Willard State Hospital rehab center - a recreation facility


The “Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane” was developed after the Civil War on a magnificent property overlooking Seneca Lake in central New York.  The office of Werner Seligmann, Architect had a number of commissions at this location.  An earlier project - a new single-block administration building - although award-winning, was so disliked by hospital staff that it was decided deliberately to fragment the design of the rehab center to give it a scale more reminiscent of the historic buildings.  Although called a “rehab” center, the uses and scale are similar to the later community center projects, especially University Park Community Center.

This project was never built and I note with some irony that the hospital complex was placed on the National Register of Historic Places only three years later.  And for double-irony [if there is such a thing] the hospital then was closed and is now run by the Department of Corrections.

The Willard State Hospital Administration Building?

Click on image to read this very favorable and heady article in Progressive Architecture from May 1976, written by Michael Dennis, about this beautiful project, which finally is being used by the Department of Corrections as a facility for youth programs.  Michael just happened to be the design lead and project architect for this project, perhaps contributing to the positive article? 

I was not directly involved in this project, yet, because of its well-ordered simplicity and the fugal organization of the north elevation [see drawings, below], in my view this is perhaps the most refined design to come out of Werner’s office.