Kirkbride Buildings Blog

Archive for December 15th, 2008

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…)