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Binghamton State Hospital
Group Wants Easement On Site


The New York State Inebriate Asylum, pictured on a postcard, was built in 1863. The castle-like building housed the nation's first hospital intended strictly to treat alcohol as a disease. The building, later known as the Binghamton State Hospital, is listed as a national historic landmark. The Gothic Revival building was designed by Isaac Perry.

BY DONNA THOMAS
staff writer, Binghamton Press and Star-Bulletin
March 2000

The National Trust and other preservation groups are trying to get a preservation easement on at least the main building of the Binghamton State Hospital to make sure it stays standing.

"Many people don't know that even a national landmark can be tom down," said Ruth Levy, a member of the Preservation Association of the Southern Tier. "And then there's demolition by neglect, when you sort of let it cave in."

With no bids in three years, Levy said the state should start looking at the building's historical status as a selling point.

"I think the way it is being disposed of is a scandal;" said Wesley Haynes. a historic preservation consultant who helped PAST get the building its National Landmark status.

Haynes is also an expert on the work of architect Isaac Perry, who designed and built the asylum for the state. Perry, he said, is known for his magnificent staircases, including one in the hilltop castle. The architect is also responsible for the grand staircase in the state capitol, the design of about 45 armories and various churches.

"He's present in more upstate towns than any other architect,'' he said.

Empire State Development's advertisements mention neither the building's national historic landmark status nor its "endangered" status listed by the National Trust for Preservation.

"It's a desirable thing," Levy said. Landmark status can mean tax write-offs and grants for restoration.

Do any treasures exist in the dark corners of the former lnebriate Asylum? Preservationists are asking that after a dome lamp, thought to be a Tiffany, was found at another state site.

"As far as that Tiffany stained glass dome, it was never registered as a historic piece," said Empire State Development spokesman Eric Mangan. "When it was brought to light, we dealt with it. We did our jobs." '

But Mangan couldn't say if the discovery of the valuable antique has spurred on amore careful look at what is contained in the Binghamton State Hospital or any of the other properties for sale.

"There are some wonderful things in there," Levy said. "The developer might buy the property and rip things out and abandon the building. Salvage is big business. You could get a lot of good stuff out of that building."