Kirkbride Buildings Blog

Archive for September, 2008

The City on the Hill

Monday, September 29th, 2008

Harrisburg State Hospital
There’s a new web site dedicated to Harrisburg State Hospital: The City on the Hill. It’s the work of Phil Thomas (otherwise known as thomasp94 on the forum) who has diligently compiled old pictures, his own photographs, and lots of historical facts to create the site. It includes a healthy portion of information about the Kirkbride building there (which was demolished a long time ago).

It’s worth taking a look, especially for the Kirkbride gallery which includes blueprints, maps, and old photos from inside the Kirkbride. Strangely, Phil has found more photos of the interior than the exterior.

The Lost Kirkbrides: Central State Hospital

Friday, September 26th, 2008

Central State Hospital
Once again, Asylum Projects forum member Squad546 has discovered a Kirkbride building that I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere before (including here:\). While scanning Sanborn Maps from around the country, Squad came across this example of everybody’s favorite kind of asylum building at Central State Hospital in Petersburg, Virginia…

Originally known as the Central Lunatic Asylum, the hospital was founded in 1869, although it moved to its present location in Petersburg in 1885. That’s where the Kirkbride was built. It appears to have been demolished as I haven’t been able to find any trace of it in aerial photographs. The only possible image of the Kirkbride that I’ve been able to find online is on the Historic Asylums’ Central State Hospital page (direct link to image).

There’s a pretty thorough history of the institution on the University of Virginia Library web site. It’s kind of interesting that the hospital was originally created for the treatment of African-American patients only. While segregated mental hospitals weren’t a novelty in the past, this is the only one I know of that had a Kirkbride building.

Wildwood Cemetery Restoration

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

Terrell State Hospital

I happened across another story about a graveyard restoration today. This time it’s for Wildwood Cemetery which belongs to Terrell State Hospital: Restoring Dignity to Wildwood Cemetery. Restoration has been ongoing since about 1997. Volunteers have cleaned up the grounds and replaced the numbered headstones with markers bearing the patients’ names. In addition, a decorative fence is being erected around the graveyard.

The volunteer Wildwood Cemetery Association is accepting donations for the project. Information on making a contribution can be found at the end of the article or on the association’s web site (click on “Contribute – Wildwood Cemetery” in the left hand link list).

Unfortunately, I’m not very familiar with Terrell State Hospital, although I do know that the Kirkbride there is long gone. You can see more pictures of the building and learn a bit more of it’s history at the Kaufman County TXGenWeb Project Site.

The Kingston Lounge Presents: Buffalo State Hospital

Friday, September 19th, 2008

Buffalo State Hospital
Yesterday, Richard Nickel, Jr. over at The Kingston Lounge posted about the Buffalo State Hospital Kirkbride. Along with a nice write-up about the building, he included some first-rate photos of the Kirkbride’s interior, something my own site is still sorely lacking:(

It’s worth checking out, and you can do so here: BSH – The H. H. Richardson Complex.

Warren State Hospital Cemetery Restored

Thursday, September 18th, 2008

Warren State Hospital
The 954 grave cemetery at Warren State Hospital has been the subject of a restoration. Like many state hospital cemeteries, this one was overgrown and neglected until a restoration committee formed at the hospital in 2006. Employees and volunteers are just about finished with the painstaking task of identifying the deceased patients and giving each one a headstone with their name on it.

There will be a public rededication ceremony at 10:30AM on Friday, September 26. More information can be found here: Silent Witnesses

Famous Kirkbride Building Residents

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

Famous Kirkbride Buildings Residents
Rummaging around online as I do all too often, I’ve come across a few famous names in connection with different Kirkbride hospitals—as patients I mean. I thought it would be interesting to start a list of them. Not only will it shed a little light on their personal stories, but it also shows mental illness doesn’t necessarily prevent one from being brilliant and/or functional. It also helps humanize the mostly anonymous group often referred to simply as “patients”. (more…)

Worcester State Hospital Scrapbook

Saturday, September 13th, 2008

Worcester State HospitalForum member Swansod made a post today about a small treasure trove of newspaper clippings he found while researching Worcester State Hospital. The clippings are from the 1930s, ’60s and ’90s. You can see reproductions on Swansod’s Zenfolio pages: WSH Related. (Hint: click on a thumbnail, then hover your mouse cursor over the larger version to get the download link. Download the file for a more legible version.)

Some high points from the articles include a map identifying each part of the Kirkbride (pictured above), mention of some films made by superintendent Dr William Bryan (which I’m trying to find more about), descriptions of various renovations over the years, LSD experiments, pictures of the hospital’s operating room, and information about the first phase of demolition which happened shortly after the Kirkbride fire in 1991.

Tour Sign-Ups Exceed Expectations

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008


Image courtesy of the Oregon State Library

The upcoming tour of Oregon State Hospital’s historic J-Building has turned out to be more popular than it’s organizers anticipated: State Hospital Public Tour a Hot Ticket. 210 people have already signed up for the tour and a number of registrants had to be placed on a waiting list. If enough people continue to sign up, the state’s Department of Human Services will consider holding another tour. (more…)

The Meteor – Bryce Hospital Newspaper

Monday, September 8th, 2008

The Meteor - Alabama Insane Hospital, Tuskaloosa

Our little paper, gotten up for the benefit of the patients of the Alabama Insane Hospital and to give the patrons of the institution an insight into some details of its practical operations, is printed on quarto Novelty Press, without expense to the State—the whole labor of type-setting and putting to press being performed by the patients, or by employees of the Hospital in intervals of leisure from their regular duties…

That’s how The Meteor—a newspaper written and published by Bryce Hospital’s patients—describes itself in its inaugural issue published in 1872. The Alabama Department of Archives and History has put eleven issues of The Meteor online in PDF format (note that at the time of this writing the link for the second issue isn’t working). While not quite the juicy rag you might hope for, the paper’s articles do offer some glimpses of life at the hospital as well as into the minds of the patients.

My favorite part is from the very first issue where one patient compares Alabama’s hospital for the insane with its neighbor the state university by saying, “The inmates of the University come to acquire ideas. We to get rid of them.” (more…)

Saint Peter State Hospital: Still Standing

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

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Continuing a theme from my last post, I have it from a good authority that the Kirkbride building in Saint Peter, Minnesota is still partially standing. I had it down in the demolished column, but it turns out I was wrong once again! I’ve updated the list of Kirkbride buildings accordingly. Sorry about that…

The administration center is what remains. The wings were torn down in the 1960s and 70s. I haven’t seen it for myself yet (obviously), but I’m told there’s a museum there which can be visited by appointment. The hospital itself is still active, so I recommend making that appointment before going to take a look. Call 507-931-7182 for more information. (more…)