In May of 2011, the Willard Asylum for the Insane located in Willard, NY, Town of Ovid, opened its doors to the public for a one day guided tour of the grounds and some of the buildings that remain on the property. The tour, conducted by some of the former employees of the institution and local historians allowed the curious, like myself, to take a rare glimpse at one of the most overlooked historical sites in Seneca County’s history, and one of New York State’s most notorious asylums for the insane.
Following the tour, I decided to share my photos and thoughts about Willard in a post titled A Day at Willard Asylum for the Insane. That post has received a huge amount of (unexpected) daily traffic. I’ve had visitors who are searching for information on relatives who were committed there, former employees, ghost enthusiasts, people looking for information on future tours, and people who have authored books on Willard leaving comments on my post. Because of all this interest I’d like to share a couple of updates.
First, a news article published by the Seneca Daily News explains some of the plans being considered by local enthusiasts to rehabilitate the asylums severely neglected cemetery where 5776 patients were laid to rest. There are obstacles concerning the HIPPA regulations that are slowing the project from moving forward but one task has been accomplished. On September 21, 2011, a large sign was erected and now marks the location of the cemetery. For more information on the cemetery project visit The Willard Cemetery Memorial Project.
Secondly, I’d like to share information about an upcoming presentation about Willard that is scheduled for December 14, 2011, 7PM – 8:30PM, at the Ovid Library. “Craig Williams, curator and senior historian at the New York State Museum, will give an illustrated commentary on the Anna Hopkins scrapbooks, what they say about 19th century life and how they portray Willard Asylum. Anna was the spouse of a Willard physician and lived at the asylum from the mid-1800’s until 1894. Her scrapbooks contain original photographs, newspaper clippings and other ephemera giving an unparalleled view of life at Willard.” If you’re interested in attending this event pre-registration is required. Visit the library’s link above for contact information.
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Additional pictures I took during the May tour.
The Projection Room
If you have information on Willard please feel free to share it in the comments section.
18 thoughts on “Willard Asylum for the Insane – Updates”
Is there a date yet for May 2015, I just missed the March tour. I have been wanting to go on a tour but kept missing the dates. Thank you!
My mother was raised right across the street from Willard State Hospital, where her aunt and two uncles worked. Mac and Betty Mc Carthy were nurses. Her uncle Chris Carlsen was the chief administrator and implemented the humane act of open cells. I remember going to Ovid as a young child in 1948 and visiting my great aunts and uncles most Sundays. I also went with my dance class and performed at the Hall. Very vivid memories.
When is this tour of the facility that I am reading about?
May 17th 2014 9AM 10 bucks per person
One of my ancestors was committed to Willard sometime before 1880 (census records show she was there in 1880) and she died there in 1883 of TB. I would love to find out if they have any old records which go that far back. Family lore said she was there because of depression, but I don’t think any recent people have really known. Is there a way to get the scrapbooks mentioned in your blog article?
This is amazing, thanks for the blog post 🙂 I’m a visual artist from Australia and very fascinated by history of asylums and how people lived back then. I hope to come to New York and visit the asylum on a tour in the next year
My parents both worked at Willard during the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, retiring from there in the early 80’s. My Mom was an attendant and later a beautician, and my Dad was a safety officer. They shared some unique stories with us, back in the day. They are both gone now.
Bev (Seafuse) Martin
Beverly, I’m sure the stories your parents shared were unique. I would have loved to hear them too! Thanks for stopping by 🙂
Hi Bev! I worked there from ’68 till ’77 but don’t remember either of your parents. I was an attendant in Sunnycroft.
Hi Marilyn~ I can’t remember what building my Mom worked in, but Dad was at the Fire House, I think. It’s been so long I don’t remember a lot of the buildings.
Hi Marilyn, my dad work in Sunnycroft and also showed the movies on Saturday in Hadley Hall. Howard Smith
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This is facinating indeed, this was so taboo and sometimes with reason in the day. My mother has an older friend who at the time received electro shock therapy. At the time is was a cure. Thank god things have come a long way. But of course many asylums were great places with docs doing what they at that time.
Just fascinating. A few of my family’s ancestors were committed and I’m always intrigued to learn about how the “mentally ill” were treated throughout our history. Thank you for sharing. As always, you inspire me!
That is so fascinating. Because my family is from upstate New York, I wish I lived closer, just to see the history.
Thanks for the info on the censuses of Willard Asylum. I’m planning on attending Craig’s presentation. I’ll try and report afterwards.
I wish I lived closer to Seneca County so that I could come to the library presentation by Craig Williams. He has helped me out in more ways than one. If in the meantime, anyone wants to search for their ancestors from the early U.S. Federal Censuses of Willard Asylum, please feel free to look them up on my blog at: http://inmatesofwillard.com/names/
Thanks for the great pictures! Sincerely, Lin