Kirkbride Buildings Blog

Archive for June, 2008

Unhappy Souls at Avalon Danvers

Saturday, June 28th, 2008

Avalon DanversNo, I’m not talking about ghosts, it’s some Avalon Danvers residents who are apparently unhappy. I was looking around for news items about Danvers State Hospital, and came across some reviews of Avalon Danvers from current residents of the complex. Complaints range from noise and traffic problems, unresponsive management, unseemly neighbors, and “corners cut on construction”. I’m sure all you Avalon haters will enjoy reading these: (more…)

Avalon Danvers Grand Opening

Friday, June 27th, 2008

Avalon DanversToday’s Salem News has an article about last night’s grand opening ceremony at Avalon Danvers: Officials Celebrate Rebirth of Danvers State Property. Even with all the congratulations about what they did preserve, I still don’t believe Avalon cared one bit about preserving anything at Danvers State Hospital. They only did what they had to do to get their hands on the property and cram as many multi-level crap shacks as they could fit on top of Hathorne Hill.

I have to agree with Richard Trask. The Avalon Danvers development was “an historical rape of an important structure, not just to Danvers but to the United States.”

What’s in a Name

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

Northampton Insane AsylumFormer Northampton State Hospital preservation advocate Mark Roessler writes about the renaming of Hospital Hill in this Valley Advocate article: What’s in a Name?

It’s a pretty good, lengthy article that ranges from before the Northampton asylum was built to the present day, with the Kirkbride only a memory. One thing I have to comment on in particular is this statement at the head of the article: (more…)

The Top 5 Kirkbride Buildings

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

I like all Kirkbride buildings, but definitely not equally. I have my favorites. Below is a list of the five I like most. Before we get to the list though, here’s a little disclaimer: this list is based solely on aesthetics and does not mean that these are particularly good examples of Kirkbride buildings, or that these were the best hospitals in terms of treatment, recovery rates, staff, etc. Also, I’m only counting the buildings I’ve been to. There are other Kirkbrides I would have considered, but they were demolished decades ago and I don’t want to evaluate them on photographs alone.

And now, without further ado… (more…)

Kirkbride’s Book Transcription Update

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

Pennsylvania Hospital for the InsaneI have a confession to make: I still haven’t read all of Thomas Kirkbride’s book On the Construction and General Arrangement of Hospitals for the Insane. I know, it’s shameful but true. I have read a decent portion of it, but the text is just so utterly BORING. Kirkbride’s convoluted and archaic prose full of inverted sentence structures, superfluous commas, and needless repetition is bad enough, but the bulk of the content is pretty tiresome too. The lengthy discussions about fireproofing and number of “water-closets” required per ward really put me to sleep.

I somehow managed to slog through another ten chapters (51 through 60) and transcribe them for the site though. I know I said I wasn’t going to add to the transcription now that the book is available elsewhere, but I’ve changed my mind. There’s no other way I’m ever going to read the entire book, and having it available here as a resource just makes sense. (more…)

More on the ‘Lunatic Asylum’ Uproar

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

Continuing with the theme of my previous post, I thought I’d put the spotlight on a very thoughtful and fair take on the matter written by a gentleman named Don Moore.

Mr Moore comes from the side taking strong offense at use of the word “lunatic”. By looking beyond the word however, he’s found a better understanding of the Jordans’ activities and sees real value in some of the efforts they’ve made (although this doesn’t mean he agrees with everything they do). (more…)

Lunatic Asylum T-Shirts and Protest

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum T-ShirtI thought the furor over the Weston name change had died down a little, but evidently not. There’s a protest demonstration planned at the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum this weekend. Adding fuel to the fire perhaps is a new t-shirt being sold by the Jordans. The shirt (pictured above) says, “I went nuts at…” on the front, and “Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum” on the back. The “I went nuts at…” part is undeniably crass. Depending on your sense of humor and feelings about proper terminology, you might chuckle or you might be incensed. But the list of reasons for admission is the really funny part and adds something to what appears to be a simple-minded joke at first.

Okay, it’s not funny as in I’m laughing myself sick, but it definitely made me smirk and think a little. Some of the reasons are so ridiculous: dissolute habits, bad company, laziness, egotism, political excitement, deranged masturbation… Who hasn’t experienced these things? (more…)

Kirkbride Buildings and Your Health

Monday, June 9th, 2008

Asbestos Health WarningThe recent demolition of the Worcester State Hospital Kirkbride got me thinking about asbestos and other dangerous materials lingering inside old abandoned buildings. Most of you who visit these places on a regular basis know all about this issue already, but I thought I’d write some words of caution for those who aren’t aware of it. If you’re planning on visiting Kirkbrides, you should know about this.

Back when asbestos was still considered a sort of miracle substance, it was was widely used throughout buildings to prevent the spread of fire. Its natural resistance to heat made it a popular fireproofing material. It was used in shingles, cement, wall-board, floor tiles, adhesives, joint compounds, siding, and as insulation for steam pipes. Most abandoned Kirkbride buildings contain at least some of this substance, if not a lot. It’s not uncommon to see warnings attached to these buildings declaring the presence of asbestos (see above photo from Danvers State Hospital). (more…)

Only Sort of Related: Northeast Architecture

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

Northeast Architecture
Sorry for the blatant self-promotion, but I think some of you regular readers will be interested in this. I’ve started another web site along similar lines to this one, although it doesn’t have anything to do with asylums. It’s a collection of photos and history of buildings in the northeastern United States.

In studying Kirkbrides for so long, I’ve also gained appreciation for other buildings too. Even though they don’t have the same allure as the old insane asylums, other buildings can still be beautiful and intriguing. While traveling to visit Kirkbrides, I’ve come across a few other places worth taking pictures of. I wasn’t planning this new site when I took the photos though so the galleries are currently a bit uneven. But at least it’s a better starting off point than the original! (I still can’t believe I put that online. You’ve come a long way, baby…) (more…)

New Book: Spring Grove State Hospital

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

Spring Grove State HospitalThere’s a new pictorial history of Spring Grove State Hospital entitled… Spring Grove State Hospital. It’s was compiled by David Helsel, M.D. and Trevor Blank. (Dr. Helsel is the superintendent of Spring Grove Hospital Center.)

The book was published as part of the Images of America series. Images of America books are pretty consistently good quality resources for historical images and history.

I haven’t seen the book myself yet, but I’m told that several images of the Spring Grove Kirkbride building are included. If the images are anything like those on the hospital web site’s virtual tour of the old Kirkbride, I’m sure they’re worth seeing, especially in print.