Opened as the New York State Inebriate Asylum, the grandiose facility sitting atop Robinson Street in Binghamton served as the very first alcohol inebriate asylum in the  United States. For nearly 30 years, the public has been mystified by what many locals have started to call the 'Castle on the Hill' (sometimes also called Binghamton State Hospital or Binghamton Psychiatric Center), most likely because the public hasn't been allowed to so much as peek inside the heavily guarded facility, but that is all about to change.

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The New York State Inebriate Asylum was built between the years of 1858 and 1866 by architect Isaac Gale Perry who would go on to design other well-known Binghamton landmarks including the Phelps Mansion, the Sisson Building (where the present-day Townsquare Media offices are located), and the Perry Building. When it was built, the purpose of the castle-like Gothic Revival style building was to treat alcoholism and although no longer in use, the structure still stands, looming over our city.

The New York State Inebriate Asylum took in its first round of patients in 1864, although it would take another two years for the building to be completely built. By 1879, the facility had fallen into some troubles and was converted to a mental hospital. For 114 years, the facility, renamed Binghamton State Hospital, served as a mental health hospital and also offered psychiatric services. Due to a lack of maintenance of the structure, it was deemed unsafe and closed in 1993. That was the last year that the public was able to breach the doors.

Declared a National Historic Landmark in 1997, it looked like there might be hope for rehabilitation when SUNY Upstate Medical University took over the building in 2008 and planned to not only stabilize the deteriorating structure but also create a satellite campus on the hospital grounds. Unfortunately, the economy didn’t cooperate and those plans were scrapped. WICZ reported that in 2015, Binghamton University had taken charge of the building and planned to continue the rehabilitation.

And then, things went silent. A search for an update on the status of the rehabilitation of the Castle on the Hill yields nothing. Our community has waited and wondered for nearly six years what is happening with the opulent 85,000 square foot Castle on the Hill. Those answers may come on Wednesday, January 20 when the doors are thrown open and the public is virtually invited inside.

Kathy Whyte
Kathy Whyte

Preservationist and Broome County Historian Roger Luther will share with us the history of the Castle on the Hill as well as an update on its current status through a virtual Facebook event which will take place at 6:45 p.m. From the basement to the attic, Luther will take us on a guided tour, answering many of the questions we've had about the secrets hidden behind the doors of the Castle on the Hill.

While you wait for the virtual Facebook tour, take a peek at some photos and read some memories told by former employees and residents.

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