An Inside Tour of ‘Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane’ – Ovid, NY
by Chris Clemens
Each year in May there is a rare opportunity for those looking to tour a piece of intriguing history on the eastern shores of Seneca Lake. Three-hour walking tours of the Willard Asylum in Ovid, NY provide photogs, history buffs, explorers and the wildly curious a chance at a guided tour of the state’s second effort at government-run housing for those with mental illness, developmental disabilities, epilepsy and other ailments they felt like lumping in to the treatment model. Tours hosted by the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Child Care Center began eight years ago and attendance has grown exponentially ever since. In 2014, there were 10 groups of between 25-40 people both in the morning and the afternoon sessions.
Because part of the property has been converted to house the Five Points Correctional Facility, safety for visitors and security risks make providing tours a complex endeavour that the prison system loathes. Due to the grand efforts of preservation advocates, Five Points has allowed the tours one Saturday, once a year, for a limited number of people. Based on some feedback that I got from our docent, there’s a good chance that the event has outgrown it’s welcome and the prison may put the kibosh on the whole thing in the near future. If what you are about to read interests you at all, I wouldn’t wait around to take this tour assuming it will always be available. [12/23/2014 EDIT: As you’ll see in the comments at the end of this post, a couple helpful readers have corrected my facts here. The ‘lockdown’ facility on the campus is a drug-alcohol treatment program for low-level offenders. Whereas, Five Points Correctional is an entirely different facility about 4 miles away in Romulus, NY. Thanks to those who helped me get this straight!]
The property on Seneca Lake was first purchased in 1853 with the intention that it would be the home of the Ovid Agricultural College. The 440 acre university opened for classes in December 1860, but the timing proved horrible. Any young and able-bodied men were off fighting in the trenches of the Civil War and weren’t available for academia. The collegiate effort lasted only months and left a nearly brand new sprawling campus to rot in the heart of the Finger Lakes Region.
In the meantime, Dr. Sylvester D. Willard, the Surgeon General of New York, had discovered that those with mental illnesses, developmental disabilities, epilepsy, and even alcoholism suffered in torturous conditions in county-based almshouses. Though New York had already forged the path to state-run institutionalization when the Utica Lunatic Asylum was opened in 1843, when Willard discovered the inhumane treatments throughout his research, he proposed a bill that indicated a need for opening a second asylum–a bill that President Lincoln signed just six days prior to being assassinated. If the timing of Lincoln’s death and the signing of the bill doesn’t seem awfully close, you might be amazed to learn that Dr. Willard himself died of typhoid fever just two weeks prior to Lincoln’s passing! The bill that Willard penned that led to this second institution would be his legacy and therefore was named in his memory. The Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane was to be constructed right away on the 440 acre parcel that lay dormant in the Finger Lakes.
A popular design for institutions of the time period was a sprawling layout of an administration building flanked by two wings, one for males and one for females. One of the best examples in New York of the design is the Richardson-Olmstead Complex in Buffalo which also offers tours (but to be honest, it’s probably one of the worst tours I’ve ever attended). Willard’s first building was a similar design and was constructed in 1866, though you won’t see this building on any tour because it was taken down sometime in the 80’s. Just three years after the first construction began, on October 13th, a steamboat made its way up Seneca Lake and docked at the shore right at the edge of Willard’s campus. Several men would appear and lead a chained up, physically deformed woman from the boat and up the dock toward her new home. Mary Rote had spent the previous decade chained to a wall with no bed or clothing in the Columbia County almshouse. Though Willard was no all-inclusive-Caribbean resort, it still was light years ahead of her previous living quarters. With Mary arriving at the Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane as Patient #1, the long and winding history of the campus was set to begin.
Because there are so many people attending the tours, groups are created of about 25-40 people and each group starts in a different part of the campus. Then each group bounces from spot to spot around the campus with a docent. If you decide to attend the tour, I’d STRONGLY recommend staying with your group and paying no mind to the
prison lockdown facility. From what I’ve heard, even pointing your camera toward the barbed wire fence will get the attention of the constantly patrolling guards. While you may not find yourself in shackles for such an act, remember that the prison is kind enough to allow the historical society to bring upwards of 1,000 people around, and minding manners and following directions might help convince them that it’s a great event to continue with.
It was only months after October 13, 1869 when Mary Rote arrived that Willard had filled all 250 beds and began to prepare for more. Rather than put additions directly on to the building, a campus of detached buildings was built. A Warden’s house overlooking the dock that the patients arrived at, numerous dormitory style buildings to house both residents and staff, a morgue, a fire department, a nurse’s station (that is now a daycare), a generator building and an all-purpose gymnasium that served as a recreational area, chapel and movie theatre all became part of a collection of over 70 buildings that slowly were constructed to serve the growing population. In 1890, the campus (now called Willard State Hospital) had over 2,000 residents on site, making it the largest in the entire country. Originally intended to serve only chronic patients, Willard now was poised to also serve patients with acute needs.
Despite later changing its name to Willard Psychiatric Center, the attempt to embrace a more person-centered treatment philosophy couldn’t outrun the national trend toward deinstitutionalization. Large treatment centers and hospitals began to close somewhere in the early 1970’s, largely due to Geraldo Rivera’s expose on the Willowbrook Hospital in downstate New York. Rather than a model that allowed one nurse to care for 150 patients on one floor, smaller group home models began to become the norm. Finally, in 1995, Willard would discharge its final patient and close its doors for good.
The tour for my group began in the Grandview building which is one of the oldest buildings on the property and was part of the Ovid Agricultural College mentioned earlier. First erected in 1860 and later renovated in 1870, the building housed Willard female patients whose ailments were less profound. Afterward, we moved on to Hadley Hall, which had been built in 1892. Featuring an all-purpose gymnasium, the hall was used for various recreational activities and even as a movie theater. Still available to check out is the projector room where operators had written the titles and dates of each movie they had played. I figured that was going to be the coolest thing in Hadley Hall, because so much history had been preserved there and one you could never stick into a couple photos or even a book. Almost as cool though, we were given an opportunity to wander into the basement of the building, where residents had their very own bowling alley.
Next on the itinerary was Elliot Hall, though admittedly it was much less interesting. Built in 1931, Elliott was used as the campus hospital and additionally, this building is where electric shock and ice-bath treatments were given. Today, the rooms look like any old hospital and appear to have been stripped of their bad juju. Understandably so, because Elliott Hall has been used the last 20 years as a dormitory for visiting corrections officers who are in training. After Elliott, our group migrated across the road to possibly one of the more (in)famous buildings. Because Willard was 100% self-sufficient, they also needed facilities to provide services to their deceased. Standing inside the Willard morgue provided both a dark, solemn emotion while also stirring my wildest curiosities. Spending a few minutes looking at body coolers, embalming equipment and incinerators really provided a new edge to the haunting emotion of experiencing the grounds where thousands spent their lives. Imagining a lifelong battle with physical and/or mental disabilities and having it wrap up in this small hut of mortuary science made me feel like moving on to the next building soon after getting there.
Two final buildings on the tour were the Brookside (which was the Warden’s quarters) built on the crest of a picturesque hillside overlooking the lake, and the Bleak House, living quarters for the steward of the campus. Both homes were ridiculously stately and beautiful, with Brookside boasting two full kitchens and 11 bedrooms! The ornate wood detailing, stained glass windows and even the wooden banisters on the stairwells are a true work of art worthy of preservation.
I mentioned earlier that the Willard campus was entirely self-sustaining. A hospital onsite, a utility plant, living quarters for staff, morgue and fire department all ensured that residents at Willard never had to leave the property. The final stop on our tour was one that only added to the solemnity of the previous three hours. While walking through the cemetery at Willard, it was nearly impossible not to imagine who the residents at Willard were. What they looked like, what they struggled with, what their passions were, who their families were. Acres and acres of field are lined with anonymous markers that have only a number to indicate the burial. There is now a group of volunteer genealogists who dedicate their time and resources to finding the stories of each of the individuals buried in the cemetery plots at Willard, and they were on hand to answer questions and share some of the records they had discovered. If you’re interested in learning more about the burials and want more information, they have an incredibly cool website with tons and tons of constantly updated resources that you can find here.
A number of years ago someone was cleaning out the upstairs attic of one of the buildings at Willard and found a few hundred suitcases filled with personal belongings from former patients. If the heartbreaking tale of people losing their identities and enduring the last years of their lives in an institution of neglect isn’t enough to make you wonder about the history of our healthcare system, the suitcase exhibit might do the trick. The idea that an individual would arrive at Willard with a suitcase of personal keepsakes that would be tossed into an attic and never seen again is a chilling image how we have historically treated those who were institutionalized. The individual who found the suitcases ensured that they made it into the hands of the right people, and a traveling exhibit of all of the belongings from each of the suitcases has been making its way through museums for years. For more on the Willard Suitcase Exhibit check out this website that has been set up.
If you’re looking to attend the tour in May 2015, get ready to be Googling and hunting for information as it gets closer. Unfortunately, there’s never been one website to serve as a spot for the announcement. A good resource for tour details may be my fellow blogging friend Jennifer Morrisey over at Home In The Finger Lakes. She put together a pretty sweet series of posts from the same tour I was on, in fact, you can even see me in a few of her photos! Additionally, as more information on the tour is available, I’ll be sure to share it on the Exploring Upstate Facebook Page, so be sure to follow there too!
Chris Clemens is the Founder/Publisher of Exploring Upstate. From his hometown in Rochester, he spends as much time as possible connecting with the history, culture, and places that make Upstate New York a land of discovery. Follow him on Twitter at @cpclemens
Upcoming Public Tour of Willard Asylum for the Insane - Home in the Finger Lakes
December 22, 2014 @ 5:54 am
[…] I did attend the tour! You can find all my pictures and posts from the day HERE. My friend Chris Clemens over at Exploring Upstate also attended and wrote an excellent post about the History and Tour of Willard also. […]
Christ Episcopal Church & the Willard Psychiatric Center – Willard, NY » Exploring The Burned Over District
December 22, 2014 @ 2:42 pm
[…] Willard Asylum for the Insane would go through a few name changes, but always continued to treat the mentally […]
December 23, 2014 @ 1:22 pm
Willard is currently a treatment/correctional facility run by OASIS and parole and is not a standard Correctional Facility. 5 Points is a totally separate facility run by NYSDOCCS. Someone needs to do their homework
December 23, 2014 @ 6:12 pm
Hey Carol– You’re 100% correct, I got my facts mixed up. Thanks for reading through and taking the time to leave a comment with the correct information, the input is helpful!!
December 23, 2014 @ 8:15 pm
Technically Willard Drug Treatment Center is also operated by NYSDOCCS in collaboration with OASAS. It is a 90day “shock/boot” camp style program for low level offenders and parole violaters with drug/alcohol issues. Like Carol indicated, this facility is located on the old Willard Psychiatric Hospital Campus.
December 23, 2014 @ 10:16 pm
Thank you both for being so helpful in me getting the facts straight. I’ve provided an edit within the post referencing the correct info!
December 24, 2014 @ 2:14 pm
and I think there is a cost for the tour??
December 24, 2014 @ 2:15 pm
You are correct Bob. Last year i think it was $20. Since I’m not an official representive of the historical society, I didn’t want to publish a ticket price in case it changed.
May 15, 2015 @ 12:33 pm
The cost this year is $10 per ticket!
December 24, 2014 @ 5:48 pm
i found your article quite interesting. i had a relative that was in Willard back in the 1960’s and he passed away there. i would love to tour the facility but my disability won’t allow me to do all that walking.
December 28, 2014 @ 12:41 pm
I worked in Sunnycrest for 12 years and loved every minute of it I worked with females and remember Mary Murphy also male service with Big George everyone was afraid of him but workers would have him lift trucks and laugh but he would get sick after and loved me as I would give him hell as his body could not tolerate it anymore Yes there are stories to be told but they needed help just as you and I there problems were real some would get discharge and come back as they had gotten instutionalized and could not make it on the outside I also worked in roll playing and was attacked as I reminded him of his mother He felt so bad after when we were done but it really helped him. I moved to Florida and was sick ther was no hospital down here anywhere as I would have gone back.
Linda Jeanne Najar
March 1, 2017 @ 5:03 pm
I also worked at Willard Psychiatric Center as a Youth Opportunity worker in Sunnycroft and the Birches Infirmary for several years. My Aunt Donna worked there as a nurse, along with my step father Jimmy Clair as an Attendant. I would be very interested in attending a tour as it is a huge part of my childhood and teen years. I sang at Hadley Hall in one of the talent contest auditions and used to attend the Saturday matinees and have lunch afterward downstairs. My Uncle Gaylord Poth worked there for many years and then later at the new facility Dick van Dyke Alcohol Units along with my Aunt Kaye Poth as well and they lived very close by. I remember the Willard Picnics as a highlight to attend growing up with live music and food all day and well into the evening. We wore white uniforms and were there when wards were starting to be unlocked so it was an exciting time of change and a huge education. My step dad worked 3-11 and retired from Willard and was greatly loved by many. He actually spent many hours bending silver spoons for so many staff to wear their keys on and it became very popular for staff to have their own unique silver crafted spoon key chain. I remember the baked bread and cold milk for dinner and large bowls of fresh cooked pink buttered rutabaga that was grown on Willard farms. I remember sitting in large rooms with pastel colored leather seats on heavy metal chairs that went all the way around these rooms with bars on the windows and a television up in the corner. I smoked a corncob pipe with an individual who gave me that pipe and told me how to chew tobacco. It did not last when I got home though. I loved working there and have so many wonderful memories of the incredible people we served.
December 31, 2014 @ 4:45 pm
I took care of a man who was in willard. I couldn’t figure out why he was so distant at my initial home visit & a few days into working at the house & reading his history I could see why he acted the way he did. once I was there for a while he came around, was a very nice, caring & outgoing man. I love working with the people I work with. they’ve changed my life in so many ways.
January 6, 2015 @ 10:24 pm
How do we get to sign up for the tour…
April 18, 2015 @ 6:05 pm
Hi Nancy….Walking tours of the grounds and facilities will take place on Saturday, May 16th, 2015 at 9am and 1pm. Tickets are available for $10 (children under 10 are free) and will be sold the day of the event at Camp Edgemere. More information is available on the Facebook Page for the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Child Care Center.
Elizabeth a Prentice
January 7, 2015 @ 8:02 am
I would like to go on this tour info please
April 18, 2015 @ 6:06 pm
Hi Elizabeth…Walking tours of the grounds and facilities will take place on Saturday, May 16th, 2015 at 9am and 1pm. Tickets are available for $10 (children under 10 are free) and will be sold the day of the event at Camp Edgemere. More information is available on the Facebook Page for the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Child Care Center.
January 8, 2015 @ 2:34 pm
When is the tour?!
April 18, 2015 @ 6:15 pm
Hi Kelly…Walking tours of the grounds and facilities will take place on Saturday, May 16th, 2015 at 9am and 1pm. Tickets are available for $10 (children under 10 are free) and will be sold the day of the event at Camp Edgemere. More information is available on the Facebook Page for the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Child Care Center.
April 9, 2016 @ 10:45 am
Do you have any info on a tour for 2016?
Our Book Club just read “What she left behind” & would really enjoy joining the tour!
April 9, 2016 @ 10:52 am
Hey Elizabeth—haven’t seen anything published for this year’s tour yet. In previous years they’ve announced just weeks ahead of time. So, if they are doing it again, it’d be too early to know yet still.
April 10, 2023 @ 1:52 am
Hi Chris, I am very interested in taking a tour of Willard Asylum, I tried to look on Elizabeth Cady Stanton child care center, and wasn’t able to find anything. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
April 10, 2023 @ 8:13 am
The tours stopped years ago after they got out of hand. If you search for news (maybe 2017?) you’ll find some stories about their last tour. I’m fairly certain the child care center is no longer operating.
January 9, 2015 @ 7:30 pm
Would love tour information. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org if there is some type of list?
April 18, 2015 @ 6:12 pm
Hi Machelle… There isn’t a list, it’s first come-first serve. Walking tours of the grounds and facilities will take place on Saturday, May 16th, 2015 at 9am and 1pm. Tickets are available for $10 (children under 10 are free) and will be sold the day of the event at Camp Edgemere. More information is available on the Facebook Page for the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Child Care Center.
January 11, 2015 @ 9:17 pm
I too would love tour info!! I live about six hours away but would love to come to this.
April 18, 2015 @ 6:16 pm
Hi Diane…Walking tours of the grounds and facilities will take place on Saturday, May 16th, 2015 at 9am and 1pm. Tickets are available for $10 (children under 10 are free) and will be sold the day of the event at Camp Edgemere. More information is available on the Facebook Page for the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Child Care Center.
Rolling Hills Asylum - East Bethany, NY |
January 25, 2015 @ 8:55 am
[…] began to provide residential care for New Yorkers as early as 1736. If you read my post about the Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane you already know that in the early 1800’s officials began to concern themselves with the type […]
Sharon L. Mistretta
January 29, 2015 @ 3:16 pm
Please post the Tour Dates when you know them for May 2015. I would like to go on the tour to see where my Great-Great-Grandmother was housed. THX
April 18, 2015 @ 6:17 pm
Hi Sharon…Walking tours of the grounds and facilities will take place on Saturday, May 16th, 2015 at 9am and 1pm. Tickets are available for $10 (children under 10 are free) and will be sold the day of the event at Camp Edgemere. More information is available on the Facebook Page for the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Child Care Center.
February 5, 2015 @ 3:01 pm
would like more information on the tour for 2015 please— thank you
April 18, 2015 @ 6:18 pm
Hi Wendy…Walking tours of the grounds and facilities will take place on Saturday, May 16th, 2015 at 9am and 1pm. Tickets are available for $10 (children under 10 are free) and will be sold the day of the event at Camp Edgemere. More information is available on the Facebook Page for the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Child Care Center.
May 4, 2018 @ 6:38 pm
This is a fascinating article, but very misleading about tours for 2018. Went two years ago and was turned away. Very poor organization for tours.
May 4, 2018 @ 10:05 pm
Hi Connie. This was written in 2014 after the tour that year. It has nothing to do with any tour other than the one done that year.
February 8, 2015 @ 10:37 pm
I worked there as a youth op. And my relatives also worked there. My grandparents had a house across the street.
April 18, 2015 @ 10:03 pm
My husband, Tom McCann Boak, worked with Louis Martz in Grandview. Any relation? My husband worked there 26 1\2 years until it closed.
September 23, 2015 @ 12:43 pm
Hi I’m trying to trace information on my grandfather who was in Willard. I hope to take the tour next year if it is still available.
My grandad was Sylvester Cullen who died in Willard in September 1971, at the age of 73. by any change to you think your husband ever came across him there?
rosemary cullen (co cavan ireland)
February 9, 2015 @ 4:18 pm
Would also like info on tour dates
April 18, 2015 @ 6:20 pm
Hi Joan…Walking tours of the grounds and facilities will take place on Saturday, May 16th, 2015 at 9am and 1pm. Tickets are available for $10 (children under 10 are free) and will be sold the day of the event at Camp Edgemere. More information is available on the Facebook Page for the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Child Care Center.
February 9, 2015 @ 6:19 pm
I would also like tour dates and contact information as to how to attend
April 18, 2015 @ 6:21 pm
Hi Deb…Walking tours of the grounds and facilities will take place on Saturday, May 16th, 2015 at 9am and 1pm. Tickets are available for $10 (children under 10 are free) and will be sold the day of the event at Camp Edgemere. More information is available on the Facebook Page for the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Child Care Center.
February 10, 2015 @ 8:55 pm
The building referred to as a “nursing station” was actually the nursing school which was one of the best in the state for years. Seeing these pictures brought back a lot of memories since I graduated from that school
February 19, 2015 @ 7:28 pm
Why was nothing mentioned about their excellent nursing school? My sister graduated from Willard in the early seventies.
February 28, 2015 @ 8:45 am
Hi Chris, My parents worked there for many years. I would love to be able to take my mom on this tour. Where can I find the information to sign up?
April 18, 2015 @ 6:22 pm
Hi Barb, there’s no sign up, just first come/first serve. Walking tours of the grounds and facilities will take place on Saturday, May 16th, 2015 at 9am and 1pm. Tickets are available for $10 (children under 10 are free) and will be sold the day of the event at Camp Edgemere. More information is available on the Facebook Page for the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Child Care Center.
March 6, 2015 @ 11:20 pm
Thanks for the write-up and photos! Seems like a great tour and hope I can manage to do it. What didn’t you like about the Buffalo Asylum tour? Would you not recommend it?
March 21, 2015 @ 12:49 pm
Hi, when are the 2015 dates? Prices? How do
I sign up? I would LOVE this opportunity.
April 18, 2015 @ 6:23 pm
Hey Brooke…No sign up, just first come/first served. Walking tours of the grounds and facilities will take place on Saturday, May 16th, 2015 at 9am and 1pm. Tickets are available for $10 (children under 10 are free) and will be sold the day of the event at Camp Edgemere. More information is available on the Facebook Page for the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Child Care Center.
March 24, 2015 @ 10:01 pm
I too would like to know how to book a tour for 2015! Please let me know!
April 18, 2015 @ 6:27 pm
Hi Melanie…Walking tours of the grounds and facilities will take place on Saturday, May 16th, 2015 at 9am and 1pm. Tickets are available for $10 (children under 10 are free) and will be sold the day of the event at Camp Edgemere. More information is available on the Facebook Page for the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Child Care Center.
April 4, 2015 @ 10:44 pm
This tour is not sponsored by the Historical Society but by Elizabeth Cady Stanton Children’s center, a not for profit day that is housed in the Jackson Bldg – the old nursing school. We are waiting word to see if the tour can be held again this year. If it is it will be May 16th and the cost will be $10.00
April 9, 2015 @ 10:04 am
I have a group of family members who would love to go on this tour as one of our family members had been in this facility. Please let me know the dates and times
April 18, 2015 @ 6:27 pm
Hi Wendy…Walking tours of the grounds and facilities will take place on Saturday, May 16th, 2015 at 9am and 1pm. Tickets are available for $10 (children under 10 are free) and will be sold the day of the event at Camp Edgemere. More information is available on the Facebook Page for the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Child Care Center.
April 13, 2015 @ 10:34 am
Does anyone know if the Tour for 2015 is going to take place and when?
April 18, 2015 @ 6:28 pm
Hi Becky…Walking tours of the grounds and facilities will take place on Saturday, May 16th, 2015 at 9am and 1pm. Tickets are available for $10 (children under 10 are free) and will be sold the day of the event at Camp Edgemere. More information is available on the Facebook Page for the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Child Care Center.
April 13, 2015 @ 6:25 pm
Hi Lee Anne! When you hear if the tour is happening, would you mind e-mailing me? My boyfriend and I and possibly his brother and girlfriend would like to go. My email is Brooke.Kemler@hotmail.com
Scott M. Clark
April 18, 2015 @ 9:03 am
My wife and I would also like to know if and when the tour is. I’ve driven through the property quite a few times and would love to see inside.
April 18, 2015 @ 6:32 pm
Hi Scott…Walking tours of the grounds and facilities will take place on Saturday, May 16th, 2015 at 9am and 1pm. Tickets are available for $10 (children under 10 are free) and will be sold the day of the event at Camp Edgemere. More information is available on the Facebook Page for the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Child Care Center.
Colleen Kelly Spellecy
January 19, 2016 @ 8:58 pm
I’m hoping you have visited our website at http://www.willardcemeterymemorialproject.com. I see you told several people about last year’s May 16 event, but the best event that day was the memorial to the gravedigger, Lawrence Mocha. You can view the video on our website.
April 19, 2015 @ 1:56 pm
good evening my name is Cindy and I was just wondering has it always looked this scary ? Was it always run down like the pictures show? How awful.
April 19, 2015 @ 2:45 pm
Hey Cindy… A few of the buildings are still in use and while they’re not modern or luxurious, I wouldn’t say they’re too scary. A few of the buildings that have gone unused for decades have probably fallen victim to disrepair and weathering, but considering, they’re in pretty decent shape. Back in the day, Willard was mostly considered QUITE modern and a beautiful grounds, particularly the Director’s home. Most likely, what makes many of these photos seem scary is our imaginations and the things we imagine happening and being done to the residents.
April 19, 2015 @ 7:30 pm
Very interesting !
April 20, 2015 @ 6:25 pm
April 20, 2015 @ 9:53 pm
Hi I was wondering if it was haunted?
April 20, 2015 @ 9:55 pm
Hi Michelle…. I suppose it depends on what you believe about spirits and the afterlife. But, there are certainly some people who do believe the grounds have supernatural qualities.
April 21, 2015 @ 10:28 pm
Hi Chris. Do they only allow people in during the once a year tour?
April 21, 2015 @ 10:32 pm
Hi Virginia…. Correct. The only access legally granted to the public is during the tour. The child care center goes to great lengths to get approval from the state for the tours.
April 22, 2015 @ 7:15 pm
I would love to relive my childhood memories. My grandfather Dr James Murphy was the director of Willard for 25 years. I am unsure of what the exact years were, but everyone working there would always remind me that he had been there for 25 years .I know that he lived on the property and my parents were married 2/2/1955. I believed that Dr Murphy left around 1964. My mother graduated from the nursing school and worked there until 1972 when we moved to Rochester. She did return to work at the Dick Van Dyke clinic and retired from there.
I actually delivered newspapers throughout Willard from the bottom of the hill to the top on a bike. It was great to bike down the hill.
My dad was on the softball league and work the security and the fire dept. I lived the white house on the corner next to the state hospital the first house going into Willard.
I went to many free movies. The patients were below. The rest were on the balcony.
April 22, 2015 @ 7:56 pm
Information for this years tour: http://www.homeinthefingerlakes.com/upcoming-public-tour-of-willard-asylum-for-the-insane/
April 24, 2015 @ 5:34 pm
Is the place haunted dose any one know
May 15, 2015 @ 2:10 pm
I actually attended the aforementioned drug treatment facility in 2012. And for those who believe in that sort of stuff (I didn’t before I was there) it is haunted. I spent 90 days there and can report on several “strange” occurrences that I witnessed and it changed my beliefs forever in more than a few ways. It is a known fact throughout the correctional staff that the Willard grounds are unquestionably haunted.
May 10, 2015 @ 9:48 pm
We are driving from Rochester NY area, do tours fill fast? Are we guaranteed a “spot” if we arrive before the start of the tour?
May 10, 2015 @ 9:53 pm
Last year we wasted a bit of time trying to figure out where to buy tickets and ended up showing up at 8:59 and we were turned away because it was too late. As I was walking away, the volunteer ran after me and said, “c’mon quick. come in here and pay and we’ll get you into a group!”
With that being said, I don’t really know if they are capping the attendance or not this year, but I don’t think there are any guarantees. If I were going again, I’d be getting there at 8:30 just to be safe. I suspect that there will be a TON of people there.
May 16, 2015 @ 5:26 pm
Today we visited the facility. However…it was poorly planned. We lost our tour guide and they ran out of maps as well didn’t plan for enough people. Our group did our own tour. Alot of people got turned away because it was sold out fast. I’d like to come next year. Hopefully, the planning committee can plan for 1000+ people and have more tour times. I was slightly disappointed in the inefficiency. We also got yelled at by a lady because a condemned building wasn’t properly locked up. She was being extremely rude.
May 16, 2015 @ 7:25 pm
Most likely there will not be another one. Some people were going through the tunnels,going into restricted buildings. Yes, they didn’t expect the crowds that they had, but as the day wore on the prison guards had enough and slowly shut down places. Too bad, but many former employees and children of the employees were there. It was great to talk with them.
karen k lewis
May 16, 2015 @ 8:29 pm
Yes my grandaughter and I made the attempt to be part of the one o’clock tour group. It was mayhem. We didnt even get near Camp Edgemere, much less the entrance to Willard.
Traffic was backed up 3 to 5 miles from the entrance road. Police would allow traffic to drive by only. The frustrating thing was we could see hundreds of cars and hundreds of people
wandering the property. Apparently a lot of people up the re were not nice and stayed to give themselves tours. Information printed from last indicated visitors under 1000. There must have been three times that today. There was no one oclock tour. It was a serious disappointment for a lot of people. If there is a next year, the amateur sponsors are going
to have to turn it over to a professional crowd control organization with a lot more tour
guides and professional crowd control officers with plenty experience.
May 17, 2015 @ 12:40 am
I was told after today there will be no more tours I was also told people went into buildings and vandalized it I was a little disappointed that we could not go into some of the other buildings but I am just glad I was able to do the tour I actually got some orbs in a picture from Hadley hall and smelled a man’s cologne in elliot hall room 107 did not smell that in any other room I definitely had a great time learning about willard I just hope that in the future the Graves will have names cause to me those poor people have names and are not just a number l
May 23, 2015 @ 8:04 am
You were having o factory hauluations.to bad this place wasn’t still open u would be a great candidate.the place is haunted for use.I myself have seen a few ghosts there and been touched,touched in many ways.this placed saved my life also
May 17, 2015 @ 9:44 am
We drove 2 hours to get there only to get stuck in a traffic jam 3 miles long, figured all was ok because we were almost a hour early for the 1 oclock tour, got almost there and a State Troop directibg traffic said the tour was over due to a fire. I didn’t believe him for some reason. UNREAL
May 18, 2015 @ 11:33 pm
Was this only a one day event or will there be more tours. Does anyone know?
May 19, 2015 @ 7:21 am
One day a year.
June 10, 2015 @ 1:36 pm
Why is that there are always people who just feel like it’s ok to just, ..TAKE? They are responsible for the outcome of all this. Some of us are saddened by the fact that so many more won’t get to see any of it because of vandalism and the like, ..poor behavior, deplorable, ..it sickens me.
June 15, 2015 @ 8:02 pm
A Look Inside the Former 'New York State Lunatic Asylum at Utica' |
June 20, 2015 @ 8:51 am
[…] quietly announced a few tours available throughout May and June. Since I’ve now been to the Willard Asylum for the Insane in Ovid and the Richardson-Olmstead Complex in Buffalo, I hopped at the opportunity to get a peek […]
August 16, 2015 @ 1:36 am
Will there be a tour in 2016?
August 16, 2015 @ 6:14 am
Not sure Sandra. Historically, tours haven’t been announced until about a month beforehand.
October 18, 2015 @ 9:32 am
Group homes have been replacing the old Institutions but there will always be a need for a secure facility for those afflicted with extreme mental conditions. Group homes are not an answer for these unfortunate souls and Control Drugs can not solve everything. Even worse and threatening the ability of people who need the use of group homes due to mental problems is our current governors use of these homes to house Forensic individuals (Pedophiles) . They take the place of individuals on waiting lists from families desperate for help.
October 28, 2015 @ 12:02 am
Anything set up for 2016
October 28, 2015 @ 12:05 am
of course I did not see Sandra’s question, until now, I would like to be on the informational email alerts for this… Please let me know if there is the way to check up on it.
April 21, 2016 @ 12:32 pm
Any update on 2016 tours? I’ve tried looking online but am not finding anything for this year. Thank you!
April 21, 2016 @ 8:53 pm
Haven’t heard anything yet–sorry!
September 14, 2016 @ 9:40 pm
Hi! I’m a writer for Atlas Obscura, and I’m currently working on a place page for Willard Psychiatric Center.
We like to illustrate our write ups with lots of photos, and I was wondering if you would allow us to use some of your photos of Willard. We would gladly credit you in whatever format you prefer. Please let me know!
September 11, 2017 @ 6:44 pm
will there be any tours in 2017?
September 11, 2017 @ 7:48 pm
Historically, the tours at Willard were always done in May. A couple years ago, the crowd size was far beyond what the organizers were anticipating, and as a result, things didn’t go according to plan. If you Google news about Willard you’ll find some news stories about it. There hasn’t been any discussion of a tour since then that I’m aware of.
September 17, 2017 @ 11:08 pm
U want to attend a tour..Is there lodging nearby?
September 18, 2017 @ 6:56 pm
As of right now, I don’t believe there are talks to do another tour. But, to answer your question, the nearest hotels or motels to Ovid are probably a 20-25 minute drive. There may be Airbnb options closer, but I’ve never looked.
Book Roundup: January 2018 | A Fuller Existence
February 5, 2018 @ 7:27 pm
[…] and they had been photographed and displayed in museums around the country. Also, according to Exploring Upstate up until a few years ago, you could actually go on a tour of Willard. So creepy and yet so cool. […]
March 4, 2018 @ 2:27 pm
I assume they have permanently decided to stop tours? That’s to bad. I would have loved to see inside.
Creepy Finger Lakes, Episode 3: Willard Asylum for the Insane – The Braless Gourmet
November 7, 2018 @ 12:54 pm
[…] “An Inside Tour of ‘Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane,” available here. […]
December 6, 2018 @ 11:07 am
I don’t know if this has already been said but frankly, I’m not reading through 95 comments to check. Anyway. It may seem cruel or heartless to many nowadays, in our touchy-feely times but, perhaps the removal of personal belongings at the beginning of an inmate’s life at Willard, was grounded in cold, hard logic. Perhaps it was thought that the personal possessions of the individuals concerned, would be constant reminders of traumas in their lives, prior to their Willard residency. Maybe the removal of personal belongings was an attempt at a truly ‘fresh start’?
The strange tale of Ern(e)st Szameitat | Hospitalstraße 22
April 11, 2020 @ 4:37 am
[…] A picture of Willard today Source […]
July 2, 2020 @ 7:33 pm
I also graduated from Willard School of Nursing, 50 years ago. As the Class of 1971 will be having a reunion next year I have been revisiting anything related to Willard.
I would write more, however, I fear this may be a futile attempt. Several of us live outside NYS, today but I know a tour would be very interesting. As students we had different assignments to a specific patient & I believe the few weeks with them, hopefully, provided a sense that they mattered.
Books Read in January and February – margaretL04
March 17, 2021 @ 3:54 pm
[…] about asylums. The tension is real! I grew up on Seneca Lake, roughly across and down some from The Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane, and Willard, as we called it, loomed largely in our young imaginations. I used to terrify myself […]
“BORLEY RECTORY: THE MOST HAUNTED HOUSE IN THE UK” and More Strange True Stories! #WeirdDarkness - Weird Darkness
October 19, 2022 @ 12:11 am
[…] can also see what happened to the patients who ended their lives at the asylum. The morgue is still largely intact, with the autopsy tables in place next to the drawers where bodies were kept. The crematorium […]