The End of the Kirkbride

By 1891 the hospital was 40 years old and the Main Building was showing signs of wear. Dr. Thomas Kirkbride had passed away a few years prior in 1883, and there was now an even greater push than ever for the new cottage plan building style. Times of change were on the horizon for the hospital. In the first report of the new superintendent, Henry Orth, he dedicated four pages of the five page report to the "deplorable and almost uninhabitable condition of the building". He described the Main Building as "totally inadequate for the care and maintenance, much less the treatment, of the insane of the seventeen counties of this district." Ten thousand dollars were appropriated by the state legislature for repairs to the building. After much deliberation among the hospital trustees and Orth, the ward floors were replaced and repairs were made to the outside of the air ducts and drains. In May of 1893 an electric light plant was built in the boiler house. Wires were run along the ceiling in the Main Building for the electric, these wires can be seen in some of the hallway photographs. This also allowed for electric watch clocks in each ward, these clocks allowed attendants to have a reliable source of time. Larger water mains were also installed and fire extinguishers were distributed throughout the wards.

Superintendent Henry Orth

In May of 1893 the Pennsylvania State Legislature appropriated $100,000 for the purpose of tearing down and removal of the administration section of the Main Building and for constructing a new Administration Building. According to Orth, this was to be just "the first step". Addison Hutton of Philadelphia was hired to draw plans for not only the new Administration Building, but also for a new group of hospital buildings. The Main Building was described by Orth and Hutton as "a dull monotonous structure" of "depressing influence". They claimed that it retarded the recovery of patients. The cost of rebuilding the hospital was estimated at $400,000. The new plans called for a central Administration Building with four cottages on each side, of which were not to exceed two stories, connected by corridors. The plans also included a bakery, congregate dinning building, chapel, amusement hall, dormitory for nurses, and "numberless outbuildings".

Over the next 17 years the Hospital would undergo a complete rebuilding. The new Administration Building was completed in 1895. In 1897 $150,000 was appropriated for tearing down and removing the wings and for the construction of new patient buildings. The wings were systematically abandoned and torn down over eight years. Starting with the first set of male and female wings in 1900 when the new Infirmary Building was completed. A few years later in 1905 the demolition of the remaining male wings took place when the new Psychopathic, Convalescent, and Violent male buildings were completed. And finally in 1908 with the completion of the new female Psychopathic, Convalescent, and Violent buildings the remaining female wings were demolished as well. This marked the end of the Main Building, only 50 years after the first patient arrived at the hospital. A photograph, taken some time between 1895 and 1899 shows the wings of the Main Building with a gap between them where the administration section once was. In 1950 the land behind the new Administration Building was excavated to build the Admissions Building and debris from the Main Building was unearthed. The new Admissions Building now occupies the same space that the administration section once did.
The new Administration building, with the Main Building behind it
A color coded chart showing demolition dates for each section of the building

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