Photographer Jon Crispin first laid eyes on the Willard Asylum for the Insane in the early 1980s.A friend who was a preservationist asked Crispin if he had ever seen the abandoned building during a drive back from a wedding by Seneca Lake in New York. Crispin remembers clearly the moment they drove up to the 1860s building.
“It was the most evocative thing I had ever seen,” Crispin recalled. “It was sitting high above Seneca Lake on a circular driveway and it was abandoned. All my life, even as a young kid I was always interested in getting into old buildings that were boarded up, or entering places where I shouldn’t have been, and I decided I wanted to photograph it.” Eventually, this interest led to Crispin being awarded a grant from The New York State Council on the Arts to spend a couple of years documenting some of the 19th-century New York State Insane Asylums.