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History

The New York State Inebriate Asylum, which later became the Binghamton State Hospital, was the first institution designed and constructed to treat alcoholism as a mental disorder. Located in Binghamton, NY, its imposing Gothic Revival exterior was designed by New York architect Isaac G. Perry and though the first cornerstone was laid in 1858, construction was not completed until 1864. In 1993, the main building was closed due to safety concerns. The asylum appears on both the state and national lists of Historic Places, but it is currently in a state of disrepair and is one of the most endangered historic places in the nation, according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The building was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1997.

Through a series of events and connections obtained by my friend and shooting partner Louis Quattrini of Louis Q Photography we were granted a one-time only all access pass to this amazing landmark. To those curious out there that are interested in this site, I urge you to just enjoy the photos and do not attempt to enter or go near this site. It is heavily patrolled and video monitored 24 hours a day. This was special access granted by the state for special purposes and we are very grateful to the powers-that-be to allow us this wonderful opportunity.

Normally in my photo essays I will include past history and background information on a site. In this case circumstances however, which I am sure you can understand, have deterred me from taking that route. So, I have decided that instead of the usual running commentary, I will for the first time, just post the photos from the shoot and allow your imagination to take you into another world. At the end of the gallery I will post informative links about the architect and historical information. Enjoy the shots and please consider purchasing some prints to help further my work!

The Shoot


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About Isaac G. Perry ~ The Architect

Born in Bennington, Vermont, Perry was raised and educated in Keeseville, New York, where his parents relocated in 1829. Between 1832 and 1854 he completed an apprenticeship and entered into partnership with his father, Seneca Perry, a shipwright turned carpenter. By 1847, Seneca Perry and Son were advertising locally as carpenter-joiners who undertook masonry work. The Perrys were well known for their skills at constructing spiral staircases, and the younger Perry, according to one biographer, earned a local reputation as an architect before leaving Keeseville.

Isaac Perry’s architectural work in Keeseville is not well documented, but it is likely that the Emma Peale residence, called “Rembrandt Hall” (1851), a Gothic Revival-style Downingesque cottage that contains a spiral staircase by the Perrys, is an early design. By 1852, Perry relocated to New York to apprentice in the office of architect Thomas R. Jackson (1826-1901). Jackson, a native of England who migrated to the United States as a child, had risen to the position of head draftsman in the office of Richard Upjohn (1802-1872), one of New York’s most prominent designers. The nature of his work with Jackson and the projects in which he collaborated, are not known.

Perry is considered to have been the first state architect in New York. In 1883, governor Grover Cleveland appointed him to oversee construction activities at the state capitol. Although his official title was “Capitol Commissioner”, by the mid- to late 1880s Perry had oversight responsibility for all state government building programs and he was commonly referred to as the “State Architect”. He retired in 1899, and the state legislature officially created the Office of the State Architect that same year. The New York State Inebriate Asylum was the first major project designed and constructed by Perry, and marked the turning point in his architectural career. Perry’s inexperience is evident in Turner’s account of the building’s design. Perry later recalled that he penciled the plans with the assistance of his wife, Lucretia Gibson Perry. He also appears to have been assisted by Peter Bonnett Wight (1838-1925), the head draftsman in Jackson’s firm, but Wight’s role in the project is not well documented.

Perry’s other work can be seen on his wikipedia paget @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_G._Perry

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Comments (20)

  1. Great stuff, as usual Andy. History, and the way it changes as we ‘progress’, is interesting to me. There are so many secrets locked away out there that will disappear forever without someone taking the time to record it’s existence. Thanks for keeping us informed and educated.

  2. You brought back so many memories…When I progressed to management position, I had an office on the ground floor…I used to stay very late working….but, after a while i stopped because I could hear my old patients( long dead) coming down the stairs to go to dinner….many more stories…your photos are very well done!

    1. Thank you Patricia. Kind comments and stories like yours are why I do this. My hope is to be able to get back there and really do the place justice. This trip was quite policed and constrained. I am grateful for the access, but there was much more of a story there than I was allowed to tell, as I am sure you are aware.

      1. Am I the only one that noticed….? “Eye see you watching me…” LOL

        1. That is actually known as the “All Seeing Eye”. It was told to people at the asylum that you are always being watched and you should act accordingly.

  3. Would have loved to see the pictures but do not open. Went to nursing school there in the last class to go through.

  4. THANK YOU FOR SHARING VERY INTERESTING

    1. Thank you for stopping by and commenting! <3

  5. So sad to see it go to ruin. Not too long ago, I drove thru when I was on town. My mom & step father worked there for 30 some years. Patients became family. Co-workers became family. As kids we spent lots of time in the rec center. To just let those buildings rot is such a waste.

    1. Currently HIPAA Laws are restricting use of the building. Unless that is overturned I doubt it will be used for anything more than a giant Pigeon stoop. 🙁 I could not keep many of my shots for that very reason.

  6. Great photos! I drove up there last year and was amazed at the number of buildings in addition to the main building. I would love to see it restored. I understand HIPAA, but I don’t understand why that is restricting the use of the building. What a waste. Thanks for your photos and posting them for us to see.

    1. Because this is still and active campus. There are patients in the building and grounds on the property that restrict usage. Seems like something as silly as a privacy fence could fix but… that is the way it is.

  7. Great shots! I worked in the men’s geriatric ward one summer about fifty years ago. An “interesting” time when Thorazine was the primary treatment for the scores of sad old gents. Glad to see it has a new steward and hasn’t been totally trashed.

    1. Not yet it hasn’t. But, from what I saw there…it won’t be long. Hopefully they will get a deal done with the College and get this building in use again.

  8. Beautiful Photography. I worked there in the Main Bldg. in the summer of 1984. It’s sad to see this place in such a state of disrepair. Hopefully someone will restore it to its former glory.

    1. Thank you, and I really do hope that someone steps up and that the state realizes the potential here. We HAVE to stop allowing our historical buildings to be buried. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears went into the making of this building and it has a LOT of use for good left in it.

  9. We just visited this beautiful sight with our kids after looking up interesting places to see on trip to New York City and happily came across your post . Thank you . We were pleasantly surprised to see that There is now a construction fence around the building to keep tourists out .It has clearly been cleaned up on the exterior and repairs have begun . I believe it been taken over by the Local University and they have raised millions for restoration . I believe it is to be used as part of the faculty of medicine and physicians in training will be using it in the future . Certainly hope they are able to breathe new life into this gem . Thank you for your beautiful photographs and interesting notes . Really enjoyed reading about those whose lives were connected in one way or another with this lovely building. Hope this update brings everyone renewed hope for these historical treasures.

  10. Does anyone happen to know the original phone number of the asylum?

    1. Lindsay, are you looking for access?

  11. Ghostly.

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