Restoration of "The Castle" Coming

By Haley Burton

September 24, 2012 Updated Sep 24, 2012 at 6:21 PM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) The restoration and transformation of a Binghamton landmark takes a big step forward.

An architect has been chosen to start Phase One of a project to turn the vacant "Castle" into a medical school campus for SUNY Upstate Medical University.

Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo made the announcement on Monday at the State Office Building in Binghamton. She was joined by Dr. David Smith, SUNY Upstate Medical University President, Jack Waite of John G. Waite Associates, Architects of Albany and Roger Luther, President of PAST.

The former New York State Inebriate Asylum will be obtained by SUNY Upstate Medical University and turned into a medical and health professional education center. It will have clinical and classroom space.

The building was built in 1858 and is located on the grounds of the Greater Binghamton Health Center on Robinson Street.

SUNY Upstate Medical University announced plans in 2008 to re-purpose the building. Phase one of the restoration, which includes all of the exterior work, was funded in the 2008-2009 fiscal year of the state SUNY Capitol budget for $12 million dollars.

Governor Andrew Cuomo released the funding for Phase One this summer at the request of Assemblywoman Lupardo and SUNY Upstate Medical University officials.

"For the last four years, I have gone out of my way to emphasize the importance not only of the historic preservation but the need for health care professionals," said Donna Lupardo (D), NYS 126th Assembly.

John G. Waite Associates, Architects of Albany will be completing Phase One of the project.

"The whole exterior of the building is going to be cleaned, re-pointed, the windows are going to be repaired so they meet 21st century energy standards. The roof is going to be repaired. Even hopefully the turrets will be put back," said Jack Waite, John G. Waite Associates, Architects.

Waite says by September 2013, the work will be in full swing. The firm provided an assessment of the building in 2008. It has restored many historic properties across the United States. Other projects include the Tweed Courthouse in New York City, State University Plaza and the New York State Assembly Chamber in Albany and the City Hall in Kingston.

"This is a great day for the Castle. A great day for historic preservation and a great day for the Binghamton community," said Roger Luther, President of the Preservation Association of the Southern Tier.

Dr. Smith says SUNY Upstate Medical University hopes to be providing services in within "the Castle" within three years.

"We want New Yorkers taking care of New Yorkers and that is precisely what this facility is going to enable us to do. It is the right time because we're in the middle of the Affordable Care Act and its relevance is even more important than it was 4 years ago because now we're going to have more access, more need, an aging population and we don't have enough doctors in the region," said Dr. David Smith, President of SUNY Upstate Medical University.

Upstate's Binghamton campus was established as a branch campus of the College of Medicine in 1976. Smith says at one time, there are around 100 medical students in Binghamton.

One of the goals of SUNY Upstate Medical University, once they move in to the Castle, is to increase the number of medical students on the Binghamton University campus.

"It's exciting to hear about the future of students coming out of Binghamton to train for Rural Medicine in New York," said Dan Harris, SUNY Upstate Medical Student from Wellsboro.

"The facilities that they are planning on expanding down here is a great asset for the school and the students educating down here," said Andy Bachman, SUNY Upstate Medical Student from Glens Falls.

Other goals of the University include expanding its Physician Assistant program and adding residency options for students commuting between Syracuse and Binghamton.

The New York State Inebriate Asylum was the first place in the country to treat alcoholism as a disease. It later went on to become the Binghamton State Hospital and Binghamton Psychiatric Center.

Lupardo says "the Castle" was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1996. It was named a National Historic Landmark the following year.