Friday, July 14, 2017

These Photos of a Kirkbride Plan Insane Asylum (Warren, Pennsylvania) Give Me Chills

Maybe it's the cold, perfect emptiness of these photos (and knowing the human hell that would fill it). It wasn't exactly an enlightened time. I hate to think of the abuse and the curtailment of liberty. Just so sad.

I just learned that this building still exists and is still being used for mental health treatment. Pennsylvania has two extant Kirkbride plan buildings: this and one in Danville. Two (or possibly three) other Pennsylvanian Kirkbride asylums were demolished. Another exists in Pennsylvania but is used by a private company for "non-psychiatric purposes." One could wager a guess that there might be hauntings in all of these extant Kirkbride buildings.

There's this touching bit about the Warren hospital, too, from 2010: 

"The 954 grave cemetery at Warren State Hospital has been the subject of a restoration. Like many state hospital cemeteries, this one was overgrown and neglected until a restoration committee formed at the hospital in 2006. Employees and volunteers are just about finished with the painstaking task of identifying the deceased patients and giving each one a headstone with their name on it."

You can read more about how the Kirkbride Plan dictated a general architectural layout for insane aslyums of the nineteenth century here.  Kirkbride appears to have had good intentions and a progressive mindset. However, worse treatments would follow and the next century would see atrocities committed against the mentally ill.

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania had a Kirkbride plan asylum (Dorothea Dix was responsible for its creation) but it's on the list of demolished buildings. It was one of the earliest Kirkbride plan asylums.It was torn down in phases and replaced with the Harrisburg State Hospital, which was in use as a mental health facility until 2006. Now its buildings are occupied by several government agencies. 

Most of the information in this post came from the site to which I linked above, There's a wealth of information there about these fascinating structures.

Details on the photographs:

"Period images of Kirkbride Plan architecture, six boudoir cabinet photos (5.25 x 8.5”) signed Bairstow. Gifted from William E.M. Corson (one of three state hospital commissioners) to Cameron Corson (an engineer and likely son) dated November 19th, 1886. Small sketch on one reverse noted John Smithson inmate (perhaps by Corson) of four folky ducks. 

"Beautiful condition with occasional foxing and wear to gilt edges. Letter from a state report magazine about the overflow and patient cost included."

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