Kirkbride Buildings Blog

February 28th, 2008

Kirkbrides in American Memory

Mount Pleasant State Hospital
A while ago I came across some photos of Taunton State Hospital on the Library of Congress’ American Memory web site. They’re part of a collection of photos put together by the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) to document achievements in architecture, engineering, and design in the United States. Of course I immediately searched for images of other asylums, but didn’t find much of interest in terms of Kirkbrides (except for these photos of Buffalo State Hospital). A few days ago I had a few hours to kill and discovered that there were actually lots of photos of other Kirkbride buildings in the collection. Here’s what I found:

Cherokee State Hospital
5 photos & 2 drawings

Clarinda State Hospital
5 photos & 3 drawings

Independence State Hospital
2 photos & 2 drawings

Kalamazoo State Hospital
6 photosI’ve seen these before on somebody else’s web site, but didn’t realize they were from this collection.

Mount Pleasant State Hospital
4 photos & 2 drawingsI’ve personally never come across an image of Mount Pleasant that proves it was a Kirkbride, but these definitely do that. And this shot of the “Rotunda and Stairway” is pretty drool worthy. It looks like there’s another photo above it of a vestibule. I don’t know why that wasn’t included. Makes you wonder how many more images there are in this collection…

That’s it for HABS, but there are more images from other sources. Here are a few highlights:

Buffalo State Hospital
An old image I’ve used elsewhere…

Columbus State Hospital
A panoramic shot that was used on a postcard

Kankakee State Hospital
Entrance to the asylum & Main building

Saint Elizabeths
2 maps

There are a few other photos of Kirkbride buildings, but I’m not going to include them all. It’s too hard to find some of them again for some reason. Don’t worry though, you’re not missing much. For instance, there are a couple photos showing Worcester State Hospital in the distance, but the quality is so poor they really aren’t worth looking at.

Kalamazoo Polka BrillianteI did manage to download one of the more interesting ones when I first found it (see left). It’s the front cover to sheet music for the “Kalamazoo Polka Brillante” which was inscribed to the composer’s friend: Dr. E. H. Van Deusen, superintendent of the Kalamazoo asylum. You can click on the picture at left for a larger view of the cover which has a drawing of one of the Kalamazoo Kirkbrides on it.

I can’t help but wonder what the polka sounds like. Too bad they didn’t include the notation with the cover…

What’s a real bonus about these images is that high-res versions are usually provided for download. Look below or above the images for the high-res link. Be careful though, the rights to some of these may prohibit using them online without permission. Make sure to check out the copyright info before using them anywhere. (I’m sure at least a few of you are thinking about it:)

« Blog Home Page


  1. Kerby February 29, 2008, 10:08 pm

    I love it – this blog entry rocks… the pics of Clarinda, Cherokee, Independence, and Mt. Pleasant Kirkbrides ROCK!! Thanks for posting this link, very imformative!!

  2. Gene Schmidt March 4, 2008, 11:19 am

    You don’t list any photos from the Fergus Falls Kirkbride. Don’t you have any?

  3. Ethan March 4, 2008, 11:56 am

    I didn’t find any images of Fergus Falls at the American Memory site, but I personally have some photos of the building. You can see them here:

  4. Lanora June 18, 2008, 12:30 pm

    I LOVE these buildings. They hypnotize me and I am in awe looking at the the attention to detail and the pride everyone took in their workmanship. Today buildings are boring no detail and cold. What is considered award winning architecture is nonsense. I become so broken hearted when I read of these jewels these pieces of American ingenuity being destroyed by people and organizations that have no eye for the beauty in front of them. Why don’t they sell out parts to make living areas apartments or condos? Maybe due to locations rest areas? Anything to save these irreplaceable pieces of art.

  5. Ethan June 20, 2008, 11:06 am

    Lanora: thanks for the comment. I agree with you completely, although I do like SOME contemporary architecture–very, very little though.

    A couple Kirkbrides have been made into apartments or condos, but even then they’re sometimes partially demolished as in the case of Danvers State Hospital. Apparently it’s too expensive for development companies to renovate these places and make a good profit though, so it doesn’t happen that often unfortunately.

Leave a comment:

(required, will not be published)