Kirkbride Buildings Blog

Archive for October, 2008

Northampton Memorial Setbacks

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

Northampton State Hospital
An article in the Valley Advocate describes multiple problems with the creation of a Northampton State Hospital memorial: The Theft of Memory. As the article’s subtitle says, “In spite of contractual and moral obligation, there may be no memorial to the mentally ill on the prime land that was their legacy from the state.”

While I can almost understand (but definitely not agree with) the desire to demolish an old asylum, it seems unconscionable to me to destroy such a place and then willfully, or even unintentionally, make it difficult for a fitting memorial to be created. This also reminds me that the memorial at Avalon Danvers hasn’t been completed either. I guess developers here in Massachusetts either 1) really are afraid that any hint of a psych hospital connection will scare away prospective customers (as if people are too clueless to discover the connection without a memorial), or 2) are just too stingy to spend a tiny fraction of their budget on a memorial, even when they’re obligated to by contract. Even if those two possibilities are false, we’re still left with the fact that the memorials are obviously the last thing on the developers’ minds and will probably end up being hastily tossed together displays not worthy of being called memorials. It’s a sad final chapter in the story of these old asylums.

OSH J Building Tours Popular but Finished

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

The recent tours of Oregon State Hospital’s J Building proved to be very popular. However, the Statesman Journal reports that there won’t be any more of them because of demands on staff and upcoming asbestos abatement. You can read their article on the subject here: Popularity of J Building Tours Isn’t Enough to Continue Them. Make sure to check out the video tour. There’s a 10+ minute version in the upper left right (ah, duhhh…), and an unedited 48 minute version at the end of the article (which I’ll also include here to save you a click). It’s pretty interesting, especially if you’re a fan of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. (more…)

Google Maps Tears Down DSH!!!

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

Of course they didn’t really tear it down, but Google Maps did replace the old aerial photograph of Danvers State Hospital (which included the full Kirkbride in all its glory) with a more recent photo showing a half built Avalon Danvers. It was always something of a comfort that even though Danvers was gone, Google Maps still had an image of the untouched Kirkbride up. Now they’ve updated and the illusion is gone.

Microsoft’s “bird’s eye view” of the former DSH campus still shows the full Kirkbride. But you’d better see it while you can. I’m sure it won’t be around for too much longer either. There’ll always be Historic Aerials of course, but somehow it’s not the same.

On the Set of Session 9

Monday, October 27th, 2008

Looking around on Flickr this weekend I came across this photo set: Danvers State Hospital & Session 9. The pictures were taken by Russ Fischer who apparently did some work on the set of Session 9, snapping away whenever he had a spare second or two. It’s always great to find photos from before there were boards on all the windows and you could see without a flashlight or camera flash. My favorite photos from the set are this one, this one, and this one.

And by the way, if you haven’t seen Session 9 yet, I highly recommend it. It’s a thriller about an asbestos abatement crew given the job of cleaning up DSH and what happens to them as they uncover the hospital’s secrets (as well as some of their own). It may not be the best movie you’ll ever see, but it’s good and it has some amazing footage of the Danvers State Hospital Kirkbride. And October would be a great time to watch it… Documents

Friday, October 24th, 2008

While doing a little digging around on this evening I found a few Kirkbride- and asylum-related documents. First are two books about the Kirkbride family: A Brief History of the Kirkbride Family and Domestic Portraiture of Our Ancestors: Kirkbride. While they don’t tell us much about the good Doctor, both contain some interesting information about the Kirkbride family’s history.

There’s also a copy of On the Construction, Organization, and General Arrangements of Hospitals for the Insane available at If you use the ‘Flip Book’ feature, it’s much easier to read than with the clunky interface at Google Books. (more…)

Athens State Alligator

Friday, October 17th, 2008

View of Athens State Hospital
I came across some nice documentation of Athens State Hospital which was made available online by Ohio University’s library. Most impressive is Katherine Ziff’s lengthy dissertation Asylum & Community, and this collection of old images. I was especially pleased to see the alligator in the fountain. Till now I STILL didn’t quite believe that an alligator really lived there, even though several sources said so. The story just screamed urban legend to me.

But now I know the truth and I can finally sleep through the night—no more waking up at 2AM wondering “Did an alligator REALLY live in the fountain at Athens? It CAN’T be true…Can it?”

A somewhat related item is an online comic about the infamous stain inside the Athens Kirkbride. Darkhorse Comics recently added it to their MySpace profile. It’s a little on the spooky side, but it’s October, so I’ll play along:) It is kind of cool to see a Kirkbride drawn like that too. There should be more Kirkbride buildings in comics I think. (more…)

Buffalo’s Future Unveiled

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

The Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, Architecture & Culture will be revealing its proposal for the Buffalo State Hospital Kirkbride restoration tonight (10/16). The presentation will take place at 7:00PM in St. John’s Church on Colonial Circle. The public is encouraged to attend. There probably won’t be any earth-shattering revelations during this presentation, but at least it indicates things are moving forward. If anyone in the Buffalo area attends, please let us in on the details.

Richardson – Olmstead ’08!

Monday, October 13th, 2008

Buffalo State Hospital Snow GlobeVote now! No, not for the next president, but for the subject of the next Buffalo-building-themed snow globe! According to Buffalo Rising, last year Avalon Scarves and The Floristry (both of Buffalo, New York) created a snow globe featuring Buffalo’s City Hall. Now they’re asking the public to choose which iconic Buffalo structure should be featured in this year’s globe. They’ve posted an online poll where you can vote, and the Richardson Complex is one of the options! Vote here.

Scariest Place on Earth: Dixmont

Friday, October 10th, 2008

Dixmont State Hospital
I’m usually skeptical about the paranormal and don’t like the associations often made between ghosts and asylums. But I do like being scared and I willingly set aside my skepticism around this time every year. I’m not sure how I feel about Scariest Places on Earth though. The episodes I’ve seen were far too overdone and just downright silly. That said, Dixmont State Hospital will be featured on a special airing of Scariest Places on Earth this month. The program will be shown October 28th at 10PM on ABC Family as part of their 13 Nights of Halloween. I’ve never seen this particular episode, so I can’t really say I recommend it. It’s probably worth catching just to see the Kirkbride building though.

Topeka Center Building in Danger

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

Topeka State Hospital
The future of the historic Center Building in Topeka, Kansas isn’t looking so good. This last remnant of the Topeka State Hospital Kirkbride is in danger of being torn down. The Topeka Unified School District is considering the purchase of the former state hospital grounds on which the building stands. If they do buy the property, many of the abandoned buildings on the property will be demolished, and the Kirkbride admin will very likely be among their number. While I’ve heard that this structure’s future hasn’t looked particularly hopeful even before now, I think this is the first indication of any real plans to knock it down.