The Former Willard Psychiatric Center Tour Date 2015

SAVE THE DATE!!

Who:  Elizabeth Cady Stanton Child Care Center presents

What:  The  Former Willard State Psychiatric Center Tour – 2015

Where:  Camp Edgemere to purchase tickets @ $10.00 each.  Children under 10 – no charge.

WhenMay 16, 2015  9AM & 1PM

At 11AM  there will be a service at the Willard Cemetery memorializing  Lawrence Mocha.   Mr. Mocha (also known at the gravedigger) was a patient at Willard who  buried over a thousand other patients while he was institutionalized.  New York Times Journalist, Dan Barry, wrote an excellent article about Mr. Mocha.  To read his article click here.

Why: This tour is offered annually as fundraiser for  The Elizabeth Cady Stanton Children’s Center.

For more information contact (607)869-5533

Curious about what you might see while touring Willard?  Check out my 2011 tour of Willard here.

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Willard Tour Date 2014 and Buttery Iced Shortbread Melts

I am often asked by my blog readers when the next tour of Willard Asylum for the Insane will be.  Well, mark your calendar folks!  The next public tour of Willard Asylum for the Insane is scheduled for May 17, 2014, 9AM, at Grandview.  Rain or Shine!  If you want a sneak peak of some of the things you might see on this tour than check out my post, A Day at Willard Asylum for the Insane.  The tour is $10.00 per person.

And since it’s been ages since I’ve baked and shared a sweet treat on my blog, I decided to share what my daughter now claims is her favorite cookie recipe – Iced Shortbread Melts.  These cookies earned their name because they are so sweet and tender that they really will melt in your mouth!

Buttery Iced Shortbread Melts

2 sticks of butter, softened

1/2 c. granulated sugar

1/8 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, add butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla. Cream ingredients together; add flour. Continue to mix ingredients until everything is blended. Form dough into a ball.

Place  dough on a piece of parchment paper that is coated with a light coating of flour. Roll dough out until it is about 1/4” thick. Use more flour if needed. Cut out cookies using a cookie cutter. Place cookies on prepared cookie sheet about 1 1/2” apart. Bake for about 8 minutes. Do not over bake. They will firm up after removing them from the oven. Allow cookies to cool completely on cookie sheet before moving them.

I made a thin batch of buttercream icing and dipped the top of each cookie in the icing.  I used some homemade colored sugar sprinkles to fancy them up.

These cookies would be perfect to serve at a ladies luncheon, bridal shower, or a tea party.

What is the last kind of cookie you made?

The FLX Files

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In the midst of re-organizing my blog I decided to dedicate a page to one of the most amazing regions of New York State -  the Finger Lakes (FLX).   Over my last two years of blogging  I have  portrayed this region in many of my blog posts, and it only seemed right to give those posts a place all of their own.  While strolling through the FLX files you’ll likely find photos, mentions, and stories about a specific foods, wines, places, and events here.  I welcome you to the place I call home.

Red-White-and Finger Lakes Wine

Are you a wine-ie

Say Cheese

Weekend finds, but no food post

Homemade pizza from the Finger Lakes

Willkommen to Germany

Wine, and more wine…1st stop, Eleven Lakes Winery

Finger Lakes Cork & Fork, an Event to Remember

Kitchen Disasters

A Day of Adventure

A Day at Willard Asylum for the Insane

Black & Blues

Picking blueberries and my mood

Calling All Foodies from the Finger Lakes and Beyond

Apple Filled Oatmeal Cookies

2nd Annual Finger Lakes Cork & Fork Partners & Pairings

Another Great Finger Lakes Cork & Fork

Making Homemade Wine

Writing (and) Peanut Butter Cupcakes

Holiday Gift Ideas with Pumpkin Cheese Bread

Willard Asylum for the Insane – Updates

Sunday Morning and Doughnut Holes

A historic event, a statue, and photos

Shiitake, Almond, Wild Rice Salad with Balsamic Dressing

In The Finger Lakes – Bully Hill Vineyard

A Surprising Walk

Cream Puffs, You, and The Finger Lakes

Get Out Your Soup Making Pot

Willard Asylum for the Insane – Updates

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.

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Grandview

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.

If you’re interested in Willard updates stay tuned by subscribing to my blog, or follow @thejoyofcaking on twitter.  For information related to Seneca County subscribe to the Seneca Daily News.

Additional pictures I took during the May tour. 

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The Morgue

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Hadley Hall

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The Projection Room

If you have information on Willard please feel free to share it in the comments section.

A Day at Willard Asylum for the Insane

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Recently, the former Willard Asylum for the (chronically) Insane in Ovid, NY, and later known as the Willard State Hospital for the (acute and chronic) mentally ill, opened its doors for a guided tour.  This opportunity called out history buffs, ghost hunters, (yes, there have been reports of paranormal activity there) psychiatry professionals, and curious people like myself. The tour provided a rare glimpse of  one of New York State’s most historic psychiatric hospitals.

During the tour we were guided by former employees of the psychiatric hospital.  They took us through many of the old buildings that remain on the Willard Campus today.  Willard is no longer in operation, having closed it’s doors in 1995.  Currently, part of the campus serves as a drug treatment center; a specialized 90 day shock incarceration prison for drug addicted offenders. This part of the campus was off-limits during the tour for obvious reasons. Many of the buildings that we visited during the tour are no longer in use, and many appeared in a state of disrepair. 

As I walked up the sidewalk and stepped onto the porch of Grandview, a massive brick building at the former asylum for the insane, I tried to imagine what it might have felt like to have been involuntarily committed there as a patient when it opened it’s doors back in the late 1860’s. It was a time that merely being indigent could have landed you in such a place.  Willard was built to help reduce the census in poorhouses and almshouses. The treatment of many of the residents of poorhouses and almshouses was deplorable, asylums were suppose to create a better alternative.

As I entered Grandview I could imagine desperate, frightened, and helpless people begging for their freedom; and at the same time, I could envision the deformed, deranged, and violent patients screaming through the bars of their small rooms. I’m sure I was right on both accounts.

What really happened behind the thick walls of the Willard hospital during it’s 126 years of existence?  It is hard to speculate.  Locally, rumors have circulated that experimental psychiatric drugs, and procedures like lobotomies and electroshock therapy were exercised on patients there in the later years of operation.  A document that I located, authored by Dr. Robert E. Doran, suggests the treatments given during the early years at Willard were much less sinister.  The early years of treatment were labeled as “moral treatment” or “custodial care”, and as Dr. Doran explained, “Patients were treated with kindness, given good but not fancy food, given clothes, exercised, and protected from the outside world.”  He does however, concede that in 1942, there were 1443  treatments of electroshock therapy performed on patients at the hospital. 

The Willard asylum was in essence, a community within a community.  For many years it was self-sufficient. Capable patients were assigned work, many of which remained institutionalized for their entire lifetime.    Dr. Doran wrote that  “In 1883, there were 801 patients willing and able to work.”  In irony, the work itself, prevented many patients from ever being released back into society.  Once the asylum was up and running it became dependent on the patients free labor.  

The history and evolution of this asylum over the years it was open is amazing; but how people ended up there as patients is even more astonishing.  A mental illness diagnosis could have resulted from a person publicly displaying their emotions, flaunting their sexual preference, being subjected to trauma; for instance, domestic abuse, the loss of a loved one, partaking in the consumption of too much alcohol, or merely being unable to communicate in English.  Behaviors that are acceptable today, were not acceptable in the late 19th, and early 20th centuries.

These pictures depict some of the highlights of our tour.

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These are bunks in rooms at Elliot Hall; the former medical hospital on the campus.  This building is now used by NYS Dept. Of Corrections during trainings.

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The morgue, pictured above, has had very little work done to it as the picture reflects.

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This Ford Fire Truck was in excellent condition: definitely a great relic.

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Brookside was home to the institutions medical directors over the years.  Inside of the house boasts beautiful fireplaces, woodwork, and eleven bedrooms.  The house sits overlooking Seneca Lake.

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This building caught my eye from the second floor of the Elizabeth Cady Stanton School. It was not open for tour.

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My favorite place on the tour was Hadley Hall.  The hall housed a basket ball court, theater, cinema room, bowling alley, and snack bar in its day.  The patients were entertained there. The cinema room still has the old movie projectors in place, and scribed on the walls are the names and dates of some of the movies that were shown there over the years.

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Of the 54,000 patients that were admitted into Willard during its years of operation, 5776 patients were buried in the cemetery on the property.  Today, they rest (in what some refer to as an overgrown field) in unmarked graves.  This has become a bone of contention for advocates of the mentally ill, and in my opinion, should be rectified by the State of New York. 

There is so much more of the Willard story to tell. I can’t even begin to touch upon it in one post.  After the tour, I purchased the book The Lives They Left Behind.  The book is co-authored by Darby Penney and Peter Stastny and is a definite must read. It chronicles the lives of former Willard  patients, their treatments or lack thereof, and their demise. The book also gives readers a sense of how the mental health field has changed significantly over the last century. 

Willard will be displaying some of the former patient’s suitcases and their contents sometime next year.  The date for this exhibit is yet to be announced.  The suitcases were originally found in the attic of one of their buildings shortly after the hospital was closed.  The previously mentioned book and the New York State Museum in Albany, New York, were the first to publicly share the information about the suitcases and their contents.

I was fortunate enough to see the exhibit “Lost Cases, Recovered Lives” when it was on display in Albany, and it left a lasting impression on me.  I am looking forward to the suitcases returning to Willard next year.  My suggestion to New York State and Seneca County: Take advantage of this great historical piece of property by rehabilitating at least one building on the campus and opening it as a permanent museum. “If you build it, they will come.” 

For more on Willard see my update post.