martes, 1 de mayo de 2012

Silent Creatures


On January 12, 1833, the first public asylum for the insane in Massachusetts was opened in the scenic hills of Worcester. It was called the Bloomingdale Asylum, and by the latter half of the 19th century, it was already overcrowded beyond capacity. Funds were appropriated to construct a larger and more grandiose hospital called the Worcester Insane Asylum in the same vicinity.

Construction on the Kirkbride-plan hospital began in 1870 and was completed seven years later. Designed by architect Ward P. Delano of the firm Fuller & Delano of Worcester, the flagstone and brick building stood four stories tall, and between the 500 foot wings stood a beautiful clock tower, poised above the central administration building. On an interesting note, renowned psychiatrist Sigmund Freud visited the hospital in 1909 during his only trip to America.

A massive fire engulfed the Kirkbride building on July 22, 1991, destroying almost all of the roof and floors, save for the right most wing and the administration building. The burned out shells of the other areas were bulldozed and the extra stone was used to seal up the gaping holes left by the connections to the remaining sections.
The hospital still functions as a psychiatric facility in a large, newer building near the Kirkbride building, which now threatens to close as well.
2008 Update: The wings of the Kirkbride building are being demolished, along with the two historic rotundas and employee residences. The only older structure that is to be saved seems to be the administration building and clock tower.

A book entitled A Century of Silence - Echoes from a Massachusetts Landscape (The Herodotus Press, ISBN: 9780952541417) details the life of an Irish emigrant family in 1900s America. It traces the events of the author Norman Mongan's granduncle, who was admitted to Worcester State Hospital on several occasions, then ultimately ending his life by hanging himself at the hospital in 1903. Transcripts from doctor's interviews were meticulously dug up by the author and included verbatim in the book.




A first-hand account of the hospital:

"I was quite surprised when I saw the hospital for the first time in real person... the administration is a bit strange looking, with the clock tower seeming to be top heavy, but the building carried a presence of awe inspiring fortitude. The detail was incredible, and the wards were very prison-esque in the fact that the windows had thick, heavy jail bars laid across them (although it's difficult to tell from the outside since most of them are boarded or bricked up).

Inside the wards started out interesting... a basement room full of antique electronics kept us busy for a while. Then we walked into a wide tiled hallway which got us excited... surgery? Morgue? No, lots of little benches... really weird. I wandered into the back of the large room and stood there for a few minutes, trying to comprehend what I was seeing. It was a giant shower room, with about twenty stalls, and in the center was a caged area with dials for water temperature; essentially a place where the patients were hosed down en-masse. Perhaps this hospital was once overcrowded and understaffed, but this just didn't sit right with me. Worcester State was the first hospital I have visited where I felt such a strong feeling of sadness.

We made out way upstairs, and explored the very empty wards, constantly dodging bats flying into our faces; you can't hear them coming until they're right on top of you! The fire department seemed to have been using some of the rooms to train in, some had mazes that you had to crawl around in the pitch blackness, I would guess in full gear. There were a few bed frames left, and some miscellaneous objects, but the place was pretty much massive and empty."

via Opacity

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