Kirkbride Buildings Blog

June 24th, 2008

The Top 5 Kirkbride Buildings

I like all Kirkbride buildings, but definitely not equally. I have my favorites. Below is a list of the five I like most. Before we get to the list though, here’s a little disclaimer: this list is based solely on aesthetics and does not mean that these are particularly good examples of Kirkbride buildings, or that these were the best hospitals in terms of treatment, recovery rates, staff, etc. Also, I’m only counting the buildings I’ve been to. There are other Kirkbrides I would have considered, but they were demolished decades ago and I don’t want to evaluate them on photographs alone.

And now, without further ado…

5) Taunton State Hospital
There’s an amazing sense of calm and simple beauty inside Taunton, something that’s probably greatly enhanced by the lack of serious vandalism…well, before the fire anyway. It’s small by Kirkbride standards and it’s architecture is pretty tame compared to the larger buildings that came along after it. But it’s still an indescribably beautiful building on the inside. The breezeways in particular are (or were in one case) something very special.

4) Weston State Hospital
Weston’s hand-cut sandstone with all the little detailed carvings gives it a singular character among Kirkbrides. It’s design is pretty unique too. Another thing Weston has going for it is that there were few major alterations to the exterior of the “core” building. Just looking at it evokes an amazing feeling of history that compliments its beauty.

3) Hudson River State Hospital
This is another unique place with some really beautiful features, and like Weston there weren’t a lot of major alterations to the exterior. It also has a much more varied set of component parts than your typical Kirkbride. That makes it more interesting than the buildings with carbon copy wing sections. The stained glass windows and the large common areas with all the arches are especially attractive aspects of the interior.

2) Buffalo State Hospital
This Kirkbride has such a robust and powerful “personality”. And even though I don’t usually subscribe to the “bigger is better” philosophy, I have to admit that the size of this building does impress. The two towers over the admin are especially awe-inspiring. There’s some variety in the wings too, sort of like at Hudson although not to the same degree. I still haven’t been inside yet, but from what I’ve seen in pictures it’s pretty amazing, and a match for the imposing exterior.

1) Danvers State Hospital
The first Kirkbride I learned about and still my most favorite. Even after finding out about all the other Kirkbrides in the country, this one still gets first billing in my mind. I can’t think of another Kirkbride—or building of any kind—that matches it for a strange mixture of old fashioned charm and a strikingly original, but still beautiful design. By the time I got to see the inside, it was a wreck and a disappointment to some degree. But the exterior is something that I can never grow tired of looking at. It’s such a heart-breaking shame that most of it was torn down.

Everybody’s got their favorites, and those are mine. If you can’t believe I didn’t include yours, or want to share your own top five, feel free to comment. I’m definitely interested in hearing other opinions.

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  1. christina tullo June 24, 2008, 12:36 pm

    greystone…..greeeeystone…… haha :)

  2. WSH June 24, 2008, 2:28 pm

    Everyone’s entitled to thier own opinion.

    My Top 5

    1. Weston
    2. Danvers
    3. Worcester
    4. Clarinda
    5. St. Elizabeths

    #2 and 3 were included because portions are still standing.

  3. Ethan June 24, 2008, 3:47 pm

    Greystone, Worcester, and Clarinda were candidates for my list. If it were a top ten list they probably would have made it. I wanted this to be a little more interesting though so I limited it to five.

    St Elizabeths is nice, especially the inside. But I don’t really like the exterior that much. It’s just kind of “blah” to me.

  4. squad546 June 25, 2008, 12:48 am

    1.Fergus Falls
    2.Cherokee State

    I could start a “wish” list, ones I wish I could’ve seen/were still around but are demolished, but that might be alot more then 5!

  5. Phil June 26, 2008, 9:32 am

    1. Danvers – I think Danvers was one of the best examples of a kirk. It was massive and still had almost all of it’s original decoration.

    2. Greystone – It’s huge, and another perfectly laid out kirk.

    3. Weston – Awesome exterior, though it would be better with the missing spires. It’s a little smaller than some of the others though.

    4. Traverse City (before the new admin) Most of it is still standing, so I guess it counts. I just really like the look of it, well before the new admin anyway.

    5. Buffalo – The admin is awesome. Though I’m not too keen on the ‘pavilion’ layout of the wings.

  6. Ethan June 26, 2008, 2:34 pm

    Regarding Traverse City, I think I might have included it in my list if it weren’t for that awful admin. I probably should have looked passed that though to what it used to be.

    It would definitely be in my top ten though even with the new admin.

    squad546: A wish list of the demolished Kirkbrides that we’d like to be able to see is an interesting idea. I think my personal wish list would definitely contain the following (in no particular order):

    1) Napa State Hospital (California)
    2) Nevada State Hospital (Missouri)
    3) Columbus State Hospital (Ohio)
    4) Central State Hospital (Indiana)
    5) Pontiac State Hospital (Michigan)
    6) Cleveland State Hospital (Ohio)
    7) Mount Pleasant State Hospital (Iowa)

    I couldn’t limit myself to five:)

  7. squad546 June 28, 2008, 12:22 am

    For ones that are long gone….
    1.Indianapolis(Seven Steeples)
    2.Kzoo MI
    3.Nevada MO
    4.Oshkosh WI
    5.Napa CA (tie with Columbus)

    The men’s Kirkbride at Indy, from what little I’ve seen, didn’t seem nearly as impressive as the women’s.

  8. Ethan June 28, 2008, 7:18 pm

    Yeah, I agree with you about Indianapolis.

  9. Jeremy Harris August 9, 2008, 10:30 am

    This is a hard one. I’ve made this list with friends, and it seems to change slightly each time.

    I base my list on esthetics, and most fun (and/or stressful) exploration experience.

    1. Buffalo
    2. Taunton
    3. Hudson
    4. St. Elizabeth’s
    5. Greystone

    honerable mention goes to Weston and the redneck security guard who uttered the phrase that will go down in history as the funniest thing ever: “you can’t do that, you gotta wait for the LAW!!”

  10. Jeret January 17, 2013, 12:41 am

    Its very hard for me to say what Kirkbrides are my fave. I love them all and we only really have about 20 left standing. So I’ll give more of a listing of my faves.

    4.Fergus Falls

    Its a lot more better to do a top 50 list but that might take a while. Danvers was the first one I knew of and it started my huge obsesion.

  11. JASMINE September 7, 2014, 5:53 pm

    1 Hudson

    2 Worcester

    3 Taunton

    4 Danvers

    5 Greystone

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