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Old May 17, 2010, 9:13 AM   #1
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Default Binghamton Inebriate Asylum

We took pictures of the abandoned New York Inebriate Asylum in Binghamton. The castle-like building is situated on top of a hill with expansive views all around. The newer building of the Greater Binghamton Health Center which replaced the asylum is nearby. The sloping land is covered by manicured lawns with curving roads and walkways leading to the different buildings in the campus all spaced far apart. With crystal-clear sunshine, cool mountain breeze, and breathtaking scenery all around, it would seem the ideal place to fly a kite, ride a bike, or roll out a picnic blanket and admire the City of Binghamton from afar.

Except that it really is a desolate place.

We have been traipsing about in different areas taking pictures of the structure from outside the chain-link fence when a cop in a police SUV approached my wife and daughter. I was on the other side of the building at the time. The cop, who according to my wife was very polite, told them that photography was not allowed. By the time the cop drove around the building to where I was my daughter had already called me on my cellphone. So I walked toward the SUV as it approached. I told the cop my daughter already called me when he rolled down his window.

He eyed me and said, “Oh, you’re all together.”

“Yes,” I said. “I didn’t know...” meaning to add “photography was not allowed” but he cut me off.

Turning his head to look straight in the distance he said, “It’s awesome.” I noticed his eyes were narrowing and I would not be exaggerating in saying he said this through gritted teeth.

I nodded. “Well, I’ll be heading back,” I said.

“Enjoy your day,” he said as he drove off. Although he said this in an expressionless way, I somehow sensed he meant well.

Partway through our photography, we saw a block of stone in front of the asylum with an inscription describing the asylum’s historical significance. There was also a display in the grounds of what seemed like a church bell with a wheel beside it that might have acted as a pulley mechanism for yanking the bell high up in the bell tower. Its significance however was lost as the inscription, if there ever was any, was removed. Online, I read earlier some speculation about opening the asylum for public tours. All these encouraged us to take pictures of the majestic-looking building.

But that was not meant to be. When my wife asked the cop why the asylum was abandoned, the cop said it was too costly to maintain. There weren’t many patients and simply heating up the place (during winter) was expensive. So we later supposed they built the modern -- probably more energy-efficient, too -- facility beside it.

My wife also asked why photography was not allowed if the building was already abandoned. The cop said there were patients occasionally walking around in the campus. Their privacy needs to be protected. Later I imagined perhaps, too, the privacy of visiting families.

It really is a shame when such magnificent structure not to mention the majestic views around it cannot be photographed. And the cop seemed to share that sentiment. But I suppose there is a greater cause. Troubled minds rarely make it on their own. They need help. And the least we can do is offer them the best quiet place we can find and give them plenty of space for private moments of quiet reflection such that they may find their way back toward meaningful, productive lives. That is something that even I, a photography enthusiast, can agree with.

#1) Binghamton
Inebriate Asylum.

#2) Back of Binghamton Inebriate Asylum.

#3) New building of Greater Binghamton Health Center.

#4) Parking lot with view of the City of Binghamton.

#5) Bell display.

#6) Historical inscription reads, "New York State Inebriate Asylum. Erected 1858. First Hospital in the United States Dedicated to the Treatment of Alcoholism."

Thank you for looking. C&C welcome.

Last edited by vvcarpio; May 17, 2010 at 9:42 AM.
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