Once state-of-the-art mental healthcare facilities, Kirkbride buildings have long been relics of an obsolete therapeutic method known as Moral Treatment. In the latter half of the 19th century, these massive structures were conceived as ideal sanctuaries for the mentally ill and as an active participent in their recovery. Careful attention was given to every detail of their design to promote a healthy environment and convey a sense of respectable decorum. Placed in secluded areas within expansive grounds, many of these insane asylums seemed almost palace-like from the outside. But growing populations and insufficient funding led to unfortunate conditions, spoiling their idealistic promise.

Within decades of their first conception, new treatment methods and hospital design concepts emerged and the Kirkbride plan was eventually discarded. Many existing Kirkbride buildings maintained a central place in the institutions which began within their walls, but by the end of the 20th century most had been completely abandoned or demolished. A few have managed to survive into the 21st century intact and still in use, but many that survive sit abandoned and decaying—their mysterious grandeur intensified by their derelict condition. More...

Dr. Kirkbride

Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride was a founding member of the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane (AMSAII)—forerunner of the American Psychiatric Association—serving first as secretary, then later as president. Through this association and in his writings, Kirkbride promoted a standardized method of asylum construction and mental health treatment, popularly known as the Kirkbride Plan, which significantly influenced the entire American asylum community during his lifetime. More...

Latest Blog Entries

Bryce Wing to be Demolished
07 Apr 2014 -- I had been hoping that when the University of Alabama took over the Bryce Hospital campus that they would preserve the entire Kirkbride building there. Unfortunately, they’re planning on tearing down at least one wing to make room for a new performing arts center... read more

1000 Jackson State Hospital Graves Discovered
13 Feb 2014 -- 1000 unmarked graves have been discovered on the former grounds of Jackson State Hospital in Jackson, Mississippi according to the Clarion Ledger: Discovery of Graves Affects UMMC Parking Plan. The graves belong to deceased patients of the hospital... read more

Northampton State Hospital Exhibit
12 Feb 2014 -- There’s a special exhibit focusing on Northampton State Hospital at Historic Northampton in (where else?) Northampton, Massachusetts. “Vanished: the Hospital on the Hill” will run from February 8th till March 7th and features photographs by Stan Sherer and text by J... read more

Preserve Greystone Petition
19 Oct 2013 -- Preserve Greystone has started an online petition calling for the preservation of the Greystone Kirkbride building in New Jersey. Please sign the petition to show your support for saving this historical and monumental building... read more

Danvers Archival Center on Danvers State Hospital
04 Sep 2013 -- Many years ago (more than I care to count), when I first learned about Danvers State Hospital, there weren’t really that many good web pages about it. One of those few quality pages was hosted at danverslibrary.org, the website of the Danvers Archival Center at the Peabody Institute Library... read more

Recent Updates

Prints of Kirkbride buildings are now available.

Added a Saint Elizabeths Hospital page.

Added an Harrisburg State Hospital page.

Added chapters 51-60 to Kirkbride's book.

Added a Cherokee State Hospital page.

Expanded the Weston State Hospital gallery.

Please note that in some instances these buildings are off-limits to the general public and permission must be obtained if you wish to access the property and/or take photographs.