“Take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints.”
At the centre of a sprawling one square mile site is a vast and imposing building. Founded in 1875 and popularly known as Greystone Park, the New Jersey State Hospital for the Insane makes for a striking sight.
Built to the Kirkbride plan, the austere architecture was once alive with the throng of workers and inmates. This was a ‘self-contained city’ with dozens of buildings including a fire station, post office, police station, a farm and myriad other clerical and recreational constructions. Now however, the corridors echo only to birdsong and the eerie whistle of the wind.
Thomas Story Kirkbride believed that the ‘building was the cure’ to mental illness and planned his structures accordingly, with staggered wings that allowed in as much sunlight and fresh air as possible and set them within large grounds—idealistic sanctuaries “away from the pollutants and hectic energy of urban centers”. Kirkbride’s philosophy was (thanks in part to the reformer Dorothy Dix’s efforts) widely embraced and many asylums were constructed to his design. However, by the early 1900s new drug and psycho-analytical treatments emerged and these, coupled with the lack of funds, led many of the Kirkbride asylums to be closed, demolished or absorbed into new institutions.
Greystone was no exception.
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