Kirkbride Plan

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1848 lithograph of the Kirkbride design of the Trenton State Hospital Trenton State Hospital - Kirkbride Lithograph 1848.jpg
1848 lithograph of the Kirkbride design of the Trenton State Hospital

The Kirkbride Plan was a system of mental asylum design advocated by American psychiatrist Thomas Story Kirkbride (1809–1883) in the mid-19th century. The asylums built in the Kirkbride design, often referred to as Kirkbride Buildings (or simply Kirkbrides), were constructed during the mid-to-late-19th century in the United States.


The structural features of the hospitals as designated by Kirkbride were contingent on his theories regarding the healing of the mentally ill, in which environment and exposure to natural light and air circulation were crucial. The hospitals built according to the Kirkbride Plan would adopt various architectural styles, [1] but had in common the "bat wing" style floor plan, housing numerous wings that sprawl outward from the center. [2]

The first hospital designed under the Kirkbride Plan was the Trenton State Hospital in Trenton, New Jersey, constructed in 1848. Throughout the remainder of the nineteenth century, numerous psychiatric hospitals were designed under the Kirkbride Plan across the United States. By the twentieth century, popularity of the design had waned, largely due to the economic pressures of maintaining the immense facilities, as well as contestation of Kirkbride's theories amongst the medical community.

Numerous Kirkbride structures still exist, though many have been demolished or partially-demolished and repurposed.

At least 30 of the original Kirkbride buildings have been registered with the National Register of Historic Places in the United States, either directly or through their location on hospital campuses or in historic districts.


Basis and philosophy

Thomas Story Kirkbride, creator of the Kirkbride Plan Thomas Story Kirkbride 001.jpg
Thomas Story Kirkbride, creator of the Kirkbride Plan

The establishment of state mental hospitals in the U.S. is partly due to reformer Dorothea Dix, who testified to the New Jersey legislature in 1844, vividly describing the state's treatment of lunatics; 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 complete asylum built on the Kirkbride Plan. [3]

Thomas Story Kirkbride (1809–1883), a psychiatrist from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, developed his requirements of asylum design based on a philosophy of Moral Treatment [4] and environmental determinism. [5] 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." [6] The idea of institutionalization was thus central to Kirkbride's plan for effectively treating the insane. [7]

Design and architectural features

Floor plan for the Kirkbride design from an 1854 lithograph Kirkbride Plan 1854.jpg
Floor plan for the Kirkbride design from an 1854 lithograph

The Kirkbride Plan asylums tended to be large, imposing institutional buildings, [8] with the defining feature being their "narrow, stepped, linear building footprint" featuring staggered wings extending outward from the center, resembling the wingspan of a bat. [9] The standard number of wings for a Kirkbride Plan hospital was eight, [10] with an accommodation of 250 patients. [11] Kirkbride's philosophy behind the staggered wings was to allow individual corridors open to sunlight and air ventilation through both ends, which he believed aided in healing the mentally ill. [9] Each wing, according to Kirkbride's original guidelines, would house a separate ward, which would contain its own "comfortably furnished" parlor, bathroom, clothes room, and infirmary, as well as a speaking tube and dumbwaiter to allow open communication and movement of materials between floors. [12] [13] The wings furthest from the center complex of the building were reserved for the "most excitable," or most physically dangerous and volatile patients. [9] Patient rooms were suggested to be spacious, with ceilings "at least 12 feet (3.7 m) high," but only large enough to room a single person. [14] The center complexes of the Kirkbride Plan buildings were designed to house administration, kitchens, public and reception areas, and apartments for the superintendent's family. [15] Architectural styles of Kirkbride Plan buildings varied depending on the appointed architect, and ranged from Richardsonian Romanesque to Neo-Gothic. [16]

In addition to the intricate building design, Kirkbride also advocated the importance of "fertile" and spacious landscapes on which the hospitals would be built, with views that "if possible, should exhibit life in its active forms." [16] Kirkbride also suggested the hospital grounds be a minimum of 100 acres (40 ha) in size. [17] [16] The foliage and farmlands on the hospital grounds were sometimes maintained by patients as part of physical exercise and/or therapy. [16] Over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the campuses of these hospitals often evolved into sprawling, expansive grounds with numerous buildings. [16]

Operations and staffing

Salaries per annum (1854) [18]
PositionCompensation (USD)
Assisting physicians$300–$500 + board
Carriage driver$168
Farmers & gardeners$144–200
Cooks & bakers$100–150
A child, ostensibly of the physician-in-chief, swinging on the lawn of the Oregon State Hospital, c. 1900 Oregon State Hospital c. 1900.jpg
A child, ostensibly of the physician-in-chief, swinging on the lawn of the Oregon State Hospital, c. 1900

In his proposal, Kirkbride outlined specific guidelines as to how a Kirkbride Plan hospital should be staffed and operate on a daily basis. Kirkbride suggested a total of 71, all of whom were required to live within, or in the immediate vicinity of, the hospital. [18] The superintending physician, or physician-in-chief, was required to live in the main hospital or in a building contiguous to it, [19] while his family had the option of residing at the hospital or seeking private lodging. [18] The staff was also to have a balanced gender distribution, with approximately 36 female and 35 male staff members. [18]

Among the staff of a Kirkbride Plan hospital were the superintending physician, an assisting physician and nurses, supervisors and teachers of each sex, a chaplain, matron, and a nightwatchman. [20] Kirkbride urged that at least two attendants be working in each ward at any given time, and stressed the importance of the superintendent's "proper selection" of attendants, given the extent of their management responsibilities: [21] "The duties of attendants, when faithfully performed, are often harassing, and in many wards, among excited patients, are peculiarly so. On this account pains should always be taken to give them a reasonable amount of relaxation and their position should, in every respect, be made as comfortable as possible." [22] For general labor at the hospital, he suggested that the able-minded patients help maintain the hospital grounds and assist in duties in their respective wards. [11]

Kirkbride's estimation of the number of staff as well as their respective compensations was outlined in an 1854 publication on the Kirkbride Plan design. He proposed a living wage for all employees of the hospital, noting that "although in a few institutions a liberal compensation is given, in many, the salaries are quite too low, and entirely inadequate to be depended on, to secure and retain the best kind of talent for the different positions. The services required about the insane, when faithfully performed, are peculiarly trying to the mental and physical powers of any individual, and ought to be liberally paid for." [23] Salary for the superintending physician according to the 1854 guideline was to be USD$1,500 (equivalent to $45,239in 2021) if the physician's family resided at the hospital, and $2,500 (equivalent to $75,398in 2021) if they found lodging at a private residence. [18] In addition to the medical staff and attendants, the Kirkbride Plan hospitals also employed laborers of various trades, including resident engineers, carpenters, cooks and dairymaids, gardeners, seamstresses, ironworkers, clothing launderers, and a carriage driver. [18]

Decline and phasing out

By the late nineteenth century, the Kirkbride design had begun to wane in popularity, largely because the hospitals, which were state-funded, had received significant budget cuts that rendered them difficult to maintain. [24] General psychiatric and medical opinion of Kirkbride's theories regarding the "curability" of mental illness were also questioned by the medical community. [25]



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Sites of current and former Kirkbride Hospitals in the United States
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Surviving Kirkbride Plan buildings (either partial or complete) in the United States as of 2017 [lower-alpha 1]

A total of 73 known Kirkbride Plan hospitals were constructed throughout the United States between 1845 and 1910. [26] As of 2016, approximately 33 of these identified Kirkbride Plan hospital buildings still exist in their original form to some degree: [lower-alpha 2] 24 have been preserved indicating that the building is still standing and still in use, at least, in part. 11 of the 24 preserved properties received secondary condition codes of deteriorating, vacant, partial demolition or a combination, while the remaining nine have been adaptively reused. [28] Of the 40 hospital buildings that no longer exist (either via demolition or destruction from natural occurrences, such as earthquakes), 26 were demolished to be replaced with new facilities. [28]

The highest concentrations of Kirkbride Plan hospitals were in the Northeast and Midwestern states. [29] Fewer Kirkbride Plan hospitals were constructed on the West Coast: In California, the Napa State Hospital was a notable Kirkbride Plan hospital, though the original structure was severely damaged during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, and was ultimately demolished. [30] The two surviving Kirkbride structures on the West Coast are both located in the state of Oregon, at the Oregon State Hospital, and the Eastern Oregon State Hospital, the latter of which now houses the Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution. [31] While the vast majority of Kirkbride hospitals were located in the United States, similar facilities were built in Canada, and the Callan Park Hospital for the Insane in Sydney, Australia (constructed in 1885) was also influenced by Kirkbride's design. [32]

Preservation efforts

Demolition of the Danvers State Hospital in Danvers, Massachusetts, 2007 Danvers State demolition.JPG
Demolition of the Danvers State Hospital in Danvers, Massachusetts, 2007

Due to their intricate architectural features and historical significance, Kirkbride Plan hospitals have attracted conservation efforts from local and national groups, and (as of 2016) approximately 30 of the buildings have been registered with National Register of Historic Places. [33] Local conservation groups and historical societies have made attempts to save numerous Kirkbrides from demolition: The Danvers State Hospital in Danvers, Massachusetts is one example, in which a local historical society filed a lawsuit in 2005 to stall demolition of the building. [34] The majority of the Danvers State Hospital was demolished in 2007 spite of the lawsuit, with only the center portion of the building receiving restoration and conversion into apartments. [34] The Northampton State Hospital in Northampton, Massachusetts, was demolished in 2006. [35]

Many of the surviving Kirkbride Plan buildings in the United States have undergone at least partial demolition and have been repurposed, often with the center portions of the buildings being most commonly preserved. The center complexes of the Hudson River State Hospital [36] [37] in Poughkeepsie, New York, and the Oregon State Hospital in Salem, Oregon, for example, have been retained in spite of the majority of the outermost wings being demolished. One such Kirkbride Plan facility that has survived in its entirety is the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, though does not contemporarily function as an active hospital. As of 2017, Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum has not undergone demolition.

Several facilities originally established as Kirkbride Plan hospitals are still active in the 21st century, though not all have retained the original Kirkbride buildings on their campuses. The Oregon State Hospital, the longest continuously-operated psychiatric hospital on the West Coast, retained the majority of its original Kirkbride building during a 2008 demolition, seismically retrofitting and repurposing it as a mental health museum in 2013. [38]

Notable Kirkbride hospitals

United States

BuiltNameLocationStatusNotes NRHP #Ref.
1848 Trenton State Hospital Trenton, New Jersey ActiveThe first Kirkbride Plan building [39]
1848 Central State Hospital Indianapolis, Indiana InactiveOne Kirkbride building, the Department for Women (1878), demolished 1970s [40]
1848 Jacksonville State Hospital Jacksonville, Illinois InactiveOriginal Kirkbride building demolished 1970 75000669 [41]
1851 Harrisburg State Hospital Harrisburg, Pennsylvania InactiveOriginal Kirkbride building demolished 1893 86000057 [41]
1853 Taunton State Hospital Taunton, Massachusetts Demolished 2009 93001484 [42]
1854 Western State Hospital Hopkinsville, Kentucky ActiveDestroyed by fire in 1861; interiors rebuilt 79003612 [43]
1854–66 [lower-alpha 3] Maine Insane Hospital Augusta, Maine InactiveOriginal construction was not a Kirkbride; however, it was converted between 1854 and 1866 82000754 [44]
1855 Jackson State Hospital Jackson, Mississippi InactiveOriginal Kirkbride building demolished; campus now houses University of Mississippi Medical Center [45]
1855 Dayton State Hospital Dayton, Ohio InactiveRepurposed as assisted living facility 79001902 [46]
1855 St. Elizabeths Hospital Washington, D.C. ActiveKirkbride now serves as DHS HQ 79003101 [47] [48]
1856 Austin State Hospital Austin, Texas ActiveOriginal Kirkbride building houses administrative offices 87002115 [49]
1858 Northampton State Hospital Northampton, Massachusetts Demolished 2006 94000696 [50]
1858 Mendota Mental Health Institute Madison, Wisconsin ActiveOriginal Kirkbride building demolished 1964 [51]
1859 The Institute of the Pennsylvania Hospital Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Inactive 66000684 [52]
1859 Kalamazoo Regional Psychiatric Hospital Kalamazoo, Michigan InactiveOriginal Kirkbride building demolished [53]
1859 Bryce Hospital Tuscaloosa, Alabama InactiveSold to the adjacent University of Alabama and partially demolished (main part saved) 77000216 [54]
1862 Dixmont State Hospital Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Demolished 2005 80003401 [55]
1863 Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum Weston, West Virginia InactiveFormerly known as Weston State Hospital 78002805 [56]
1865 Mount Pleasant State Hospital Mount Pleasant, Iowa Destroyed 1936Original Kirkbride building destroyed in fire [57] [58]
1866 St. Peter State Hospital St. Peter, Minnesota ActiveMajority of original Kirkbride building demolished [50]
1866 Willard State Hospital Seneca, New York ActiveComprised four separate Kirkbride buildings, all of which were demolished c. 1980 75001229 [59] [60]
1868 Hudson River State Hospital Poughkeepsie, New York InactiveUndergoing demolition as of 2016; portion of original Kirkbride building preserved 89001166 [36]
1868 Osawatomie State Hospital Osawatomie, Kansas ActiveOriginal Kirkbride building demolished between 1971 and 2002 [61]
1869 Anna State Hospital Anna, Illinois InactiveAdministration section of original Kirkbride building remains and is in use [62]
1869 Central State Hospital Anchorage, Kentucky Demolished 1996 83002646 [63] [45]
1869 Danville State Hospital Danville, Pennsylvania ActiveOriginal Kirkbride building preserved and in use [64]
1870 Central State Hospital Petersburg, Virginia ActiveOriginal Kirkbride building demolished [65]
1870 Buffalo State Hospital Buffalo, New York InactiveOriginal Kirkbride building restored and subdivided by State of New York for public use 73001186 [66]
1872 Spring Grove State Hospital Catonsville, Maryland Demolished 1963 [67]
1872 Elgin State Hospital Elgin, Illinois ActiveOriginal Kirkbride building demolished 1993 [68]
1872 Topeka State Hospital Topeka, Kansas Demolished 2010 [69]
1873 Winnebago State Hospital Oshkosh, Wisconsin ActiveOriginal Kirkbride demolished in stages between 1950 and 1969 [45]
1873 Independence State Hospital Independence, Iowa Active [42]
1874 Athens Lunatic Asylum Athens, Ohio InactiveRenovated and repurposed by Ohio University 80002936 [70]
1874 Warren State Hospital Warren, Pennsylvania Active [71]
1876 Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital Hanover, New Jersey ActiveOriginal Kirkbride building demolished 2015 [72]
1876 Napa State Hospital Napa, California ActiveOriginal Kirkbride building demolished 1949 [30]
1877 Columbus State Hospital Columbus, Ohio Demolished 1991 [73]
1877 Worcester State Hospital Worcester, Massachusetts ActivePartially demolished 2008 80000530 [42]
1878 Danvers State Hospital Danvers, Massachusetts Demolished 2006Center exterior of Kirkbride building preserved 84002436 [42]
1878 Pontiac State Hospital Pontiac, Michigan Demolished 2000 81000315 [74]
1879 Kankakee State Hospital Kankakee, Illinois ActiveOriginal Kirkbride building preserved [75] [41]
1883 Oregon State Hospital Salem, Oregon ActiveOriginal Kirkbride building repurposed as mental health museum 08000118 [38]
1883 Broughton Hospital Morganton, North Carolina Active 77000996 [65]
1883 Arkansas State Hospital Little Rock, Arkansas ActiveKirkbride building demolished 1963 [76] [77]
1884 Clarinda State Hospital Clarinda, Iowa Active [55]
1885 Northern Michigan Asylum Traverse City, Michigan InactiveCenter of main building demolished and replaced in 1963, remainder renovated and in use as condos and businesses 78001499 [78]
1885 Agnews State Hospital Santa Clara, California InactiveOriginal Kirkbride building destroyed in 1906 earthquake; partially rebuilt in 1910 97000829 [42]
1885 Terrell State Hospital Terrell, Texas ActiveOriginal Kirkbride building demolished [65]
1887 Nevada State Hospital Nevada, Missouri Demolished 1999 [42]
1890 Cherokee Mental Health Institute Cherokee, Iowa Active [42]
1891 Sheppard Pratt Hospital Towson, Maryland Active 71000369 [79]
1891 Eastern State Hospital Medical Lake, Washington ActiveOriginal Kirkbride building demolished [80]
1893 Patton State Hospital San Bernardino, California ActiveOriginal Kirkbride building demolished [81]
1894 St. Vincent's Hospital Normandy, Missouri InactiveOriginal Kirkbride building repurposed as apartment building 82004722 [82]
1895 Fergus Falls Regional Treatment Center Fergus Falls, Minnesota Inactive 86001386 [83]
1913 Eastern Oregon State Hospital Pendleton, Oregon InactiveHouses Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution as of 1983 [84]

Outside the United States

1858 Nova Scotia Hospital Halifax, Nova Scotia, CanadaActiveOriginal Kirkbride building demolished 1996 [lower-alpha 4]
1885 Callan Park Hospital for the Insane Lilyfield, New South Wales, Australia InactiveOriginal Kirkbride building preserved; campus houses Sydney College of the Arts [32]

Numerous Kirkbride Plan hospitals and buildings have been featured in the arts: the Danvers State Hospital in Danvers, Massachusetts was both the setting and primary filming location for the 2001 psychological horror film Session 9 . [34] It has also been suggested by historians as an inspiration on H. P. Lovecraft, and in turn an inspiration for the fictional setting Arkham Asylum in the various Batman series. [86] The Oregon State Hospital was also featured as the primary filming location for the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), [87] and was also the setting of "Ward 81," a 1976 series of photographs by photographer Mary Ellen Mark. [88]

The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in West Virginia was featured on the Travel Channel reality series Ghost Adventures . [89]



  1. Based on research from as well as other cited external sources, there are at least 25 surviving Kirkbride Plan buildings in the United States.
    • Note: This does not reflect the current existence of active hospitals originally established under the Kirkbride Plan, only the survival of the original buildings. [8]
  2. Per the sourced table, many Kirkbride Plan hospitals still exist in some form (some as active hospitals), though the original Kirkbride structures have not been retained on many of the hospital campuses over the course of their evolution. Other hospitals have been closed down and demolished entirely, while some have been demolished in part and/or repurposed for various uses. [27]
  3. The original hospital layout during its 1840 construction was not in the Kirkbride Plan, as it pre-dates it. However, after an 1850 fire destroyed part of the building, [44] reconstruction converted the main hospital into a Kirkbride.
  4. Per a c. 1858 lithograph of the Nova Scotia Hospital floor plan, the hospital's original building was modeled after the Kirkbride Plan. The Nova Scotia Hospital is also referenced in footnotes of The Architecture of Madness: Insane Asylums in the United States (2007) as being influenced by the Kirkbride Plan; however, its "double-loaded hallways" were a noted modification on the Kirkbride design. [85]

Related Research Articles

Danvers State Hospital United States national historic place

The Danvers State Hospital, also known as the State Lunatic Hospital at Danvers, The Danvers Lunatic Asylum, and The Danvers State Insane Asylum, was a psychiatric hospital located in Danvers, Massachusetts. It was built in 1874, and opened in 1878, under the supervision of prominent Boston architect Nathaniel Jeremiah Bradlee, on an isolated site in rural Massachusetts. It was a multi-acre, self-contained psychiatric hospital designed and built according to the Kirkbride Plan.

Taunton State Hospital Hospital in Massachusetts, United States

Taunton State Hospital is a psychiatric hospital located on Hodges Avenue in Taunton, Massachusetts. Established in 1854, it was originally known as the State Lunatic Hospital at Taunton. It was the second state asylum in Massachusetts. Most of the original part of the facility was built in a unique and rare neo-classical style designed by architects Boyden & Ball. It is also a Kirkbride Plan hospital and is located on a large 154-acre (62 ha) farm along the Mill River.

Trenton Psychiatric Hospital Hospital in New Jersey, United States

The Trenton Psychiatric Hospital is a state run mental hospital located in Trenton and Ewing, New Jersey. It previously operated under the name New Jersey State Hospital at Trenton and originally as the New Jersey State Lunatic Asylum.

Athens Lunatic Asylum United States historic place

The Athens Lunatic Asylum, now a mixed-use development known as The Ridges, was a Kirkbride Plan mental hospital operated in Athens, Ohio, from 1874 until 1993. During its operation, the hospital provided services to a variety of patients including Civil War veterans, children, and those declared mentally unwell. After a period of disuse the property was redeveloped by the state of Ohio. Today, The Ridges are a part of Ohio University and house the Kennedy Museum of Art as well as an auditorium and many offices, classrooms, and storage facilities.

Richardson Olmsted Complex United States historic place

The Richardson Olmsted Campus in Buffalo, New York, United States, was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986. The site was designed by the American architect Henry Hobson Richardson in concert with the famed landscape team of Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in the late 1800s, incorporating a system of enlightened treatment for people with mental illness developed by Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride. Over the years, as mental health treatment changed and resources were diverted, the buildings and grounds began a slow deterioration. In 2006, the Richardson Center Corporation was formed to restore the buildings.

Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital Hospital in Morris Plains, New Jersey

Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital referred to both the former psychiatric hospital and the historic building that it occupied in Morris Plains, New Jersey. Built in 1876, the facility was built to alleviate overcrowding at the state's only other "lunatic asylum" located in Trenton, New Jersey. Originally built to accommodate 350 people, the facility, having been expanded several times, reached a high of over 7700 patients resulting in unprecedented overcrowding conditions. In 2008, the facility was ordered to be closed as a result of deteriorating conditions and overcrowding. A new facility was built on the large Greystone campus nearby and bears the same name as the aging facility. Despite considerable public opposition and media attention, demolition of the main Kirkbride building began in April 2014 and was completed by October 2015.

Minnesota Security Hospital Hospital in Minnesota, United States

The Minnesota Security Hospital is a secure psychiatric hospital located in St. Peter, Minnesota. It serves people who have been committed by the court as mentally ill and dangerous. It was established as St. Peter State Hospital in 1866 under the Kirkbride Plan. The original building is mostly demolished though the hospital is still active.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Samuel Sloan (architect)</span> American architect

Samuel Sloan was a Philadelphia-based architect and best-selling author of architecture books in the mid-19th century. He specialized in Italianate villas and country houses, churches, and institutional buildings. His most famous building—the octagonal mansion "Longwood" in Natchez, Mississippi—is unfinished; construction was abandoned during the American Civil War.

Institute of the Pennsylvania Hospital United States historic place

The Institute of Pennsylvania Hospital, also known as Kirkbride's Hospital or the Pennsylvania Hospital for Mental and Nervous Diseases, was a psychiatric hospital located at 48th and Haverford Streets in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. It operated from its founding in 1841 until 1997. The remaining building, now called the Kirkbride Center is now part of the Blackwell Human Services Campus.

Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum United States historic place

The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, subsequently the Weston State Hospital, was a Kirkbride psychiatric hospital that was operated from 1864 until 1994 by the government of the U.S. state of West Virginia, in the city of Weston. Weston State Hospital got its name in 1913 which was used while patients occupied it, but was changed back to its originally commissioned, unused name, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, after being reopened as a tourist attraction.

The Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane, also known as The Superintendents' Association, was organized in Philadelphia in October, 1844 at a meeting of 13 superintendents, making it the first professional medical specialty organization in the U.S.

Asylum architecture in the United States of America

Asylum Architecture in the United States, including the architecture of psychiatric hospitals, affected the changing methods of treating the mentally ill in the nineteenth century: the architecture was considered part of the cure. Doctors believed that ninety percent of insanity cases were curable, but only if treated outside the home, in large-scale buildings. Nineteenth-century psychiatrists considered the architecture of asylums, especially their planning, to be one of the most powerful tools for the treatment of the insane, targeting social as well as biological factors to facilitate the treatment of mental illnesses. The construction and usage of these quasi-public buildings served to legitimize developing ideas in psychiatry. About 300 psychiatric hospitals, known at the time as insane asylums or colloquially as “loony bins” or “nuthouses,” were constructed in the United States before 1900. Asylum architecture is notable for the way similar floor plans were built in a wide range of architectural styles.

Patton State Hospital Hospital in California, United States

Patton State Hospital is a forensic psychiatric hospital in San Bernardino, California, United States. Though the hospital has a Patton, California address, it lies entirely within the San Bernardino city limits. Operated by the California Department of State Hospitals, Patton State Hospital is a forensic hospital with a licensed bed capacity of 1287 for people who have been committed by the judicial system for treatment.

Worcester State Hospital Hospital in Massachusetts, United States

Worcester State Hospital was a Massachusetts state mental hospital located in Worcester, Massachusetts. It is credited to the architectural firm of Weston & Rand. The hospital and surrounding associated historic structures are listed as Worcester Asylum and related buildings on the National Register of Historic Places.

Independence State Hospital Hospital in Iowa, United States

The Independence State Hospital was built in 1873 as the second asylum in the state of Iowa. It is located in Independence, Iowa. The original plan for patients was to relieve crowding from the hospital at Mount Pleasant and to hold alcoholics, geriatrics, drug addicts, mentally ill, and the criminally insane. It was built under the Kirkbride Plan. The hospital's many names include: The Independence Lunatic Asylum, The Independence State Asylum, The Independence Asylum for the Insane, The Iowa State Hospital for the Insane, and The Independence Mental Health Institute. There is also a labyrinth of tunnels which connect every building. Like most asylums of its time, it has had a gruesome and dark history. Remnants of this are the graveyard, hydrotherapy tubs, and lobotomy equipment.

Anna State Hospital, contemporarily known as Choate Mental Health and Developmental Center, is a public psychiatric hospital in Anna, Illinois, established in 1869. The original hospital was constructed under the Kirkbride Plan.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Columbus State Hospital</span> Psychiatric hospital in Columbus. Ohio

Columbus State Hospital, also known as Ohio State Hospital for Insane, was a public psychiatric hospital in Columbus, Ohio, founded in 1838 and rebuilt in 1877. The hospital was constructed under the Kirkbride Plan.

Arkansas State Hospital Hospital in Arkansas, United States

Arkansas State Hospital, originally known as Arkansas Lunatic Asylum, is the sole public psychiatric hospital in the state of Arkansas, and is located in the city of Little Rock. It was established in 1883 and as of 2021, it is still active. Its main focus is on acute care rather than chronic illness. The building was constructed in the Kirkbride design. The original Kirkbride building was demolished in 1963.

Terrell State Hospital Hospital in Texas, United States

Terrell State Hospital is a public psychiatric hospital located in Terrell, Texas, United States. Opened in 1885, it was originally known as the North Texas Lunatic Asylum. The original hospital building was built according to the Kirkbride Plan.

Nevada State Hospital

Nevada State Hospital was a public psychiatric hospital in Nevada, Missouri, constructed in 1887. The hospital was built in the design of the Kirkbride Plan.


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  2. "About Kirkbride Buildings". Kirkbride Buildings. Retrieved May 9, 2017.
  3. Goeres-Gardner 2013, p. 33.
  4. Yanni 2007, p. 11.
  5. Harvilla, Lindsay (2010). "Therapeutic Architecture". The Pennsylvania Center of the Book. Retrieved May 12, 2017.
  6. Yanni 2007, p. 56.
  7. Yanni 2007, pp. 55–59.
  8. 1 2 "The Buildings". Kirkbride Buildings. Retrieved May 9, 2017.
  9. 1 2 3 Verderber 2010, p. 25.
  10. Kirkbride 1854, p. 32.
  11. 1 2 Kirkbride 1854, p. 51.
  12. Kirkbride 1854, p. 14.
  13. Kirkbride 1854, p. 57.
  14. Kirkbride 1854, p. 15.
  15. Kirkbride 1854, p. 12.
  16. 1 2 3 4 5 Verderber 2010, p. 26.
  17. Kirkbride 1854, p. 7.
  18. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Kirkbride 1854, p. 53.
  19. Kirkbride 1854, p. 54.
  20. Kirkbride 1854, pp. 44–50.
  21. Kirkbride 1854, p. 48.
  22. Kirkbride 1854, p. 49.
  23. Kirkbride 1854, p. 52.
  24. Verderber 2010, pp. 26–27.
  25. Verderber 2010, p. 27.
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See Yanni, The Architecture of Madness, introduction, for more on environmental determinism.

Works cited

Further reading

Historical resources

Photo and videography