Kirkbride Plan

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Historic print of main building of Northern Illinois State Mental Hospital, completed in 1872 and demolished in 1993.

The Kirkbride Plan refers to a system of mental asylum design advocated by Philadelphia psychiatrist Thomas Story Kirkbride in the mid-19th century.

History[edit source | edit]

The establishment of state mental hospitals in the U.S. is partly due to reformer Dorothea Dix, who testified to the Massachusetts legislature in 1844, vividly describing the state's treatment of people with mental illness: they were being housed in county jails, private homes and the basements of public buildings. Dix's effort led to the construction of the New Jersey State Lunatic Asylum, the first asylum built on the Kirkbride Plan.

Plates No. 1 and No. 2 from Kirkbride's 1854 work, On the Construction, Organization, and General Arrangements of Hospitals for the Insane, showing the typical staggered-wing arrangement of the Kirkbride Plan.

Kirkbride developed his requirements based on a philosophy of Moral Treatment. The typical floor plan, with long rambling wings arranged en echelon (staggered, so each connected wing received sunlight and fresh air), was meant to promote privacy and comfort for patients. The building form itself was meant to have a curative effect: "a special apparatus for the care of lunacy, [whose grounds should be] highly improved and tastefully ornamented." The idea of institutionalization was thus central to Kirkbride's plan for effectively treating patients with mental illnesses.[1]

The asylums tended to be large, imposing, Victorian-era institutional buildings within extensive surrounding grounds, which often included farmland, sometimes worked by patients as part of physical exercise and therapy. While the vast majority were located in the United States, similar facilities were built in Canada, and a psychiatric hospital in Australia was influenced by Kirkbride's recommendations. By 1900 the notion of "building-as-cure" was largely discredited, and in the following decades these large facilities became too expensive to maintain. Many Kirkbride Plan asylums still stand today. Most are abandoned, neglected, and vandalized, though several are still in use or have been renovated for uses other than mental health care.

Notable Kirkbride hospitals[edit source | edit]

Bryce Hospital (1859) in 2010. Now owned by the University of Alabama, it is being restored for use by the university.
Dixmont State Hospital (1862) prior to its demolition in 2005.
Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum (1863) in 2006. Now being restored by a private owner.
Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital (1876) in 2006. Operations moved to other buildings on the same campus in 2008.
Northern Michigan Asylum for the Insane (1885) in 2010. Now converted to residential and commercial use.

References[edit source | edit]

  1. ^ Carla Yanni, The Architecture of Madness: Insane Asylums in the United States, Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, 2007, 55-59
  2. ^ Yanni, Architecture of Madness, 55.
  3. ^ Retrieved Sept. 22, 2006
  4. ^ Briska, William H. (1997). The History of Elgin Mental Health Center: Evolution of a State Hospital. Crossroads Communications. ISBN 0-916445-45-3. 
  5. ^ 41°52′46″N 79°08′46″W / 41.879503°N 79.146028°W / 41.879503; -79.146028
  6. ^[dead link]
  7. ^ Broughton Hospital
  8. ^ *The Kingston Lounge
  9. ^ *Danvers
  10. ^ Retrieved Aug. 21, 2010
  11. ^ * The Village at Grand Traverse Commons
  12. ^ Minnesota Historical Society. Fergus Falls State Hospital Papers
  13. ^ Fergus Falls Daily Journal. (September 13, 2008). State Hospital: The Early days

External links[edit source | edit]

Further reading[edit source | edit]

  • The Art of Asylum-Keeping by Nancy Tomes
  • Yanni, Carla. The Architecture of Madness: Insane Asylums in the United States, Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, 2007.