Preservationists vow to keep fighting to save Greystone building

Adam Heubner of Preserve Greystone addresses annual meeting in Morristown. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Adam Heubner of Preserve Greystone addresses annual meeting in Morristown. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

 

Despite long odds, they are not quitting.

“We aren’t out, and won’t be down until the building is,” Adam McGovern of Preserve Greystone told about 80 people at the nonprofit’s annual meeting in the Morristown & Township Library on Thursday.

They came to ponder how to save the Kirkbride Building–the massive 19th-century centerpiece of an asylum on the Parsippany/Morris Plains border–from the wrecking ball.

The state has expressed plans to spend $50 million to clean up and then demolish the Second Empire Victorian structure, which has been closed since 2008. The property then would be given to Morris County as open space.  A consultant has estimated it would cost more than $100 million to renovate the once-elegant facility.

Preserve Greystone contends the building is a “treasure” that should be saved for its architecture, and as a monument to the history of psychiatric care in New Jersey and the United States.

Six groups have presented proposals for rehabilitating the building, but the state has declined to explore any of them, according to John Heubner, president of Preserve Greystone.

A representative of one of those groups, a nonprofit called the Center for Regenerative Community Solutions, briefly addressed the meeting.

Jonathan Cloud said the center’s proposal would convert Kirkbride into a  “robust 21st century village”  combining housing and offices.

Jonathan, who was involved in unsuccessful efforts to convert a former Morristown auto dealership into a community “eco-center”  in 2011, says no public funds are necessary for the proposed CRCS Greystone project, beyond $10 million already earmarked to remove asbestos and other harmful materials.

Documentary filmmakers Christina Mathews and Rusty Tagliareni of Antiquity Echoes. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Documentary filmmakers Christina Mathews and Rusty Tagliareni of Antiquity Echoes. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Filmmakers Rusty Tagliareni and Christina Mathews also showed previews of a Greystone documentary  they are making.  A longer version will be screened on May 10, 2014, at the Barnes and Noble store on Route 10 in Morris Plains.

A fundraiser for Preserve Greystone, celebrating the spirit of Greystone’s most famous patient, the late folksinger Woody Guthrie, is scheduled for May 24 at noon, at Roxy & Duke’s Roadhouse in Dunnellen.

So far, Preserve Greystone has been frustrated attempting to learn about the state’s deliberations to demolish Kirkbride. Officials have declined to discuss their reasons, according to John Heubner, and state records obtained via the Open Public Records Act have been heavily redacted.

The organization’s window may be narrow; John told the library gathering that the state could sign a contract for the demolition within months.

He suggested that the state wants the public to forget about Greystone.

“If the history of Greystone makes us comfortable, it’s time to examine our attitudes toward mental illness,” John said.

People pack room for Preserve Greystone meeting at the Morristown & Township Library. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

People pack room for Preserve Greystone meeting at the Morristown & Township Library. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

 

 



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