utica asylum

The Utica Crib was named for the New York State Lunatic Asylum at Utica where it was heavily used in the 19th century to confine patients who refused to stay in their beds. Based on a French design, the structure was modified to incorporated slats and rungs that gave it an appearance similar to a child’s crib. While use of the Utica Crib was widely criticized and infamous among patients, some 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 an opposing view, Daniel Tuke, a noted British alienist (an early term for a psychology expert) writes that, “it inevitably suggests, when occupied, that you are looking at an animal in a cage. At the celebrated Utica Asylum… where a suicidal woman was preserved from harm by this wooden enclosure… Dr. Baker of the New York Retreat allowed himself to be shut up in one of these beds, but preferred not remaining there.”

Utica State Hospital - a colossal 1843 edifice designed in the Greek Revival style by Captain William Clarke - was the first state-run asylum in New York.  Abandoned for decades, it was designated a National Historic Landmark in the 80s, but very little has been done to preserve it - parts of the building are falling into ruin, and the wings of the building fell into such disrepair that they were demolished in 2007.  Still, the sturdier construction of the main portion of the structure - the entrance and portico of which, boasting the largest columns of any building in the state, are pictured here - makes it an ideal candidate for rehabilitation and adaptive reuse.

The Utica Crib, 1840s

The medical staff at the New York State Lunatic Asylum at Utica found an ingenious solution to the problem of their patients walking, sitting, or moving: The Utica Crib. It would keep especially disagreeable patients restrained, and was often lined with straw for easy clean up.

tubletastic  asked:

If you don't mind me asking, how did you get into the Utica Asylum and take pictures?

This is probably a good time to address this sort of question, since I get it a lot - I will NEVER answer questions about how to access a particular building or location.  Please understand that I’m not trying to be rude here - but I have to protect both the buildings and you!

I’m sure most people asking how to access a building are good folk who just want to take pictures and don’t want harm to befall a building.  But it only takes one scrapper to tear up the walls of a historic asylum; one tagger to graffiti up a historic pumping engine; one arsonist to completely destroy a structure; one vandal to smash out most of the windows in a building.  Google “Byberry” - a local name for the old Philadelphia State Hospital - if you don’t believe me.  I have watched most of a wing of a Kirkbride building burn to the ground.  I simply can’t risk it.

There’s also the issue of protecting you - I don’t have any idea how skilled you are at walking collapses, for example, but many of these buildings are collapsing to a great extent.  That might be an extreme example, but I don’t have any reason to believe that any given questioner knows how to throw themselves backwards when a floor gives out under them.  Or how to recognize and avoid hydrogen sulfide gas - first whiff is bad for you.  Second is worse.  By the third, it’s fatal.  Point is, I have 19+ years of experience tromping around these places, and I still get in dangerous situations.  If I told you how to get into one and you wound up dead, that would be on my head, wouldn’t it?

So please take no offense; I need to protect both the buildings I love so much and people of various skill levels that want to see them.  And all that said, I will tell you this - don’t try Utica State Hospital now; you missed your chance in 2007 when they ripped the wings off, sealed up the holes, and alarmed the remaining structure.  That one, I will give away, since it doesn’t hurt either the building nor you.