Hundreds Line Up to Tour Former Utica Lunatic Asylum

By Julia Rose

Published 08/25 2014 07:12PM

Updated 08/25 2014 07:14PM

For years, what went on inside the former Utica State Hospital, also known as the former Lunatic Asylum, was largely kept a secret. We do know that there were forced lobotomies and other forced medical procedures which today would shock and offend. On Monday, the vail was pulled back on the asylum, now designated as a National Historic Landmark.

The former Utica Psychiatric Center opened in 1843 and closed its doors in 1978 but on Monday the doors were reopened to the public and tours were given. It was chance for the community to see for themselves one of the most historic buildings not only in Utica but in New York State.

It's known as Old Main and if walls could talk the building would have over 170 years of stories. It was the first psychiatric facility in New York State for treatment of the mentally ill.

"People were basically housed here and they were treated as best they could be treated; now I can't tell you about specifics, I do know that there were some chains in the basement, everybody asks about the chains in the basement, we won't be able to go down in the basement,” says Michael Bosak, Vice President of the Landmark Society of Greater Utica.

But people were able to go through the first floor which houses plenty of history.

"These were the patient wards, one side was for men and one side was for women, they're identical, but the rooms are actually very small and now hold records," said Bosak.

Thousands of medical records are stored in Old Main and with artifacts like restraint chairs and pictures of the Utica Crib, one can only imagine the stories those records hold.

"Basically, it was like a wooden bed with a cage around it, it looks pretty creepy, but the idea was that they could be chained in there and brought outside into the sunshine and light, these were for again, for very violently, mentally ill people,” says Bosak.

People say the place is haunted and so far, no one disagrees.
"I don't know for a fact but I would imagine it probably is," says Bosak.

Haunted but filled with a rich history.

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