The Syracuse State School is a former residential facility for the mentally disabled in New York.


The New York State Asylum for Idiots in Albany was authorized by the New York State Legislature in 1851. 1 It was designed to house children between the ages of 7 and 14, who were considered idiotic or deficient in intelligence, and who were not epileptic, insane or deformed. 2

The institution moved to the town of Geddes on the western fringes of Syracuse 3 in 1854 and 1855. 1 It covered 65 acres adjacent to Burney Park. 5 The brick building, designed by William L. Wollett Jr., 8 cost $73,000 to build and $13,000 to furnish.

Approximately 50 students were enrolled when it opened with applications for an additional 50 pupils. 1 The appropriation would only cover about 75 individuals for the coming year, 3 although the complex had the capacity for 450 patients. 5

By 1853, the school boasted 60 students, increasing to 250 students by 1878. 6

In 1888, the school expanded with a detached hospital, laundry facility, an extension at the rear of the Boy’s Building, and a new barn, stable and wagon house, all completed for $27,000. 2 A school and dormitory, designed by Syracuse architect Charles Erastus Colton, was also built.

The two-story hospital was located about 20 rods southeast of the Girl’s Building and included 20 beds. 2 The first floor consisted of a ward with eight beds, two single rooms, a nurse’s room and a bathroom. The second floor housed a single room, kitchen and dining room.

The laundry facility was a two-story erected over the boiler and engine room. 2 It was attached to the former Amusement Hall that was converted into an ironing room. Equipped by Hospital Supply Company of New York, the building contained six metallic washers, two centrifugal wringers and an endless chain elevator for lifting the clothes to the dry room on the second floor. From there, the clothes were dried and taken down via a shoot to a cylindrical steam device to be ironed.

In 1891, New York State Asylum for Idiots was changed to the Syracuse State Institution for Feeble-Minded Children and to the Syracuse State School for Mental Defectives in 1921. 6 It was shortened to Syracuse State School in 1927.

In June 1901, the Syracuse Board of Education hired Taber & Draper to design a proposed truant school on the grounds of the Syracuse State Institution. 4 Construction proposals were let in July 1901 and work soon began on a two-story building. It included a study and recitation room, dining hall and recreation facilities on the first floor, and two dormitories for 60 boys and a sick ward on the second floor. The basement contained a playroom and a sterilization room for the disinfection of clothes, boilers, laundry equipment, a vegetable cellar and cold storage.

Upon opening, the truant school was named the Harvey Wilbur School. 4

The Syracuse State School was demolished in 1973 and replaced with the Syracuse Developmental Center (SDC). 6

In the early-1990’s, the state began to emphasize on community living rather than institutionalization for developmentally disabled individuals and no new patients were placed at SDC. By early 1998, SDC had only six patients and closed by the summer.


The CDC placed the property up for sale in October 2006. 7 The highest bid, at $2.2 million, came from Syracuse Resort Development, a group of investors from Long Island. In May 2008, over the objections of local officials, the state sold the complex to a group of investors. 7

The state Empire State Development Corporation expressed worry that the buyers were fraudulent. 7 One of the investors, Moussa Yeroushalmi, had been sued by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in 2004 over allegations that he defrauded investors.

The investors paid no taxes on the property, contesting the 585,000 square-foot building’s assessment. 7 Proposals by the investors, such as a resort for disabled people and a “green” business park, never materialized.

Syracuse Resort, an affiliate of Syracuse Resort Development and a minority owner of the developmental center, filed for bankruptcy protection in December 2010. 7 Syracuse Resort Development, which owned 92.5% of the property, followed suit in April 2011. Both actions were filed to prevent the city from seizing the property for back taxes.

By mid-2012, the tax bill stood at $2.27 million and in November, a federal bankruptcy judge decided to liquidate the assets of the investors. 7