PHOTOS: The gorgeous, decayed ‘lunatic asylum’ NJ just tore down
For all intents and purposes, the old Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital in Parsippany is no more.
Wednesday, a crane destroyed the center portion of the seven-story, 675,000-square-foot Kirkbride building local groups fought hard and failed to save.
A consultant's report in 2013 estimated it would cost at least $110 million to save Greystone — and said several proposed alternatives that included housing and possibly office space would ultimately be money-losers as well.
Advocacy group Preserve Grestone unsuccessfully challenged the state in court — saying it made more sense to repurpose an architectural marvel and part of New Jersey's history than to see it go. The group has also argued repurposing the site would ultimately be more cost-effective and environmentally friendly, challenging the state report findings.
"Today we witnessed the end of an era, as Greystone's iconic dome and facade collapsed under the weight of hydraulics and steel," wrote the administrators of the Greystone's Last Stand Facebook page, tied to a documentary of the same name by Antiquity Echoes (seen below). "As it is with most preservation efforts — The driving reason why people wanted Greystone to be saved was to preserve not only the physical building, but the history contained within."
It continued: "In many cases once a building is razed most of the stories it once held fall with it. ... In its final moments Greystone became a martyr, and through its loss communities across the country are now looking at their own Kirkbride asylums with renewed respect. Greystone no longer stands upon its Parsippany hilltop, it now exists in every asylum which has found salvation through its demise."
Among the efforts to preserve Greystone's history, if not the facility itself, is a book Antiquity Echoes produced on abandoned locations. It features Greystone's master staircase on the cover.
Preserve Greystone itself wrote on Facebook that despite the virtually completed demolition, it's continuing to challenge the award of a contract for the project in court. The stay it sought on the demolition is now irrelevant, the group wrote, but it hopes a finding in its favor "will prevent the State from ever again circumventing (historic protections) like the ones it maintains should have protected Greystone."
Greystone first opened in 1877 as the New Jersey State Lunatic Asylum at Morris Plains. The overcrowded site with a troubled history famously treated Woody Guthrie for his degenerative Huntington’s disease.
But over the years, reports of patient suicides, sexual assaults and various forms of mistreatment — combined with the decaying state of its buildings — prompted New Jersey officials to move patients and resources out of the facility. Gov. Christine Todd Whitman ordered it closed by 2003, and while several buildings were demolished, the hospital staff didn't leave the Kirkbridge building until it moved to another facility in 2008.
Authorities have chased photographers and videographers off the Greystone site in recent years, and some have been charged — being there was considered tresspassing. But in March, AbandonedNJ posted what it said was "probably the last footage you will ever see" inside the hospital:"