History, mystery and folklore in the Berkshires and surrounding area...
Sunday, March 17, 2013
Asylums of Massachusetts
I get a lot of questions about the old
abandoned asylums in Massachusetts, those lovely brick ones with the
'batwing' shaped floor plans that have been mostly torn down by
developers over the last decade or so.
Most of these buildings, such
as the ones that were in Northampton, Danvers, Taunton, Worcester,
etc, were inspired by the work of Thomas Story Kirkbridge, a
pioneering 19th century psychiatrist who first developed
theories of the role of architecture in treating mental illness.
With the advent of neurology, the ever fickle, trendy discipline of
psychiatry largely threw out the baby with the bathwater and
Kirkbride's theories were mostly forgotten. More recent research has
supported the importance of architectural features in mental health,
and this concept has once again begun to inform facility design, such
as the new Worcester Recovery Center opened this past summer.
Kirkbride's book (available used on
is very much worth a read, for its overall insights and deeper
glimpse into these stunning structures slowly disappearing across
America. Full texts copies can also be found online.