The Kirkbride Plan

The history of a psychiatric care revolution.

A Revolution in Mental Health

The Kirkbride Plan

The Kirkbride Plan was a system integrated into the architecture of mental hospitals during the 1800s that provided better patient care. It was devised by a psychiatrist from Philadelphia named Thomas Story Kirkbride (1809-1883), the plan’s namesake and superintendent.


The first asylum to be part of the Kirkbride Plan was the New Jersey State Lunatic Asylum. The requirements of a Kirkbride Plan were based on Moral Treatment and featured a floor plan with wings arranged in a staggered fashion so that they would each receive sunlight and fresh air. This would also help give the patients both comfort and privacy.


In general, the asylums featured farmland so the patients could work them for physical exercise and therapy. A few asylums in Canada and Australia were inspired by Kirkbride’s ideals. In the decades to follow 1900, many of the mammoth facilities had to be shut down due to their high maintenance costs.


While a vast number of the asylums still stand today, most of them were abandoned, neglected, and vandalized. Several are still in use, while others are being renovated for other uses.

Psychiatric Pioneer

Thomas Story Kirkbride

February 29, 1956 – October 9, 2002

Born in 1809, Thomas Story Kirkbride was a pioneer in the psychiatric field, starting the idea of “moral architecture”. This idea later came to be known as the Kirkbride Plan. The Philadelphian doctor died in 1883, but his plan lived on long after his death.

Psychiatric Pioneer

Dorothea Dix

November 12, 1934 – November 19, 2017

Dorothea Dix was a reformist who, in 1844, testified to the New Jersey legislature that the treatment of those with mental illness was rather poor, as in most cases, they were being kept in private homes, county jails, or the basements of buildings. It is because of her that the U.S. established mental hospitals. Because of her tireless efforts, the New Jersey State Lunatic Asylum was built.

16 Mental Institutions

Kirkbride Hospitals

Athens State Hospital

Athens State Hospital

Location: Athens, Ohio
Built: 1868
Status: Still standing

Bryce Hospital

Location: Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Built: 1861
Status: Still standing

Buffalo State Hospital

Buffalo State Hospital

Location: Buffalo, New York
Built: 1870
Status: Still standing

Cherokee State Hospital

Cherokee State Hospital

Location: Cherokee, Iowa
Built: 1902
Status: Still standing

Clarinda State Hospital

Clarinda State Hospital

Location: Clarinda, Iowa
Built: 1884
Status: Still standing

Danvers State Hospital

Location: Danvers, Massachusetts
Built: 1871
Status: Demolished in 2006

Dixmont State Hospital

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Built: 1862
Status: Demolished in 2006

Fergus Falls State Hospital

Fergus Falls State Hospital

Location: Fergus Falls, Minnesota
Built: 1890
Status: Still standing

Greystone Park State Hospital

Greystone Park State Hospital

Location: Morris Plains, New Jersey
Built: 1876
Status: Demolished in 2015

Hudson River State Hospital

Hudson River State Hospital

Location: Town of Poughkeepsie, New York
Built: 1868 – 1871
Status: Mostly demolished

Independence State Hospital

Independence State Hospital

Location: Independence, Iowa
Built: 1873
Status: Still standing

Northampton State Hospital

Location: Northampton, Massachusetts
Built: 1856
Status: Still standing

St. Elizabeths Hospital

Location: Southeast, Washington D.C.
Built: 1852
Status: Still standing

Taunton State Hospital

Location: Taunton, Massachusetts
Built: 1854
Status: Partly demolished, still standing

Weston State Hospital
(Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum)

Location: Weston, West Virginia
Built: 1858 – 1881
Status: Still standing

Worcester State Hospital

Worcester State Hospital

Location: Worcester, Massachusetts
Built: 1870 – 1876
Status: Mostly demolished in 1991 and 2008