Nov 012013

I have a photo essay up on Narratively about two Kirkbride asylums in New Jersey and New York, with a bunch of before/after photos. I’m actually proud of this one, since I got to do all the writing, minus the titles. Not that I’m the best at titling things anyways. (See: Fart Party, Museum of Mistakes and this website.)

Here are two sample paragraphs and photos, but please go to the site to read the whole thing!

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The Lunatic Asylum at Morristown first opened in 1876. Later renamed the less offensive “Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital,” the facility in Morris Plains, New Jersey, is centered around a main building constructed in the Kirkbride style, a branch of High Victorian Gothic architecture designed specifically for asylums. Known for its distinctive tiered, linear pattern, Kirkbride buildings placed administration facilities in the middle, with two expansive ward wings on each side. Kirkbride buildings were designed to house and protect patients in a series of secluded wards. The tiered layout kept mental and physical illnesses contained to specific areas and cultivated a safe, enclosed atmosphere for the patients to live and receive treatment.

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Hudson’s Kirkbride building is unique due to its uneven wings. The men’s wards are longer than the women’s wards, although most photographs of patients at Hudson are of women. The wards had day rooms, as shown above, in which patients played pool, practiced instruments, sewed, made art and read; although many photographs feature patients simply sitting still and doing nothing, an inert pastime that increased greatly with the discovery of Thorazine, an antipsychotic with a highly sedating effect. Thorazine contributed greatly to the deinstitutionalization of mental health facilities in the mid-1900s—when overcrowded state asylums sought to quickly treat and release patients—and the beginning of the decline of self-sufficient communities like Greystone and Hudson.

Read the rest on Narratively 

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