Kirkbride Buildings Blog

October 30th, 2008

Northampton Memorial Setbacks

Northampton State Hospital
An article in the Valley Advocate describes multiple problems with the creation of a Northampton State Hospital memorial: The Theft of Memory. As the article’s subtitle says, “In spite of contractual and moral obligation, there may be no memorial to the mentally ill on the prime land that was their legacy from the state.”

While I can almost understand (but definitely not agree with) the desire to demolish an old asylum, it seems unconscionable to me to destroy such a place and then willfully, or even unintentionally, make it difficult for a fitting memorial to be created. This also reminds me that the memorial at Avalon Danvers hasn’t been completed either. I guess developers here in Massachusetts either 1) really are afraid that any hint of a psych hospital connection will scare away prospective customers (as if people are too clueless to discover the connection without a memorial), or 2) are just too stingy to spend a tiny fraction of their budget on a memorial, even when they’re obligated to by contract. Even if those two possibilities are false, we’re still left with the fact that the memorials are obviously the last thing on the developers’ minds and will probably end up being hastily tossed together displays not worthy of being called memorials. It’s a sad final chapter in the story of these old asylums.

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  1. WSH October 30, 2008, 9:32 am

    That is truely sad. All asylums can’t be saved, but it seems like they are going to great lenghts in Northampton to destroy the memory of the asylum in addition to the physical building. I’l like to quote the lone comment at the end of the article in your link:

    “”No one stepped forward.”

    Those words are a fitting memorial for all those people who died in state mental institutions. I have seen none better.”

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