Kirkbride Buildings Blog

Archive for August, 2008

Anna State Hospital

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

Anna State HospitalA few weeks ago, one Jennifer Shipp emailed me pictures of Anna State Hospital (now Choate Mental Health Center) in Anna, Illinois. I was surprised to see that there’s actually a bit of its Kirkbride building left. I thought it had been completely torn down, but I was wrong. I apologize for misleading anyone regarding the status of this Kirkbride and have dutifully updated the Kirkbride lists.

As you can see from the pictures below, two stories of the administration center and a piece of wing off either side remain. I was told a fire (one of many in this hospital’s history) destroyed the upper floors. It’s sad to see the building so diminished, with only faint hints at its former grandeur. But I guess it’s better than nothing.

Reporter’s Grandfather Was No. 3414

Monday, August 25th, 2008

As a follow up to my last post about Oregon State Hospital, I thought I’d refer you to this story about one person’s personal connection to the Library of Dust.

Grandpa Was One of 3,500 Who Didn’t Fly over the Cuckoo’s Nest

While the story itself is interesting, I also bring it up because I think it’s important to connect actual, personal stories about these places with the more abstract discussions about architecture and general history that usually go on here. A little while back the daughter of a former clinical director of Columbus State Hospital wrote to me and shared her memories of the hospital. It gave me the idea of making something more than a collection of pictures and brief factual histories, and I’ve been trying to collect more personal anecdotes and memories from other people. History is a lot more than just a series of dates and names. Unfortunately, it’s been slow going so far. But M-Explorer over at Asylum Projects has had the same idea and, although the idea hasn’t taken off yet and there are still some related issues to work out, I’m hoping that this will eventually take web sites like ours to a new level of documentation. It seems like a logical next step.

And in case you’ve somehow missed it, a great example of this kind of documentation exists on John Gray’s Danvers State Insane Asylum. His Former DSH Employee Interview is a great read. Check it out if you haven’t already.

Oregon State Hospital & The Library of Dust

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

Oregon State HospitalAs a result of the site’s 15 minutes of fame a couple weeks ago, I got a few emails about Oregon State Hospital. Each made a case for including the Oregon State Hospital “J Building” (soon to be “The Kirkbride U“) in my list of Kirkbrides. They were pretty convincing I have to say. Apparently the building was originally designed according to Kirkbride’s specifications, but when it came time to add on additional wards, real estate issues prevented the wings from being extended in the normal fashion. Instead, they were extended back at a right angle to the original building’s main axis.

After hearing the evidence from multiple sources, I’ve decided to finally consider the building a Kirkbride. I’m a little worried that adding it to the list will open the door to other variants and ugly cousins of the Kirkbride plan, but we’ll see. (Just to be clear, I don’t mean to say that OSH is ugly:) I also got a bunch of messages about other possible Kirkbride buildings not included in the list. Some people were obviously just mistaken, but a couple submitted promising candidates. I’ll keep you posted if anything interesting turns up. (more…)

Buffalo Historic Structures Report

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

Buffalo State Hospital BuildingOn Tuesday there was a public meeting concerning efforts to preserve the Buffalo State Hospital Kirkbride. At the meeting, the Richardson Center Corporation revealed their Historic Structures Report (available for download on their documents page). The report is a beautifully comprehensive collection of history and images of the hospital buildings, and you should definitely check it out.

I haven’t digested the whole report yet, but the part I find most interesting so far is the description of the hospital’s construction, development and eventual downsizing which begins on page 62. Included are maps of the hospital campus during different time periods, as well as photos of the buildings from over the years. Especially striking is an old photo from about 1880 of the unfinished Kirkbride (page 70). (more…)

Archer State Hospital?

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

If you’ve been following Danvers State Hospital news for a few years you’ll probably remember that John Archer is building a DSH inspired addition to his home. A couple weeks ago, John Gray sent me the above photo of the addition. Obviously it’s not finished yet, but it’s getting there.

Mr. Archer probably did as much (if not lots more) than anyone in the fight to preserve the Danvers Kirkbride in its entirety. And even though I have to admit I’m a little disappointed in how the addition looks, it’s great to see that he’s following through in creating this tribute to the Kirkbride. I guess I imagined something more along the lines of a direct copy of one of the Kirkbride’s wing sections, but such a large and exact reproduction would have been way too expensive I’m sure. There’s also the fact that the addition had to harmonize at least a little with Mr. Archer’s existing house. (more…)

Heidi Johnson Passes Away

Saturday, August 9th, 2008

I got an email this morning breaking the sad news that Heidi Johnson passed away this week. In case you’re unaware, Ms. Johnson was a photographer and author of Angels in the Architecture, a fantastic collection of photos and history of Traverse City State Hospital. I never met or spoke with her unfortunately, but her work documenting TCSH was an influence on me and on many other asylum photographers. I’ve always had nothing but respect for her work. In addition to being just plain beautiful, I’m sure it also played a role in the preservation of Building 50.

For some other tributes and thoughts on Ms. Johnson’s passing, please see Heidi Johnson and the Angels in the Architecture and Remembering Heidi Johnson.

Federal Landmark Status for Bryce Possible

Friday, August 8th, 2008

Bryce HospitalBryce Hospital’s chances for becoming a national historic landmark are looking much better. The University of Alabama has agreed that national landmark status won’t hinder their future plans for the hospital buildings. An application for a federal historical designation will be made, and I think it’s likely that the application will be approved. As noted here a couple weeks ago, national landmark status would do much to help the Bryce Kirkbride be preserved, so this is great news.

Someone familiar with the hospital’s history pointed out to me recently that the Kirkbride at Bryce is most likely the oldest intact Kirkbride building in existence today. In addition, Dr. Kirkbride himself stated that this particular building was the most exact embodiment of his original principles of hospital design. Those two facts alone make the building worth preserving, not to mention it’s long history as a part of Alabama and the nation.

Loose and Somewhere on the Castle Grounds…

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

Frankenfurter at Danvers State HospitalThis week, Danvers Youth Theatre will be performing The Rocky Horror Picture Show with a twist: the action takes place at Danvers State Hospital instead of Frankenfurter’s castle. You can read about it here: Local ‘Rocky Horror’ Show Brings a Danvers State Feel.

Aside from scenery backdrops and some costume modifications, it doesn’t sound like this production will deviate much from the original though. The change of setting is more a clever gimmick than a statement or exploration of the hospital’s weird mystique. Still, it’s kind of a fun and irreverent idea which is in good keeping with the story, if not particularly sensitive to DSH’s history. But I don’t think DYT needs to be criticized for that really.

Performances will take place at the Masonic Temple Danvers at on August 7th, 8th and 9th. Tickets are $10. Email for tickets and other details.

A Quick One While I’m Away

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

I’m on vacation right now, but wanted to make a quick post to keep things going. Here are a few Kirkbride-related news items from the last week or so.

Weston State HospitalSome brief memories of Weston State Hospital are given by former employee Michael Mays in this story about West Viginia’s state mental health system: Three Steps Forward, 50 Years Back. According to the article, WV’s mental health care isn’t necessarily getting better in spite of improvements, and in some cases the same mistakes are being made over and over again. Similar criticisms are often made about mental health care around the rest of the country unfortunately…

Danvers State HospitalThe Weird New Jersey guys’ latest merchandising endeavor Weird US: The Board Game features Danvers State Hospital among other locations. I guess it’s kind of cool that DSH is iconic enough to be included in a board game, but it seems kind of cheesy and not very respectful. I have to admit I haven’t actually seen the game in real life (and probably never will;), so I can’t really comment on how DSH fits in or how it’s portrayed. I’m skeptical that this is a good thing though…

Fergus Falls State HospitalLooks like there’s not much chance of a film being shot at the Fergus Falls Kirkbride after all: City Council Delays Movie Action. As one reader comments, the delay is most likely a passive-aggressive political maneuver meant to squash filmmaker Dav Kaufman’s hopes of shooting at the RTC. The Friends of the Kirkbride weigh in with a separate opinion piece, saying the film wouldn’t be a good thing: Friends: Film Jeopardizes RTC.

While I don’t put much stock in the idea that a small-time, independent thriller would permanently damage the former state hospital’s reputation, it’s true that the movie might not add much in the way of positives and that national exposure would be limited. I think it would’ve been great however to have the Kirkbride featured in a movie, even if it only turned out to be an underground favorite. I guess that’s not a good enough reason to give Kaufman the green light, but I don’t believe the opposing argument is a good enough reason to refuse him either.

BTW: I recommend reading the comments accompanying both Fergus Falls pieces above. Some of them are better than the actual articles, and the back and forth can be pretty funny sometimes. It’s good to see that a lot of Fergus Falls residents care enough to comment.