On the central western shore of Lake Winnebago, just a few miles north of Oshkosh, a promontory extends into the water. On this point in 1871, construction began on the Northern Asylum for the Insane. The name of the institute was later changed to Winnebago Mental Health Institute, reflecting perhaps an increasingly sensitive public, but the hospital’s original name has been forever connected with the surrounding geography. The promontory is still known as Asylum Point, and the surrounding water is called Asylum Bay.
The word Asylum means a place of refuge or sanctuary, and the institute “has throughout its history, provided many troubled individuals with a sanctuary, a refuge, and a safe place to prepare for re-entry into a turbulent world.” The same statement of purpose might just as well be applied to the nearby Asylum Point Park, as many people come to the park to take refuge from a turbulent world and spend a carefree afternoon fishing in the tranquil waters or simply relaxing on the man-made island next to Asylum Point Lighthouse.
The lighthouse, reportedly the result of a 1937 project of the Works Progress Administration, was rejected by the Department of Transportation as a navigational light for the lake and was thus never lit. In 2007, the lighthouse received a $4,000 makeover with labor provided by inmates from the Winnebago Correctional Institute. Parts of the wooden lantern room were replaced, windows were refitted, and the metal roof was rebuilt.