By Janet Stafford
When I wrote SEEING THE ELEPHANT, I knew I wanted to put a picture of the Western New Jersey Hospital for the Insane on the cover. The only problem was it didn't exist!
I pictured: one of those old Kirkbride Hospital buildings of the nineteenth century. What was once called the Trenton Lunatic Asylum (a facility now called the Trenton Psychiatric Hospital) was the first hospital designed under the plan. The building actually was considered part of the treatment. These days, though, the structures make us uncomfortable. They look creepy and are remembered as being places of brutal treatment from the late 19th century into the 20th century, But they were not designed to do that. In the early-to-mid-1800s, they were supposed to make the patients feel they were entering places of healing and wisdom. But that's another story for another time.
My sister, Diane Stafford, is an artist who excels at doing pen and ink drawings of architecture. So I asked her if she would do a project for me and sent over several photos of old Kirkbride buildings with a description of what I envisioned, She produced the picture above.
The hospital in the story is a sort of modified "entry-level" building designed to grow as the patient population grew. Diane's rendering caught the essence of what I had imagined. And I can't thank her enough for the great image. Kudos, Diane!