July 31st, 2012
In honor of the 203rd anniversary of Thomas Story Kirkbride’s birthday, I think everybody should take a look at Duffy’s Kirkbrides HD video project. There are lots of good Kirkbride building photographs online these days, but good videos are a bit more rare. That’s why it’s especially nice to see Duffy’s tasteful video project available on Vimeo. The project is the result of countless road trips and flights taken over the course of three years, plus many many hours lovingly sorting through and editing over 600 gigabytes of video. Watching this beautiful footage really makes me wish I had considered video over still images when I first started visiting Kirkbrides.
Still photography is great and there’s really no substitute for it, but video takes things to a different level. It’s great for showing movement through a Kirkbride’s space, and how light plays across a building’s facade as the day passes. Check out the Hudson River video at 0:40 for a fantastic example of the latter. It’s also breathtaking when Duffy leaves the camera trained on a Kirkbride and speeds up time so you can watch clouds passing over the majestic building. Take a look at the Buffalo video at 0:23, and the Weston video at 0:23 to see it for yourself.
Kirkbrides HD is one of the most comprehensive video series of its type, and is a great addition to the documentary preservation of these historic buildings. Take a look when you’ve got forty-five minutes or so to spare. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed: Kirkbrides HD.
July 10th, 2012
A flash mob is being planned for 11am this Saturday, July 14th at the Fergus Falls Kirkbride. Hug the Kirkbride will involve a human chain linking arms around the entire building. A video of the event will be distributed online with the hopes of garnering national attention for the threatened Kirkbride.
If you live within reasonable driving distance of Fergus Falls — or if you can afford to spend the time and money to make a longer trip — please attend and participate! They’re going to need A LOT of people to completely surround such a huge structure.
After the flash mob event, “mini tours” of the building will be given between noon and 4:00PM. For more information, check out the Facebook event page: Hug the Kirkbride. And don’t forget to join the Friends of the Kirkbride Facebook group if you haven’t already.
May 22nd, 2012
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Check out this news item on the former Saint Vincent’s hospital: Civil War Insane Asylum Turned into Affordable Housing. They muddle the hospital’s history a little—although the asylum was founded in 1858, shortly before the Civil War, the Kirkbide was built between 1873 and 1891, well after the Civil War ended in 1865.
It’s great to see the building put to good use. It’ll probably be around for years to come. One can’t help but wonder why it can happen in Missouri, but not in other states. I’m sure it’s relatively modest size and location in a densely populated area both help.
May 7th, 2012
At the May 7th Fergus Falls City Council meeting, the council voted unanimously in favor of drawing up demolition plans for most of the city’s beautiful, 100+ year-old Kirkbride building. The central administration section will probably be preserved, but the wings will be destroyed under the proposed plan. This vote came in spite of a substantial showing of public support for full preservation. According to the Fergus Falls Journal, about 200 people showed up for the meeting and the council chamber was filled to overflowing.
So yet another Kirkbride is likely fated to become to a mere fragment of its former self. Such a shame that something couldn’t be done to save it. It is some consolation that at least a part of the structure would be saved. Hopefully that at least will happen. In my opinion, it’s really the wings that are the most beautiful part of the Fergus Falls Kirkbride though, at least in terms of the building’s exterior.
May 5th, 2012
There’s been a flurry of activity regarding Fergus Falls lately. If you haven’t heard, things aren’t looking for preservation. The Fergus Falls City Council rejected the only submitted reuse plan, and has started discussing demolition.
If you live in Fergus Falls and want the building saved, please attend the city council meeting on Monday, May 7th at 5:30PM to show support for preservation. The meeting will be taking place at Fergus Falls City Hall.
There’s also an online petition you can sign to show your support, even if you don’t live in Fergus Falls. Please take a minute to sign it. I know online petitions aren’t the most useful thing in the world, but signing one can’t hurt, and it might do some good. (Note that after signing, you’ll get an email with a request for a $5 donation. That donation is for the petition site, NOT for saving the Kirkbride.)
April 28th, 2012
They finally went and did it. The organization behind the proposed mixed-use redevelopment of the former Hudson River State Hospital campus has put the property, along with its magnificently sprawling Kirkbride building, on the real estate market. All CPC Resources‘ plans for Hudson Heritage Park are dead. For details, check out the Poughkeepsie Journal’s Psych Center Site Development Plan Stalls.
This doesn’t come as a big surprise given the devastating fire in 2007, the backing out of project partners in 2008, and the long-term lack of news about the redevelopment plans. In my opinion, the chances for preservation of the Kirkbride are greatly reduced by this sale. I doubt whoever purchases the property in this economic climate will have preservation of an historic property high on their agenda.
March 20th, 2012
There’s a new book about Athens State Hospital coming out. On Friday, March 30th from 5:00-7:00PM Ohio University Press is hosting a free public event at The Kennedy Museum of Art to celebrate the release of Asylum on the Hill by Katherine Ziff. (In case you didn’t know, the museum is located in the former Athens State Hospital Kirkbride building in the neighborhood now known as The Ridges.) Read more about it here: Ohio University Press Event Celebrates New Book on Athens Asylum
Some special points of interest about the event mentioned in the article:
“Items relating to the former mental institution will be featured in displays arranged by Ohio University’s Mahn Center for Archives and Special Collections and the Athens County Historical Society. There will also be a self-guided tour of The Ridges from 3-5 p.m. in which visitors may look inside some of the institution’s buildings while learning about their current use. Tourists will be able to obtain a new map of The Ridges produced by Ohio University Press that complements “Asylum on the Hill.” Copies of both the map (free) and “Asylum on the Hill” ($35) will be available at The Kennedy Museum of Art and Ohio University Press, also located at The Ridges.”
Learn more about and purchase the book here: Asylum on the Hill: History of a Healing Landscape
I haven’t yet read the book myself, but it sounds very promising. I’m sure anyone with interest in old asylums will find it worth checking out. Katherine Ziff, by the way, is the author of the dissertation Asylum and Community: Connections between the Athens Lunatic Asylum and the Village of Athens 1867-1893 which I mentioned in an old post about the Athens State Hospital alligator. Check out her blog about asylums: Asylum Notes
March 13th, 2012
A DVD of the Worcester State Hospital fire is now available for purchase. You can learn more about it and buy it at D.M. Wenc’s photography website. The DVD has a running time of thirty-eight minutes, the first eight of which are taken up by radio communications from firefighters on scene as the person who filmed the video races to the blaze.
I haven’t seen the DVD myself so I can’t vouch for its quality, though I suspect it’s at least a decent record of that terrible day. There’s low-resolution sample footage available on the DVD information page. And you can check out the photos of the fire also available on the site for an idea of what you’ll see in the video.
March 9th, 2012
Fans of the Electric Pencil—AKA James Edward Deeds, Jr.—will be pleased to learn there’s a documentary film about the artist in the works. There’s also a Kickstarter project looking to raise funds for the film. You can learn all about it and back the project here: The Mystery of the Electric Pencil.
The project’s Kickstarter funding run will go until the afternoon of Tuesday, April 3rd. They’re looking to raise $30,000 by then. Backers who pledge $10 or more will be eligible for various gifts related to the film and the artist.
February 23rd, 2012
An article on the Boston Globe website includes an artist’s rendering of the Worcester State Hospital clock tower replica: Clock Tower: Time Isn’t Up in Worcester. Even though I’m very disappointed in the clock tower replica compromise and don’t think it could ever be a fitting stand-in for the entire building, I have to say it doesn’t look quite as silly as I had feared. What do you think?