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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 Amazon: 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.


Anonymous said...

Hi Joe. Do you have an email address I can contact you?

Anonymous said...

Recommended reading "Mad in America". I cannot remember who the author is.