New York State Asylum for Idiots

New York State Asylum for Idiots, afteRwards

Syracuse State Institution for Feeble-Minded Children, Afterwards

Syracuse State School for Mental Defectives, afterwards

Syracuse State School, Afterwards

Syracuse Developmental Center

Text Source:  A Short History of Hospitals in Syracuse, SUNY Upstate Medical University:  Health Services Library:  Historical Collections:

The New York State Asylum for Idiots was authorized by the New York State Legislature in 1851, acting upon a recommendation contained in the 1846 annual report of the New York State Asylum for Lunatics. Hervey B. Wilbur, M.D., was appointed the first superintendent and remained in that position until his death in 1883. First located on rented landed in Albany, it admitted its first "pupils" in 1851. The cornerstone was laid in 1854 for a new building in Syracuse, and the institution removed to Syracuse in 1855. After 1855 it was generally known as either the New York Asylum for Idiots or just the State Idiot Asylum, but in 1891 it was officially renamed the Syracuse State Institution for Feeble-Minded Children, in 19__ the Syracuse State School for Mental Defectives, and finally in 19__ just the Syracuse State School. Wilbur collaborated with Edward Seguin, M.D., the originator of the physiological method of training. Maria Montessori was also Seguin's student and much of the "Montessori Method" is based on foundations laid by Wilbur and Seguin in Syracuse. In its 85th annual report (1935), the Syracuse State School rightly noted that it was "the pioneer institution in the United States for the care and training of mentally deficient children." Surgery was done in the old building, and at least one child was born there. The School also operated a farm and a number of satelite cottages. In the 1970s, the Syracuse State School building was torn down and replaced by a residential facility called the Syracuse Developmental Center. With the growing emphasis on community living rather insitutionalization for developmentally disabled persons, no new individuals were placed at SDC and there has been a gradual movement of residents into the community. In early 1998, there were about six persons left. SDC is to be closed, and it is not clear what will happen to the building.

Submitted 17 March 2006 by Pamela Priest
Updated 22 April 2006 by Pamela Priest