Newark functioned to teach these women the necessary skills to be successful in the real world. Conditions were poor, as was the trend for those times. Despite advances in the treatment of the mentally ill, even in the 1800s, funding was lower than expenses, and not enough was known about mental health treatments for residents to get proper help. Many people found themselves living in Newark without any hope of release, regardless of whether they were demonstrating any symptoms of mental health problems.

In 1927, the name was changed back to the Newark State School, and in 1932, men were introduced to the population. It was during this time period when the school started becoming a self-sufficient campus, teaching its residents the skills allowing them to help maintain the grounds and run the school. Most of the buildings are now abandoned, although some of them are used by the Developmental Disabilities Services Office, and Finger Lakes Community College much like Mohawk Valley Community College uses the Old Oneida County Home buildings as part of its campus in Rome. While some institutions are moderately maintained, the unused buildings are in great disrepair, and are marked as condemned.

Images of Newark State School[edit]

Main Image Gallery: Newark State School