NYS Lunatic Asylum topic of talk Dec. 4

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Oneida County History Center will host a presentation on the New York State Lunatic Asylum in Utica at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4 or virtually via Zoom. Those wishing to attend virtually can visit oneidacountyhistory.org/programs.html to register. In accordance with local, federal and CDC guidelines, masks are required for all in-person visitors regardless of vaccination status during public events and programs. 

The New York State Lunatic Asylum at Utica, also known as “Old Main,” opened in 1843 as the first institution of its kind to treat “madness” as a medical illness, not a curse. Although closed in 1978, the building was placed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Author Dennis Webster will discuss the history of the “Old Main” and the new edition of his book, which will be available for purchase after the presentation. The infamous Utica Crib was invented at the asylum, and visitors from around the world sought to tour the facility and its utopian structure. A series of groundbreaking administrators sought to save mentally ill New Yorkers from lives of confinement in sordid conditions and create a safe haven. Webster will share the history and lore of “Old Main.”

Dennis Webster is the author of Haunted Utica, Haunted Mohawk Valley, Wicked Mohawk Valley, and several other paranormal and true crime books.

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