Kirkbride Buildings Blog

Archive for December, 2008

Year in Review

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

Ahh, the end of the year: a time when bloggers can kick back, relax, and rehash what they’ve written about all year without looking like a lazy bum. Sweet. So in case you missed them, here’s a list of probably the most significant Kirkbride-related events the past 12 months has seen. Happy New Year everybody.

1) Avalon Danvers had it’s official grand opening.

2) What was left of Worcester State Hospital’s remaining wing was torn down.

3) Repairs began on the Buffalo State Hospital Kirkbride building.

4) Weston State Hospital was re-rechristened The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum which began a wave of controversy. The Jordans also appear to have had a pretty successful year raising funds for preservation through tours and other activities.

5) The Kirkbride building at Greystone Park was finally abandoned (completely). While there were indications the building would be put up for auction, recent events have cast doubts on that possibility. More on that later…

6) Representatives from China visited Fergus Falls to consider reusing the former RTC as a college campus. Not surprisingly, it appears that possibility is still up in the air.

7) Part of the original building at Oregon State Hospital was saved from destruction and will be preserved.

8) And saddest of all, respected Traverse City State Hospital documenter Heidi Johnson passed away.

Demolition at Taunton State Hospital?

Friday, December 26th, 2008

Taunton Asylum
The other day I came across this fiscal year 2009 resource summary for the Massachusetts Office of Health & Human Services. I wanted to save the bad news for after Christmas… One of the items in their budget is “Demolition at Taunton State Hospital.” It has an allocation of 1.3 million dollars. The full description reads, “This funds the demolition of buildings damaged by fire in 2007. The fire damaged buildings are close to or contiguous to an operating DYS facility and represent a severe safety hazard.”

Looks like plans are being made to knock down what’s left of the Taunton Kirkbride soon. The eventual demolition of the Kirkbride has been pretty much a given since the fire, but I think this is the first definite sign that it’s going to happen in the not too distant future. It’ll certainly be a sad day when that building comes down. It really had a unique and understated beauty that I haven’t seen at any other Kirkbrides. I expect most people who’ve seen the building would agree. It’s also a special building to me personally because it was the first Kirkbride I ever saw the inside of.

On a brighter note, the resource summary also allocates $140,000 to fund “a study to preserve the vacant historic Worcester State Hospital Clock Tower building.”

Happy Birthday, Kirkbride Buildings Blog!

Friday, December 19th, 2008

Happy Birthday Kirkbride Buildings Blog
Happy Birthday, Blog! Here’s a poorly drawn cake for you! Yes, amazingly, it’s been a whole year since I started writing here on a regular basis. The first post was on December 19th, 2007. Even though I half expected to run out of ideas and news to report after a month or so, we’ve somehow made it through an entire year without any major lapses in post frequency. I know I’ve been bad about posting lately, but hopefully that will end after the holidays.

There are now over 130 posts and over 280 comments collected here. I think that’s added a lot of information to the site and has also contibuted to the growth of traffic. Kirkbride Buildings has seen more action in the past year than it did in any of the previous six or so years it’s been online. Thank you all for reading and especially for commenting. It’s always nice to get a little feedback and it helps keep me motivated to continue. That said, I can’t promise this will last another year, but I hope it will.

Asylum: A Mid-Century Madhouse

Monday, December 15th, 2008

Last week I picked up a copy of Dr. Enoch Callaway’s Asylum: A Mid-Century Madhouse and Its Lessons about Our Mentally Ill Today. In case you’re not aware: Dr. Callaway was a psychiatrist at Worcester State Hospital in the late 1940s and Asylum is a memoir of his time there. I have to say it’s a great read. Each memory is told with intelligence and wit in one short chapter which you can usually breeze through in about two or three minutes. In spite of their brevity, these concise vignettes provide remarkably insightful illustrations of the hidden world of Worcester State Hospital in the mid-twentieth century.

If you’re looking for pictures, Asylum doesn’t have a whole lot unfortunately. The ones it does have are pretty common (except for one medical staff group shot on the hospital lawn). There isn’t much in the way of in-depth descriptions of the Kirkbride either. Dr. Callaway focuses much more on events and people than on architecture. But the Kirkbride building is where most of the story takes place and it gets plenty of references. You can tell Dr. Callaway has a lot of affection for the old building and a sadness over it’s demise—as well as the hospital’s general decline. (more…)

Kirkbride Disasters

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

I found a web site that compiles information about historical disasters: GenDisasters.com. It has quite a few entries describing catastrophes that affected Kirkbride asylums. There’s nothing really amazing here, but it’s a good resource for anyone researching the history of a particular hospital. There are a couple good pictures included to boot (like this one of the Kirkbride in Danville, PA).

The entries I’ve found so far include: (more…)