Kirkbride Buildings Blog

June 26th, 2008

What’s in a Name

Northampton Insane AsylumFormer Northampton State Hospital preservation advocate Mark Roessler writes about the renaming of Hospital Hill in this Valley Advocate article: What’s in a Name?

It’s a pretty good, lengthy article that ranges from before the Northampton asylum was built to the present day, with the Kirkbride only a memory. One thing I have to comment on in particular is this statement at the head of the article:

“The decision to change the name of Northampton’s Hospital Hill bespeaks the same fear and prejudice against mental illness that drove Victorian activists to build the hospital in the first place.”

The first time I read that I wondered what hell he was talking about—fear and prejudice didn’t drive activists to build asylums! But at this very moment while preparing to write a more lengthy commentary, I realize Mr Roessler meant that the activists were reacting against a prevailing sense of fear and prejudice toward mental illness. I think the wording there is a little confusing and can easily be taken the wrong way.

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  1. WSH June 26, 2008, 1:55 pm

    That was a very good article. I had not realized that public funds were used to demo Northampton.

  2. Ethan June 26, 2008, 2:25 pm

    Yeah. I don’t have the facts in front of me or the time to find them, but I believe that was one of the factors leading to Old Main’s demise. Northampton was to receive $5.5 million from the state to use for demolition if the city decided to raze the building.

    Someone more familiar with Northampton might be able to confirm that and provide the details. Chris? Anyone?

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