Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital

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The main building of Greystone Psychiatric Hospital in 2006
Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital postcard

Coordinates: 40°50′5″N 74°30′19″W / 40.83472°N 74.50528°W / 40.83472; -74.50528

Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital (also known as Greystone Psychiatric Park, Greystone Psychiatric Hospital, or simply Greystone) refers to both the former psychiatric hospital and the historic building that it occupied in Parsippany-Troy Hills Township (formerly part of Hanover Township, New Jersey).

A new facility was built on the large Greystone campus and bears the same name as the aging facility.


Originally opened on August 17, 1876, the hospital was known as the New Jersey State Lunatic Asylum at Morristown. The asylum officially received the familiar Greystone Park name in 1924. The idea for such a facility was conceived in the early 1870s at the persistent lobbying of Dorothea Lynde Dix, a nurse who was an advocate for better health care for people with mental illnesses. Because of her efforts, the New Jersey Legislature appropriated $2.5 million to obtain about 300 hectares (743 acres) of land for New Jersey’s second "lunatic asylum". Great care was taken to select a location central to the majority of New Jersey's population near Morristown, Parsippany, and Newark. The land Greystone was built on was purchased by the state in two installments between 1871 and 1872 for a total of $146,000.

At that time in history, New Jersey's state-funded mental health facilities were exceedingly overcrowded and sub-par compared to neighboring states that had more facilities and room to house patients. Greystone was built, all 62,589 square metres (673,700 sq ft) of it, in part to relieve the only – and severely overcrowded – "lunatic asylum" in the state, which was located in Trenton, New Jersey. Greystone's initial 292 patients were transferred from the Trenton facility to Greystone based on geographic distribution, setting precedent for Greystone to become the facility that would generally accept patients whose residences were in the northern part of the state. This proved to be the very reason why Greystone quickly became overcrowded in the heavily populated North while the Trenton facility's number of patients remained relatively stable in the comparatively sparsely populated South.


In just four years after Greystone opened, it was already accommodating around 800 patients in a facility designed for 600. By 1887, the exercise rooms and attic space were converted to dormitories to create extra rooms for the influx of new patients. In an attempt to relieve the further overcrowding, the Dormitory Building was built behind the Main Building in 1901. It, however, wasn't enough to alleviate the problem and thus in the same year the dining rooms on each floor had to be converted into dormitories as well. 13 years later, in 1914, the facility housed 2,412 patients, but now has an absolute maximum capacity of 1,600.

The next few decades saw a flurry of construction as supply was scrambling to meet demand. Of note was a new reception building named after the influential Greystone superintendent Marcus Curry in 1927. Patient numbers are believed to have peaked in 1953 with an impressive 7,674 people packed into spaces designed for significantly fewer. An explanation for this dramatic increase can be found in the fact that World War II had ended and left many soldiers requiring treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, which included procedures such as insulin shock therapy and electroconvulsive therapy. Greystone was one of the few places in the country capable of treating such patients.

Modern day[edit]

The 1970s and 1980s finally saw some weight lifted from this overcrowded facility because of the trend toward de-institutionalization, which was a direct effect of the use of Thorazine, one of the first drugs that was capable of effectively treating those with serious and persistent psychotic disorders. By 1975, the clinic building had closed with the Curry building closing the following year. Due to the Doe Vs. Klein case, the hospital was required to provide community homes for halfway house-style living. In 1982, 20 independent living cottages holding two patients each were built. By 1988, all patients had been moved out of the Kirkbride building (the main building), and in 1992, the dormitory building closed. For the most part, the main building remained unused except for administrative offices in the center section.

In 2000, Greystone was only a 550-bed facility when then Governor of New Jersey Christine Todd Whitman announced that the state was going to close the facility by 2003. The decision to close Greystone came about not only because of concerns for the aging buildings, but also due to the recent negative press it was receiving. Specifically, accounts of sexual assault in a hospital elevator, patients committing suicide, patients becoming pregnant, and a twice-convicted rapist escaping did not help Greystone's public image. Some patients were slowly transferred to smaller-capacity programs, reducing the number of residential patients to approximately 450 in 2005. Then, on September 8, 2005, the New Jersey Health Care Facilities Financing Authority closed a $186,565,000 bond issue on behalf of the State of New Jersey Department of Human Services for the completion of a new, 43,000 m2 (460,000 sq ft) Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital, still with a shortage of about 75 beds.

The current Greystone campus covers over one square mile (259 ha) and consists of 43 buildings.

The building and the Kirkbride Plan[edit]

The original Second Empire Victorian style building was 62,589 square metres (673,700 sq ft). At the base of this building was the alleged largest continuous foundation in the United States from the time it was built until it was surpassed by the Pentagon when it was constructed in 1943. However, many other Kirkbride asylum buildings (such as the Ohio State Asylum for the Insane) also lay a claim to this fame and it has not been verified which one is true. The building has a characteristic linear arrangement, which was designed to the specifications of the Kirkbride Plan. The main building has a center section that was used for administrative purposes with three wings radiating out from the center, each about 42.7 meters (140 ft) long. They were set back from the previous one so that patients could enjoy the beauty of the outside surroundings. This was a central concept, along with moral treatment, that was the hallmark of the Kirkbride Plan for treating the mentally ill. The building form itself was meant to promote treatment and have a curative effect.

Each ward was initially set up to accommodate 20 patients. Each was furnished with a dining room, exercise room, and parlor. Most wards had wool rugs that ran the full length of the corridors. Other amenities included Victorian stuffed furniture, pianos, pictures, curtains and fresh flowers. Though not all wards were created equally. Wards that housed the most excitable patients were sparsely furnished – presumably for their own safety – with sturdy oak furniture.

Initial fees were $3.50 per week for a normal patient. For persons seeking private apartment-style living, the rent could be anywhere from $5.00 to $10.00 per week.

During the time that Greystone was built, the predominant philosophy in psychology was that the mentally ill could be cured or treated, but only if they were in an environment designed to deal with them. A major proponent of this philosophy was Thomas Story Kirkbride, who participated in the design phase of the main building at Greystone, though the two main designers were architect Samuel Sloan and Trenton State Asylum Superintendent Horace Buttolph (a friend of Kirkbride's). The building was constructed and furnished according to Kirkbride's philosophy, which proposed housing no more than 250 patients in a three story building. The rooms were to be light and airy with only two patients to a room. To reduce the likelihood of fires, Greystone and other Kirkbride asylums were constructed using stone, brick, slate and iron, using as little wood as possible. A street on the Greystone Park campus bears Buttolph's name.

The Greystone campus itself was once a self-contained community that included staff housing, a post office, fire and police stations, a working farm, and vocational and recreational facilities. It also had its own gas and water utilities and a gneiss quarry, which was the source of the Greystone building material. Below the building, a series of tunnels and rails connect the many sections. For many years, a trolley line, part of the Morris County Traction Company, connected the facility with what is now a NJ Transit rail station at Morris Plains and other parts of Morris County.


The Curry Building as it appeared in 2006. Now owned by Morris County, the building was demolished in 2008 after an inspection deemed it irreparable.

Until 2003, the future of most of the historic buildings was uncertain. Many of the buildings are vacant and need major repairs. Preservationists have been working for several years to guarantee the survival of this complex of buildings. Morris County had been negotiating with the State of New Jersey to take over vacant structures for non-profit agencies. Citizens of Morris County and surrounding areas formed a Preserve Greystone society to save the building. In 2003, Morris County finalized plans to purchase about 300 acres (1.2 km2) of Greystone Park from the state for $1.00. The purchase included many of the vacant, dilapidated buildings. The county is exploring options for viable uses of the new county park and buildings.

Ground was ceremonially broken on November 16, 2005, for the new psychiatric hospital on the Greystone campus. The expected date of opening was October 2007. The new hospital is two-thirds the size of the Kirkbride building and can house about 450 patients, with another 100 patients living in hospital-run cottages on the grounds around the main building.

The remaining property, including the historic Kirkbride building, is being turned over to the state's treasurer in October 2007 as excess property and will be sold. Its future remains uncertain.

On July 16, 2008 the patients were finally transferred to the new, state-of-the-art building which will house the new 450-bed facility. The move came after several long delays due to construction and security concerns.

In the summer of 2008, the Curry building, as well as the surrounding vacant buildings, were demolished. The Kirkbride building and surrounding patient houses are heavily patrolled by the New Jersey Department of Human Services Police and are inaccessible to the public.

The Kirkbride building has been used as a filming location for multiple shows and films, including Marvin's Room and House, M.D..[1]

In August 2013, state officials from the New Jersey Department of the Treasury announced plans to demolish the main Kirkbride building. In response to the community preservation group, Preserve Greystone, the Department worked with a consultant who found that redevelopment of the building would be too costly.[2] The following year the state announced the awarding of a $34.4 million demolition bid to Northstar Contracting Group to take down the Kirkbride Building as well as other structures of the old hospital. Governor Chris Christie announced that the state was not considering a bid by Alma Realty to restore the property at no cost to the state.[3] The plans for the demolition include the designation of an area on the property to memorialize the Kirkbride Building.[4] State officials announced the demolition is scheduled to begin on April 6, 2015 and that work to clean up the site has already begun. Preserve Graystone filed an appeal to halt the demolition which the state court declined to hear.[5] Protests were held on April 12.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lockwood, Jim (July 20, 2009). "'House' television show returns to Greystone Park hospital to shoot additional scenes". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved March 4, 2011. 
  2. ^ Associated Press (August 18, 2013). "N.J. plans to demolish historic Greystone hospital building". Retrieved January 16, 2015. 
  3. ^ Westhoven, William (August 14, 2014). "Greystone demolition bid awarded: $34.4M". Daily Record. Retrieved January 16, 2015. 
  4. ^ Horowitz, Ben (September 24, 2014). "Demolition of Greystone psychiatric hospital to start 'within a month'". Retrieved January 16, 2015. 
  5. ^ Horowitz, Ben (November 6, 2014). "11th-hour appeal aims to stop Greystone's demolition". Retrieved January 16, 2015. 
  6. ^ "PHOTOS: Hundreds rally to save Greystone from demolition". April 12, 2015. 

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