Monday, April 6, 2015

The Battle for Greystone Park


The name itself evokes haunting images of mysterious old structures and dark corridors.  This large, historic complex sits abandoned, smack dab in the middle of modern suburbia.  Now, its fate hangs in the balance while preservation groups struggle to save it.
Properly known as “Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital,” the building originally opened in 1876 as the New Jersey Lunatic Asylum at Morristown, receiving the now well-known moniker Greystone Park in 1924.  Greystone was built in the style of Second Empire Victorian on 743 acres of land and totaled a sprawling 673,706 square feet.

The facility was designed to accommodate around 600 patients, but it quickly became overcrowded, housing 800 within its first four years.  The numbers grew dramatically, by the early 1900s numbers were in the thousands, and by the early 1950s, well over 7,000 patients were housed at the location.  Numbers finally declined in the 70s and by the 1990s, the main building was reduced to administrative use only.  NJ Governor Christine Todd Whitman announced the closure of the facility in 2003.
Over the years, Greystone was plagued with stories of patient abuse, sexual assaults and suicides.  On several occasions, disturbed patients managed to escape, causing concern to families in the surrounding towns.

Folk singer Woody Guthrie spent time in Greystone in the 1950s after being diagnosed with Huntington’s disease. 

One strange tale, covered by Weird NJ magazine, involves a Norwegian sailor named Fogelma who was committed to Greystone.  According to an article published in the Empire News in 1923, Fogelma frequently went into fits of rage and described details from the infamous murders in Whitechapel, London.  The sailor’s information was such that it led some people to believe that he could have been Jack the Ripper himself.  Greystone researchers have been unable to verify the man’s time at the hospital, so, for now at least, the story may simply be a fanciful tale.  But Greystone isn’t short on lore, like many old mental hospitals, it has its share of ghostly legends.  Shadow people, apparitions and strange sounds coming from the buildings have been common over the years.  Dark tunnels connecting the various buildings run under Greystone and the few people that have entered them report unsettling feelings and the sense of being watched and followed.  Even former employees of the hospital have unpleasant memories of the tunnels.
Locals report the feeling of being watched even when they are outside viewing the buildings.  Vacant windows stare out, hiding, perhaps, the spirits of former residents.

Now, it’s possible this historic, creepy building will be lost to the ravages of “development.”
In what appears to be shady political moves, New Jersey declined offers to restore the building, without cost to the state, and instead elected to award a $34.4 million dollar demolition bid to Northstar Contracting Group.
Preservation groups are now fighting with the state to save the historic building. 

To learn more about Greystone and the questionable moves that have led to the battle for its preservation, I encourage you to watch the five minute video linked below.  There’s also a FB page dedicated to keeping people updated on developments.