July 29th, 2008


Story on restoration

I found this story this morning and give how many asylum's we've seen on the board, I thought it might be interesting...

Jul 29, 7:14 AM EDT

Old asylums decay, but some eye pricey restoration

Associated Press Writer

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Equal parts graceful and eerie, massive brick and stone asylums once loomed over towns from Maine to California as the 19th century's ideal for the humane treatment of the mentally ill.

Ornate facades, turrets, sprawling grounds and sheer palatial size belied the name mental hospital. Known as Kirkbride buildings, for the Pennsylvania physician who inspired them, they flourished for half a century.

Today the forces of age and neglect, together with a century of changes in treating mental illness, have slashed the ranks of Kirkbride asylums to a handful that will need ambitious developers to save them from collapse. Many of the surviving buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places, but restoring them is not easy. The colossal structures face a slow demolition by decay because of the enormous cost of maintenance, let alone renovation.

Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital in Parsippany, N.J., is a prime example. The 132-year-old neo-Gothic building was the largest poured-concrete structure in the U.S. before the Pentagon was built.

Many people - from preservationists to developers to elected officials - want to see it saved, but keep hitting the same wall.

"Ultimately, it comes down to money," said Carrie Fellows, the director of the Morris County Heritage Commission. "It would take unfathomable millions. Multiple millions and millions of dollars."

That's the problem for communities grappling with the physical legacy of Dr. Thomas Kirkbride, who at one time influenced the construction of nearly every mental hospital in the country.

Kirkbride in 1854 proposed a model for asylums: campuses sprawled over hundreds of acres where patients would live in self-contained communities, with the centerpiece a beautiful, enormous building that Kirkbride wanted to resemble the finest hotels of the time.

"The building became part of the treatment," said Nancy Tomes, chairwoman of the Stony Brook University history department and the author of "The Art of Asylum-Keeping," about the Kirkbride model. "The idea was to design a building that would actually help your mind recover."
The rest of the story is here