5. Willard State Hospital Complex in Seneca County

Willard State Hospital
Courtesy of the Preservation League of NYS

Opened in 1869, Willard State Hospital — also known as Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane — was the largest of its kind in the 1870s. Once spread out over 1,000 acres, it comprised dozens of buildings, open space, and working farms. According to Atlas Obscura, it was “intended to be a better alternative to systems in place for taking care of the mentally ill.” Patients walked about freely, tended to the farm, and took part in activities like sewing classes. There was even a movie theater and bowling alley on the complex in addition to facilities for electro-shock therapy and ice baths.

Following a 1972 exposé on the horrendous conditions at Willowbrook Asylum, many psychiatric hospitals were shut down in favor of outpatient treatment methods. Willard remained open until 1995, when it shuttered its doors for good. It was then repurposed by the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, which restored some of the historic buildings but neglected others before announcing in 2021 that it would be closing the facility. The Preservation League and Romulus Historical Society hope to preserve the hospital complex before it deteriorates past the point of no return.