Columbia University’s lunatic past

They didn’t used to call Morningside Heights “Asylum Hill” for nothing. Before Columbia built its campus on Broadway and 116th Street, the grounds were occupied by the Bloomingdale Lunatic Asylum. Buell Hall, below, is the only campus building that was originally part of the asylum.

Opened in 1808, the asylum was named for Bloomingdale Road, the old name for this stretch of Broadway. Until the late 1800s, the neighborhood was bucolic and sylvan, and through the years the asylum became somewhat of a tourist attraction. In 1893, it relocated to Westchester, and Columbia, then on Madison Avenue in the 50s, took over, building the campus as we know it today.

Look closely; I love the family of deer hanging out on the asylum grounds.

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4 Responses to “Columbia University’s lunatic past”

  1. Tom Brady Says:

    hey esther,
    i am digging your blog. where are you getting the historical pix? hope you are well. keep it up.

  2. Marco Says:

    Hmmm…well, that clarifies a whole lot of things now, doesn’t it.

  3. studiousbeauty Says:

    I hate to comment on such an old post, but I took a campus tour back at the end of March (Columbia’s my first choice for transfer), and our lovely tour guide took us to the chapel just east of this building. She mentioned it’s origins and that it now houses the university French club/frat, I believe, citing the running campus jokes of about francophiles and craziness. Such a beautiful campus.

  4. Ab Says:

    Hi there

    do you know any of the particulars of how Columbia became a private institution in 1787?

    Thanks… Ab

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