Kirkbride Buildings Blog

December 16th, 2011

More Worcester State Hospital Fire Photos

Worcester State Hospital Fire
I found a whole slew of photos taken during the infamous Worcester State Hospital Kirkbride fire today. The pictures are part of D. M. Wenc’s portfolio which is available here: Worcester State Hospital Fire. They’re part of a series of Massachusetts fire photos Mr. Wenc and his father took  in the 1990s. They also have video footage of the conflagration that’s being made into a DVD. The DVD will be for sale at a later date.

There are lots of great photos in this collection. Here are some of my favorites:

  1. A lone firefighter watches the Kirkbride burn
  2. Billowing smoke pours out from a ward’s attic
  3. The rear of the Kirkbride in flames with the Clocktower visible in the distance
  4. Flames engulf the Kirkbride attic
  5. Firefighters drenching the building with water
  6. Dousing the flames
  7. Flames leap from a turret
  8. Firefighters continue to drench the building after the fire is mostly extinguished
  9. Firefighters climb up to the roof

I was particularly struck by that last photo, mainly because I’d never seen that structure before. It looks like a group of enclosed porches with some unusual windows. Those were long gone by the time I visited the building for the first time back in 2001. I’ve never seen them in older photos before either.

I was also a little taken aback by the indifferent and nonchalant expressions on many of the people’s faces. It looks like a lot of them thought the fire wasn’t a big deal. It probably wasn’t to many people. I suppose many thought the building was just an old eyesore. But then again, just because someone’s smiling in a photograph doesn’t mean they were having the time of their lives the entire day.

As beautiful as the photos are,  it’s depressing to see these pictures and think about what might have been. If it wasn’t for the fire, the entire Kirkbride might still be perched up there on the hill today.

You can find more photography by D. M. Wenc on his blog: Photography by D. M. Wenc. You can also follow him on Twitter. (Speaking of Twitter, did you know Kirkbride Buildings tweets? As do I, if you’re interested in following me.)

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  1. John December 17, 2011, 12:11 am

    These are fantastic. Very much looking forward to the DVD. Now only if the Iguana photo guy (forget his name) would publish or post his WSH shots, we would have a complete collection of this place.

  2. Squad546 December 17, 2011, 12:50 am

    Interesting photos. I think the reason for the indifferent looks on the firefighters was due to the fact there isn’t as much excitement at a fire like this, especially when it’s over 90 degrees & the water pressure was terrible. When you know you’re going to be there for a very longtime, that’s what happens.

  3. Ethan December 17, 2011, 12:53 pm

    Maybe I didn’t choose my words precisely enough, but what I was referring to was the grins in photos like these:

    It doesn’t seem like they have much concern at all for what’s going on, and almost seem to be super relaxed and enjoying themselves. I know it’s wrong to assume that’s what was going on from just a couple photos, but it’s still a little surprising.

  4. Squad546 December 21, 2011, 3:48 am

    Those are some of the photos I was referring to. When it’s that hot and you have a fire in a abandoned building, you get into that mindset as a firefighter. I know I did my share of that when I was on the job. The photos in question look to be late into the fire and things aren’t as desperate as they were early into the fire. The footage I have you can see they were trying pretty hard early into the fire but ran into issues beyond their control.

  5. WSH December 21, 2011, 11:01 am

    It’s really cool to be able to see these photos. Obviously not the fact that the place is burning, but it is interesting to see the “final chapter” of the building documented. They are higher quality than I would have expected.

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