Bloomingdale Insane Asylum

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The Bloomingdale Asylum site, looking north from 114th street

The Bloomingdale Insane Asylum was the previous occupant of the land which is now Columbia's Morningside Heights campus.

When Columbia moved onto the site, it demolished most of the buildings but made use of a few of them first. These include the old Superintendent's House, Macy Villa, and West Hall.


In 1815 the Society of the New York Hospital began looking for a new site for their mental health patients. Board member Thomas Eddy spearheaded the appointment of a committee to find suitable locations, and the committee recommended purchasing a site in "Bloomingdale", a catch-all term for territory on the west side of Manhattan. In 1816 the hospital board took title to the land but decided that the site, located east of Amsterdam Avenue and south of 113th Street was unsuitable, and bought the land north and west of the site, where the cornerstone for the first asylum building was laid in 1818. The Asylum officially opened in 1821.

Bloomingdale was the name of the area along the west side of Manhattan that Bloomingdale Road, the northward extension of Broadway from 23rd Street, passed through. The name, and road, date back to the 17th century, and is possibly derived from "Bloemendael" the name of a small village some distance from Amsterdam, perhaps having the same significance to New Amsterdamites as "upstate" has to contemporary New Yorkers.

It would appear that the geographic label that the asylum took its name from greatly predates the arrival of Bavarian immigrant and hoop-skirt peddler Benjamin Bloomingdale in America, whose two sons Joseph and Lyman Bloomingdale would go on to open the East Side Bazaar, which they would move to 59th Street and Lexington Avenue in 1886.