Kirkbride Buildings Blog

Archive for the 'Books' Category

New Book About Northampton State Hospital

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

Northampton State Hospital

I’m a little behind on this, sorry, but there’s a new book out about Northampton State Hospital. Co-authored by Anna Schuleit and J. Michael Moore, Northampton State Hospital is part of Arcadia Publishing’s popular Images of America series and contains 128 pages full of historic images of the hospital—including many of its beautiful Kirkbride building. You can read a bit about the book’s backstory in this article: Northampton State Hospital’s History Shared in Images.

Abandoned Asylums of New England

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Abandoned Asylums of New England

John Gray is publishing a new edition of his Abandoned Asylums of New England photography book. The original version was self-published and came out a little over ten years ago. This new hardcover version is 220 pages and includes lots more high-quality photos in both black and white and color. It’s being published in connection with the Museum of disABILITY History who provides the text. From the publisher:

“Abandoned Asylums of New England offers the work of photographer John Gray, who has captured the final throes of the once majestic monuments of medical treatment. This photographic journey into the world of urban exploration documents the state of some of New England’s storied temples of control, treatment, and rehabilitation of individuals with disabling conditions. The Museum of disABILITY History provides a historical context for these asylums that heightens the degree of entropy into which these feats of architectural grandeur have fallen. From the gigantic Kirkbride campuses to the airy tuberculosis hospitals, Gray’s photography reveals through its compositions the poignant echoes of the lives lived, and sometimes lost, at these disappearing asylums.”

Abandoned Asylums of New England should eventually be available for purchase on the museum’s website, but to order a copy right now, you have to send an email to And to keep up-to-date with news about the book, like the Abandoned Asylums of New England Facebook page.

Asylum on the Hill – New Book on Athens State Hospital

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Athens State Hospital
There’s a new book about Athens State Hospital coming out. On Friday, March 30th from 5:00-7:00PM Ohio University Press is hosting a free public event at The Kennedy Museum of Art to celebrate the release of Asylum on the Hill by Katherine Ziff. (In case you didn’t know, the museum is located in the former Athens State Hospital Kirkbride building in the neighborhood now known as The Ridges.) Read more about it here: Ohio University Press Event Celebrates New Book on Athens Asylum

Some special points of interest about the event mentioned in the article:

“Items relating to the former mental institution will be featured in displays arranged by Ohio University’s Mahn Center for Archives and Special Collections and the Athens County Historical Society. There will also be a self-guided tour of The Ridges from 3-5 p.m. in which visitors may look inside some of the institution’s buildings while learning about their current use. Tourists will be able to obtain a new map of The Ridges produced by Ohio University Press that complements “Asylum on the Hill.” Copies of both the map (free) and “Asylum on the Hill” ($35) will be available at The Kennedy Museum of Art and Ohio University Press, also located at The Ridges.”

Learn more about and purchase the book here: Asylum on the Hill: History of a Healing Landscape

I haven’t yet read the book myself, but it sounds very promising. I’m sure anyone with interest in old asylums will find it worth checking out. Katherine Ziff, by the way, is the author of the dissertation Asylum and Community: Connections between the Athens Lunatic Asylum and the Village of Athens 1867-1893 which I mentioned in an old post about the Athens State Hospital alligator. Check out her blog about asylums: Asylum Notes

The Electric Pencil’s Identity Revealed

Monday, May 9th, 2011

I thought it worth noting that a reader recently commented on my previous post about the Electric Pencil and provided a link to an article revealing the artist’s identity: Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. The piece also mentions that there will be a second edition of the Electric Pencil book.

Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals
Chris Payne’s upcoming book Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals is available for pre-purchase on Amazon. In case you don’t know, Chris Payne has been taking fantastic photographs of state hospitals for many years now. Although we’ve never met in person, our paths have crossed a few times as we both travelled around the country visiting many of the same psychiatric hospitals. Mr. Payne, however, has visited more hospitals and taken more photos than I have—better quality photos too. I haven’t seen a copy yet, but I’m certain this book will be worth purchasing if you have any interest in asylums and asylum architecture. I’ll write more about it after I get a copy to look through. That will probably be some time in early October.

Behind the Walls – Shadows of New England’s Asylums

Friday, May 1st, 2009

Behind the Walls - Shadows of New England's Asylums book cover
There’s a new book out by photographer Katherine Anderson featuring photographs of several former New England asylums, including the Kirkbide buildings in Danvers, Worcester, and Northampton, Massachusetts. In addition to the pictures, the book also contains an extensive history of mental illness and asylums as well as “feeble-mindedness” and the state school system. The book is called Behind the Walls – Shadows of New England’s Asylums and you can preview (and purchase) it here: Behind the Walls.

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…) 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…)

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…)

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.