Kirkbride Buildings Blog

Archive for the 'Books' Category

Even More Kirkbride Buildings

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

Missouri State Lunatic AsylumAs explained a while back in this post, it’s my goal to post pages with pictures and history of each demolished Kirkbride building that I never got a chance to visit. I’ve recently posted a few more, including Spring Grove State Hospital (Maryland), Fulton State Hospital (Missouri), Jacksonville State Hospital (Illinois), Kalamazoo State Hospital (Michigan), Winnebago State Hospital (you guessed it: Wisconsin), and Pontiac State Hospital (Michigan).

Some of the less boring facts gleaned during my research involve the asylums in Jacksonville and Fulton. At Jacksonville, in 1860 a lady named Elizabeth Packard was involuntarily committed for three years. Her husband sent her to the asylum after she began disagreeing with his religious beliefs. On her release, she separated from her husband, formed the Anti-Insane Asylum Society, and successfully petitioned the Illinois legislature to grant wives the right to a public hearing if their husbands tried to have them committed. She also wrote a few books about her asylum experience (one of which can be read online here). (more…)

Kirkbride’s Book Transcription Update

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

Pennsylvania Hospital for the InsaneI have a confession to make: I still haven’t read all of Thomas Kirkbride’s book On the Construction and General Arrangement of Hospitals for the Insane. I know, it’s shameful but true. I have read a decent portion of it, but the text is just so utterly BORING. Kirkbride’s convoluted and archaic prose full of inverted sentence structures, superfluous commas, and needless repetition is bad enough, but the bulk of the content is pretty tiresome too. The lengthy discussions about fireproofing and number of “water-closets” required per ward really put me to sleep.

I somehow managed to slog through another ten chapters (51 through 60) and transcribe them for the site though. I know I said I wasn’t going to add to the transcription now that the book is available elsewhere, but I’ve changed my mind. There’s no other way I’m ever going to read the entire book, and having it available here as a resource just makes sense. (more…)

New Book: Spring Grove State Hospital

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

Spring Grove State HospitalThere’s a new pictorial history of Spring Grove State Hospital entitled… Spring Grove State Hospital. It’s was compiled by David Helsel, M.D. and Trevor Blank. (Dr. Helsel is the superintendent of Spring Grove Hospital Center.)

The book was published as part of the Images of America series. Images of America books are pretty consistently good quality resources for historical images and history.

I haven’t seen the book myself yet, but I’m told that several images of the Spring Grove Kirkbride building are included. If the images are anything like those on the hospital web site’s virtual tour of the old Kirkbride, I’m sure they’re worth seeing, especially in print.

Saint Vincents and Sheppard Pratt

Monday, March 17th, 2008


I’ve been trying to add to the list of Kirkbride buildings and remembered a couple asylums mentioned in America’s Care of the Mentally Ill. In the book, there’s a nice bird’s eye view of an asylum called Saint Vincent’s in Saint Louis, Missouri. After a little searching I was able to find the address and confirm that it was a Kirkbride. In the aerial photo above, you can see the building still stands. It’s been converted to a residential complex called Castle Park Apartments and will probably be around for a good long time. That was a nice surprise. It’s hard to believe there aren’t any other photos of this castle-like Kirkbride online. It’s pretty impressive, if a little over the top in style. (more…)

The Architecture of Madness

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008


For those of you in New England: Carla Yanni, author of The Architecture of Madness: Insane Asylums in the United States, will be giving a lecture at the Lamar Soutter Library in Worcester, Massachusetts on March 12, 5:00PM-7:00PM. The lecture is open to the public. Dr. Yanni will also be signing her book, which is a really good read if you’re at all interested in asylum history.

The book is generously illustrated with old photos, drawings, and architectural plans. It also engagingly describes the familiar arc of the asylum system’s rise and fall, while revealing a few nuggets of data not readily available elsewhere. Most importantly though, the peculiar relationship between architecture and early mental healthcare is analyzed and presented here much more thoroughly than in most other books on asylum history. You really get a strong sense of why Dr. Kirkbride and his peers believed in the power of their buildings.

In connection with a broader overview of American asylums, Dr. Yanni also presents closer studies of the Kirkbride asylums at Trenton, New Jersey; Tuscaloosa, Alabama; Buffalo, New York; Poughkeepsie, New York; Morristown, New Jersey; and Saint Elizabeths in Washington, DC. There are also a couple of intriguing, first-hand accounts from nineteenth-century asylum patients. It’s definitely worth getting your hands on a copy.

Kirkbride Family History

Friday, January 18th, 2008

The “Kirkbride Family History” blog is a collection of excerpts from a book about…the Kirkbride family history. The book was written by Sherman Kirkbride and published in 1913. The blog hasn’t been updated in several months, but there are already some interesting facts posted. The blog author plans on posting more when she has the time. If anything pertaining to Thomas Story Kirkbride comes up I’ll link to it here, but you can also keep an eye on the blog yourself at kirkbrides.blogspot.com.

Kirkbride’s Book

Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

It’s long been my goal to transcribe the entire contents of Dr. Kirkbride’s book, On the Contruction, Organization, and General Arrangments of Hospitals for the Insane, and make it available online. I even tracked down and bought an original copy for a few hundred dollars and spent hours copying chapters into digital form so I could post them here. I got as far as chapter fifty, and then essentially gave up. I always meant to continue, but it’s questionable that I ever would have either. It was just too tedious. (more…)