Utica Psychiatric Center
Utica State Hospital, Main Building
|Location||1213 Court Street, Utica, New York|
|Architect||Capt. William Clarke, Andrew Jackson Downing|
|Architectural style||Greek Revival|
|NRHP reference #||71000548|
|Added to NRHP||October 26, 1971|
|Designated NHL||July 30, 1989|
The Utica Psychiatric Center, also known as Utica State Hospital, opened in Utica on January 16, 1843. It was New York's first state-run facility designed to care for the mentally ill, and one of the first such institutions in the United States. It was originally called the New York State Lunatic Asylum at Utica. The Greek Revival structure was designed by Captain William Clarke and its construction was funded by the state and by contributions from Utica residents.
The original plans for the hospital included four identical buildings, set at right angles to one another with a central courtyard. Due to a lack of funds, construction was halted after the first building was completed. This building (Old Main) stands over 50 feet high, 550 feet long, and nearly 50 feet in depth. The six Greek style columns that decorate the front of Old Main stand at 48 feet tall and each has an eight-foot diameter.
The hospital filled quickly and more beds were needed, so the building was enlarged by the addition of wings on either end. These wings opened in 1846, and in 1850, the accommodations were listed as: "380 single rooms for patients, 24 for their attendants, 20 dormitories each accommodating from 5 to 12 persons, 16 parlors or day rooms, 12 dining rooms, 24 bathing rooms, 24 closets and 24 water closets."
The hospital's first director, Amariah Brigham, believed in "labor as the most essential of our curative means". Accordingly, patients were encouraged to participate in outdoor tasks, such as gardening, and handicrafts, such as needlework and carpentry. Brigham also introduced an annual fair at the hospital, to display and sell items created by the patients. The first fair, in 1844, raised $200, which went toward an addition to the library, musical instruments and a greenhouse. Some of the asylum inmates also printed a newsletter, called The Opal, which contained articles, poems, and drawings produced by the patients.
In 1852, Old Main's first floor stairway caught fire. Patients and staff were safely evacuated, but a firefighter and doctor were killed while trying to salvage items from the building. The entire center portion of the building was destroyed. Four days after the fire at Old Main, a barn on the asylum grounds caught fire. William Spiers, a convicted arsonist, former patient, and sporadic employee, was arrested after admitting to setting both fires because he was angry with his supervisor.
American Journal of Insanity
In 1844, Brigham founded the first English language journal devoted to the subject of mental illness, American Journal of Insanity. Brigham was the editor-in-chief, and the journal was printed in the Utica State Hospital printing shop. After Brigham's death, the journal became the property of the hospital and in 1894, the American Medico-Psychological Association bought the journal for $994.50. The book was later renamed the American Psychiatric Journal.
Brigham disliked the current practice of using chains to restrain patients, and invented the 'Utica Crib' as an alternative. The Utica Crib was an ordinary bed with a thick mattress on the bottom, slats on the sides, and a hinged top that could be locked from the outside. It was eighteen inches deep, six feet long, and three feet wide. Doctors used the Utica Crib to control and calm patients who were out of control. While use of the Utica Crib was widely criticized, some patients found it to have important therapeutic value. A patient who slept in the Utica crib for several days commented that he had rested better and found it useful for "all crazy fellows as I, whose spirit is willing, but whose flesh is weak."
In the Edinburgh Medical Journal (February 1878), Dr. Lindsay and other physicians at the Murray Royal Institution at Perth recommended the Utica Crib. Lindsay stated that “the bed was practical and safe to patients.” However, Dr. Hammond and Dr. Mycert of the Utica State Hospital attacked the Utica Crib. Mycert stated that “the crib is at most barbarous and unscientific because there is already a tendency to determine the blood to the brain in excited forms of insanity which is released by the horizontal position in the crib and struggles the patient." Mycert also compared the Utica Crib to a coffin. Hammond stated that sometimes patients died from being in the Utica Crib. Some of these deaths occurred when attendants thought that the patient was out of control when, in fact, they were having a heart attack, a stroke, or some other type of serous health problem. On January 18, 1887, with the help of George Alder Blumer, all Utica Cribs were removed from the Utica State Hospital.
Decline and re-use
A Secret Institution (1890), a 19th-century autobiographical narrative, describes Clarissa Caldwell Lathrop's institutionalization at the asylum for voicing suspicions that someone was trying to poison her.
In 1977, the last patients were transferred to other care facilities and the hospital was closed. It is now an unoccupied, run-down building that is being used as a records archive for the New York State Office of Mental Health. Other, more modern, buildings on the large property are in use for psychiatric and other medical care. It has been a National Historic Landmark since 1989.
- National Park Service (2007-01-23). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
- "Utica State Hospital, Main Building". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. 2007-09-13.
- Lucy Clark. "A Century of Progress at Utica State Hospital, 1843-1943" (brochure/PDF). Utica State Hospital Alumnae Association.
- "Utica State Hospital: History". Asylums of New York State.
- Edmonson, Brad. "Utica State Hospital". Ancestry.com.
- "Old Main (Utica Psychiatric Center)". Utica Observer-Dispatch.
- Boudner, Karen, Christensen, Marvin, Daniels, Jill, Engall, Barbara, Harris, Nancy, Kotwal, Manek, M.D., Montague, Carolyn. “Utica State Hospital: 135 Years of Excellence.” Utica: Mohawk Valley Psychriatric Center, 1993. Print.
- Harf, Mark (14 October 1986). "Utica State Hospital". New York Times (web).
- Journal of Insanity October 1864 Archived May 21, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
- Hammond, W. A. (25 November 1879). "The Treatment of the Mentally Insane". Utica Morning Herald and Daily Gazette.
- Stevens, Joshua (September 1889). "Utica Crib Controversy". New York Times (Print). New York Times.
- Carolyn Pitts (1989-02-14). "National Register of Historic Places Registration: Utica State Hospital Main Building" (PDF). National Park Service. and Accompanying photos, exterior and interior, from 1988, and renderings, from various dates (5.04 MB)