The New York State Lunatic Asylum at Utica

The New York State Lunatic Asylum at Utica

A History of Old Main

Dennis Webster


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Known as "Old Main," the New York State Lunatic Asylum at Utica opened in 1843 as the first institution of its kind to treat madness as a medical illness, not a curse. A series of groundbreaking administrators sought to save mentally ill New Yorkers from lives of confinement in sordid conditions and create a safe haven. A sense of normalcy was established for patients through Old Main's Asylum Band, the Opal monthly publication and other arts programs. The infamous Utica Crib was invented at the asylum, and visitors from around the world sought to tour the facility and its utopian structure. Though closed in 1978, Old Main was placed in the National Register of Historic Places, and its iconic columns still mesmerize the public today. Author Dennis Webster charts the history of the New York State Lunatic Asylum at Utica.


Dennis Webster:
Dennis Webster lives in the midst of the Mohawk Valley of Central New York, not far from the steadfast Pillars of Old Main. He has a Bachelor of Science degree from Utica College and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the State University of New York (SUNY) Polytechnic. He's the author of the paranormal books Haunted Utica, Haunted Mohawk Valley and Haunted Old Forge and the true crime books Wicked Adirondacks, Wicked Mohawk Valley and Murder of a Herkimer County Teacher. He can be reached at