Kirkbride Buildings Blog

Archive for the 'Pictures' Category

The Electric Pencil

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Drawing by the Electric PencilDrawing by the Electric PencilDrawing by the Electric PencilI’ve seen a fair amount of artwork created by state hospital patients over the years, but nothing quite like the collection of folk art attributed to the anonymous Electric Pencil. In the early years of the 20th century, the Electric Pencil was at the Nevada State Hospital where he (or she) created hundreds of pictures. For his canvas, the artist utilized unused pieces of outdated hospital ledger paper. With pencil and crayon, he would cover both sides of each sheet with people, buildings, automobiles, trains, boats, animals and landscapes. The artwork is “primitive” but remarkable for its detail, unique subtleties (note for example the people’s eyes in the portraits) and sheer volume.

Although the entire collection of 283 drawings was carefully collected and sewn into a leather album at some point, it was almost lost forever. A fourteen year old boy happened to find the album in a trash heap and rescued it from oblivion in 1970. A new book reproducing the entire collection is now available from this website: Electric Pencil Drawings.

The only disappointing thing about the collection is that it doesn’t appear to contain any renderings of the Nevada Kirkbride building. There are however several images which leave little doubt that these drawings were made at the hospital. It’s really too bad that the artist didn’t attempt to reproduce the Kirkbride on paper. I’m sure he would have created a pretty compelling likeness of the structure.

The gentleman who runs the website where I learned about all this has informed me that he may have just recently gotten in touch with one of the Electric Pencil’s relatives. I hope so. It would be good to be able to put a name and history to this body of work. Watch the website for updates on this story.

Broughton Hospital’s Kirkbride Endangered

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

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Just a few days ago the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s magazine Preservation published an article focused on Broughton State Hospital: Mind Over Matter: How Historic Asylums Are Faring. North Carolina is planning to build a new $138 million building for the hospital. A few of the older buildings will be demolished, while the Kirkbride there — also known as the Avery Building — will be left empty. Preservationists are worried that neglect of the structure will lead to its ultimate demise. I’d say their fears are well founded given the history of abandoned Kirkbrides.

Note that clicking on the photos accompanying the article takes you to larger versions. Although most of the photos aren’t of the Kirkbride, they’re still worth a peek. I particularly like the old greenhouse.

Brattleboro Retreat

Friday, June 11th, 2010

Brattleboro Retreat Main Building
I recently came into possession of a small booklet about the Brattleboro Retreat which was published in 1931. The booklet contains the hospital’s history and lots of photographs, but what I found most interesting was the drawing above. That is, of course, the Retreat’s main building which I would call a Kirkbride (albeit a small and unimpressive one). But notice that the drawing is dated 1844 — a few years before the widely accepted “first Kirkbride building” was designed and built in Trenton, New Jersey! (more…)

Richardson Complex Triage

Monday, April 19th, 2010

Queenseyes at Buffalo Rising posted about his authorized look inside the Buffalo State Hospital Kirkbride after the recent fire. From his write-up, it appears the damage was very limited and the Richardson-Olmsted Corporation is getting serious about keeping trespassers out of the building. Read the story and view photos here: Richardson Triage Slide Show.

Update: The Richardson-Olmsted Corporation just sent out this email message…

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Kirkbride Buildings in Street View

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009


A few days ago, squad546 on the Asylum Projects forum told me that Independence State Hospital is now represented in Google’s Street View. I soon after went looking for other Kirkbride buildings to see if there were any other new additions since I last checked. Below are the ones I found that you can see clearly. (more…)

Taunton Demolition Pictures

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

I haven’t been down to Taunton to see the old Kirkbride in a long time now. I wanted to pretend that the demolition going on there isn’t happening, and that the building is still standing untouched and quietly beautiful as ever. But of course I wasn’t going to be able to avoid reality forever thanks to the internet. Some photos of the demolition are available here: I Less-than-Heart Massachusetts. Although I suspect the writer’s claim to have taken the very last pictures of TSH may be a little premature, it does look like the Kirkbride is pretty close to being a memory, if it isn’t already.

Danvers State Hospital Poster

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

Danvers State Hospital Poster
The classic Danvers State Hospital posters from DanversStateInsaneAsylum.com are available for purchase again. A few days ago, the reclusive John Gray posted about them on the forum. If you can spare a twenty, I’d recommend getting a copy. It’s a fantastic image with lots of interesting detail — as you can tell from the graphic above. More information is available on this page: Danvers State Hospital Posters.

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.

Progress on Buffalo Kirkbride

Monday, September 7th, 2009

Aside from a video with some nice photos and footage of the Buffalo Kirkbride, there’s not much new in this article about the rehabilitation project there: Plans for the Richardson. It’s good to hear things are progressing, but I just mainly wanted to point out the video (it appears directly after the text of the article).

Kirkbride Prints For Sale

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

Kirkbride Building Prints for Sale
August has proven to be a pretty quiet month for Kirkbride buildings news. Hopefully those of you in the northern hemishpere are too busy getting in some summer fun to notice. So I’m taking this opportunity to quietly (but still shamelessly) announce that I’m going to try selling prints of my Kirkbride photos from the site. You can view the available photographs on the new prints page.

Prints are available in 8×10 and 11×14 sizes. I may make even larger prints available in the future. If there’s actually any interest in this, I’ll be adding more photos to choose from as time goes on. And if you’d like a particular photo on the site as a print and it isn’t yet listed on the prints page, please feel free to ask if I can make a print of it for you. I’ve chosen what I think are among the stronger pictures I’ve taken, but it’s always good to hear what people are really interested in.