Kirkbride Buildings Blog

Archive for February, 2008

Kirkbrides in American Memory

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

Mount Pleasant State Hospital
A while ago I came across some photos of Taunton State Hospital on the Library of Congress’ American Memory web site. They’re part of a collection of photos put together by the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) to document achievements in architecture, engineering, and design in the United States. Of course I immediately searched for images of other asylums, but didn’t find much of interest in terms of Kirkbrides (except for these photos of Buffalo State Hospital). A few days ago I had a few hours to kill and discovered that there were actually lots of photos of other Kirkbride buildings in the collection. Here’s what I found: (more…)

Saint Elizabeths Article

Monday, February 25th, 2008

I can’t tell how old it is, but this article on the history of Saint Elizabeths on the National Museum of Civil War Medicine site is worth a look. Some of the info is pretty familiar, but this lithograph of the rear of the Kirkbride is something I’ve never seen before—and not a bad piece of work either.

It’s funny how almost every Kirkbride building has been drawn, painted, and photographed over its entire lifecycle, and that the photography done now is just a continuation of that historical record.

The Architecture of Madness

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008


For those of you in New England: Carla Yanni, author of The Architecture of Madness: Insane Asylums in the United States, will be giving a lecture at the Lamar Soutter Library in Worcester, Massachusetts on March 12, 5:00PM-7:00PM. The lecture is open to the public. Dr. Yanni will also be signing her book, which is a really good read if you’re at all interested in asylum history.

The book is generously illustrated with old photos, drawings, and architectural plans. It also engagingly describes the familiar arc of the asylum system’s rise and fall, while revealing a few nuggets of data not readily available elsewhere. Most importantly though, the peculiar relationship between architecture and early mental healthcare is analyzed and presented here much more thoroughly than in most other books on asylum history. You really get a strong sense of why Dr. Kirkbride and his peers believed in the power of their buildings.

In connection with a broader overview of American asylums, Dr. Yanni also presents closer studies of the Kirkbride asylums at Trenton, New Jersey; Tuscaloosa, Alabama; Buffalo, New York; Poughkeepsie, New York; Morristown, New Jersey; and Saint Elizabeths in Washington, DC. There are also a couple of intriguing, first-hand accounts from nineteenth-century asylum patients. It’s definitely worth getting your hands on a copy.

Athens In Peril?

Monday, February 18th, 2008

Athens Lunatic Asylum
The asylum in Athens, Ohio is the subject of an article published today on The Athens News web site: The Ridges: Echoes of History. Writer Jenaye Antonuccio describes the asylum’s history and its relationship with the city. Also available on Jenaye’s blog is an un-edited version of the article: Glimpses of Home – The Shape of Lunacy.

In related news, rumors have been circulating recently that some buildings, or parts of buildings, on The Ridges may be torn down due to severe deterioration. Even if these rumors are based on fact, I’m pretty hopeful that no part of the Kirkbride is in jeopardy, but time will tell. I will of course post more about that if anything comes to light.

Opposing Viewpoints: The Demolition of Old Main

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

Old Main Demolition
The demolition of Old Main is discussed with both Jack Hornor (Citizens Advisory Committee member) and Mark Roessler (Save Old Main preservation advocate) in the podcast available here:

Roessler Meets Hornor on Hospital Hill

This audio was originally broadcast on WXOJ, Northampton.

Richardson Complex Update

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

State Lunatic Asylum, Buffalo, NY
For those of you in the Buffalo, New York area, there’s going to be a public meeting regarding the Richardson Olmstead Complex on Wednesday, April 16th. The meeting will be at 6PM at the Buffalo and Eerie County Historical Society, 25 Nottingham Court, in Buffalo. That’s about two months away, but mark your calendars… (more…)

Clarinda State Hospital

Monday, February 11th, 2008

Clarinda State Hospital
There’s finally a page for Clarinda State Hospital. I visited the place back in 2004…

2004… the days when I absolutely, positively NEEDED a camera that fit in my pocket. The days before I knew what a tripod was for, or had ever heard of things like bracketing. What I’m trying to say that most of the pictures are a bit iffy. Still, there are plenty of other pictures on this site from the same time period, and these Clarinda shots are the best from my Iowa excursion. Looking at some of them though I just can’t help feeling disappointed. Why didn’t I step back a few feet here? Why didn’t I turn two degrees to the right there? How did my @#%*! finger get in front of the lens? (more…)

Saint Elizabeths in the News

Wednesday, February 6th, 2008

The abandoned west campus at Saint Elizabeths is in the news again: Chertoff Revives Bid for New CG HQ, and GSA Seeks Funding Boost for DHS Headquarters Project.

Nothing too exciting, but it gives me an excuse to mention an article I came across recently: What’s Inside Box No. 1997.0015 OHA 293.23? It’s a little old, but if you haven’t read it, it’s worth taking a look at—especially for this amazing slideshow.

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday! Kirkbride Muuuud Boggin’!

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

Kirkbride Muuuuud Boggin'!

I thought this article looked funny: Owners Want Mud Bog at Weston Hospital.

To be fair, it sounds like the mud bog would be a good distance from the historic buildings, so it’s not as weird as it sounds. I just can’t get the picture of monster trucks spewing mud and crushing cars on the Kirkbride front lawn out of my head though…

Inside Avalon Danvers

Monday, February 4th, 2008

Avalon Danvers
My wife and I recently looked at an apartment in what used to be the Danvers Kirkbride. We originally thought we were going to be looking at a condo, but it turns out Avalon only rents the Kirkbride living spaces.

We were shown a model apartment on the first floor of the admin. It was actually reasonably nice for an apartment. The rooms were bright (because of those big Kirkbride windows). The kitchen had the essential granite counter tops, and a seemingly impossible amount of cabinet space. There were also two huge bathrooms you could dance the Tango in. While not exceptional, the construction didn’t seem particularly cheap either. We were told the apartments in what’s left of the Kirkbride are of a higher quality than the ones in the new buildings. (more, including interior photos…)