Bloomingdale Insane Asylum
The Bloomingdale Insane Asylum was a private hospital for the care of the mentally ill founded by New York Hospital. It occupied the land in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Manhattan where Columbia University is now located.
The road leading from the thriving city of New York in lower Manhattan to the asylum was called Bloomingdale Road in the nineteenth century, and is now called Broadway. The term 'Bloomingdale' dates back to the era of Dutch rule in New Amsterdam, and is possibly a reference to "Bloemendael," the name of a small village in the flower-growing region near Haarlem in the Netherlands.
The history of the Bloomingdale Asylum begins with a movement suggested first in an address by Dr. Peter Middleton, in Columbia (then King’s) College, New York, November 3, 1769: “The necessity and usefulness of a public Infirmary has been so warmly and pathetically set forth in a discourse delivered by Dr. Samuel Bard, at the college commencement, in May last, that his Excellency, Sir Henry Moore immediately set on foot a subscription for that purpose to which himself and most of the gentlemen present liberally contributed.” Subscriptions to this fund were continued and in 1770 Doctors Peter Middleton, John Jones and Samuel Bard presented to the Colonial Government a petition for the incorporation of a public Hospital which was granted by a charter bearing the date of June 13, 1771 incorporating the “Society of the Hospital in the city of New York, in America”, later termed the "Society of the New York Hospital". Between 1816 and 1818 the Society of the New York Hospital purchased 26 acres (11 ha) of land on which to build an asylum in a part of upper Manhattan, then largely farmland and referred to as Bloomingdale Asylum. According to Andrew Dolkart, the large, "elegantly detailed Federal style brownstone building" was ready for occupancy in 1821.
The New York Hospital began caring for the mentally ill in the eighteenth century and at the time the asylum was built it was the only hospital in the state caring for the mentally ill. In 1840, a new hospital was built for the indigent mentally ill on Blackwell's Island, now Roosevelt Island, and the Bloomingdale Asylum became the exclusive preserve of those whose families could afford to pay for their care. Plans to expand the asylum began in 1826. Two new buildings had been added by 1829 and the campus would continue to expand for many decades.
The grounds of the asylum were elegantly laid out with walks and gardens. Farming and gardening were considered therapeutic, so there was a working farm with orchards, vegetable gardens, barns and pasture land.
In the 1880s, with the city expanding northward, the trustees of the New York Hospital began to sell parts of the Asylum's land to various institutions, including an orphan's asylum on the campus of what is now the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. The trustees of Columbia College, now Columbia University, bought the bulk of the Bloomingdale Asylum property in 1892 and began planning the construction of a new campus. Some of the property was also purchased by The Juilliard School where they then built their campus (which is now Manhattan School of Music.
The Bloomingdale Asylum moved to a new campus in White Plains, New York. It became known as the "Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic", and is now "New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Westchester". The historical records of the Bloomingdale Asylum are housed in the Medical Center Archives of NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell.
The university occupied several buildings forming the old asylum in the early years. The last building erected on the Bloomingdale Asylum's Morningside Heights campus was the Macy Villa, a gabled, brick building with white trim, which was designed by architect Ralph Townsend to resemble a private home for the comfort of wealthy gentlemen afflicted with mental illnesses, and donated by William H. Macy in 1885. It is the only building from the old asylum that survives. It has had a number of uses over the years, but is now known as Buell Hall and houses La Maison Française.
In 1872, the New York journalist, Julius Chambers, conducted an undercover investigation of the institution by having himself committed with the help of his senior editor and some of his friends. After ten days, they had him released and a series of articles was published in the New York Tribune exposing abuses of inmates. This led to a dozen patients being released, who were determined to be sane, and members of the administration being dismissed and reorganized.
- Robert McCaughey, Stand Columbia; A History of Columbia University in the City of New York, 1754-2004, p. 205
- Dolkart, Andrew, Morningside Heights; A History of its Architecture and Development, Columbia University Press, pp, 13 ff.
- AIA guide to New York City, Norval White, Elliot Willensky,Fourth Edition, 2000, p. 313
- Earle, Pliny. "History, description and statistics of the Bloomingdale asylum for the insane". New York: Egbert, Hovey & King Printers, 1848.
- Dolkart, Andrew, Morningside Heights; A History of its Architecture and Development, Columbia University Press, pp., 16, 17.
- Dolkart, Andrew, Morningside Heights; A History of its Architecture and Development, Columbia University Press, pp. 13-19.
- Dolkart, Andrew, Morningside Heights; A History of its Architecture and Development, Columbia University Press, pp., 16-18.
- "COLUMBIA'S NEW LOCATION; BLOOMINGDALE GROUNDS NOW OWNED BY THE COLLEGE. Transfer of the Asylum Property Made Three Months Earlier than Was Expected -- The Title to be Passed Next Monday -- Plans for the First Building to be Ready Then -- Work Will Probably Be Began in the Spring of Next Year". The New York Times. September 26, 1894.
- Dolkart, Andrew, Morningside Heights; A History of its Architecture and Development, Columbia University Press, Chapters 2, 3, 4.
- "The Bloomingdale Asylum". The New York Times. March 17, 1889.
- Dolkart, Andrew, Morningside Heights; A History of its Architecture and Development, Columbia University Press, p. 17.
- Clark, Carol (2009). "1". Charles Deas and 1840s America. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press. pp. 35–45. ISBN 978-0-8061-4030-8.
- "Julius Chambers" in Dictionary of American Biography (1936) Charles Scribner's Sons, New York
- Media related to Bloomingdale Insane Asylum at Wikimedia Commons