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The Kirkbride Plan
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The Kirkbride Plan

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Building as Cure
During our historical tours, hear about Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride's theory on what he referred to as the "moral treatment" of the insane, a constructive idea unique to the United States, for mental asylums from the mid to late 19th century.

Essential to the realization of his vision was moving patients from overcrowded city jails and almshouses, where patients were often chained to walls in cold dark cells, to a rural environment with grounds that were "tastefully ornamented" and buildings arranged "en echelon" resembling a shallow V if viewed from above. This design called for long, rambling wings, that provided therapeutic sunlight and air to comfortable living quarters so that the building itself promoted a curative effect, or as Kirkbride put it, "a special apparatus for lunacy." These facilities were designed to be entirely self-sufficient providing the patients with a variety of outlets for stimulating mental and physical activities.

The Kirkbride plan influenced the construction of over 300 similar facilities throughout North America, some of which were designed by such luminaries as H. H. Richardson, Richard Snowden Andrews, and Fredrick Law Olmstead. However, the 20th century brought changes in treatment philosophy, deinstitutionalization, and more community based treatment. The theory of "building as cure" was largely discredited. The expense of maintaining these facilities, combined with physical deterioration, has forced them to be mostly abandoned and many demolished.

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Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum
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