Greystone supporters gather in Morristown ahead of April 6 demolition

Preserve Greystone is trying to stop the April 6 demolition of the historic Kirkbride Building.
Preserve Greystone is trying to stop the April 6, 2015, demolition of the historic Kirkbride Building.
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By Adam McGovern, Preserve Greystone

Some 50 supporters of Preserve Greystone filled a room at Morristown town hall on Wednesday night for a town hall meeting called by the group seeking to save the historic site from imminent demolition plans.

“At the time it was built, it was the pride of the nation, and the area’s biggest employer,” noted Preserve Greystone President John Huebner about the former Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital when it opened its doors in the 1870s.

Preserve Greystone is trying to stop the April 6 demolition of the historic Kirkbride Building.
Preserve Greystone is trying to stop the April 6, 2015, demolition of the historic Kirkbride Building.

Huebner alternated projected images of Greystone in its current state of disrepair with ones of a site of the same kind, Traverse City in Michigan, both when it looked much like Greystone does now, and after concerned citizens helped bring it to a new vibrant life as a commercial and community center.

A site like Greystone represents creative ideals through its architecture, and a legacy of community service through its original purpose, and “these qualities are easily removed and very difficult to reconstruct once they’re gone,” remarked Robert Kirkbride, an architect and educator descended from Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride, the physician whose theories of humane treatment guided Greystone and gave the main, “Kirkbride Building” its name.

Michael dePierro, a councilman from Parsippany, the town that Greystone is situated in, and whose council voted unanimously to approve a resolution to urge the State to seek alternatives to demolition in 2013, attended the meeting and remarked on how the town had taken the once-dilapidated Craftsman Farms site and made it a major tourist destination and historic-preservation success story.

Adam Heubner of Preserve Greystone addresses annual meeting in Morristown. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Adam McGovern of Preserve Greystone addresses 2014 meeting in Morristown. File photo by Kevin Coughlin

The State Attorney General has stated that April 6 is the date for demolition of Greystone’s Kirkbride Building to begin; the State Treasury Department, which controls the site, has not divulged the current schedule.

Nonetheless, Preserve Greystone is pursuing a stay of the demolition in the courts, arguing that the awarding of the contract was in violation of the Historic Places Act, which affords the same protection that a building on the National Register of Historic Places would get, to sites which are eligible for that status, which the NJ Historic Preservation Office has long ruled that Greystone is.

Citizens attending the meeting called for a rally on the grounds of Greystone itself, which is being organized for a weekend in the near future.

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6 COMMENTS

  1. Does anyone know if demolition actually started today?? I know it was slated for this week… Such a sad thing. The building should be preserved, and kept open as a museum.

  2. … please excuse my typos, I was typing too fast and did not check my work … my past professors would be angry with me, ha ha

  3. Thank you Marge, great memory of days gone by. I suspect that the forces that be simply have an agreement with developers for the property that do not include saving the old building, thus their refusal to try to save it. Some feel that it is a reminder of sadness and despair, I chose to thing of it as a place that helped people, and simply appreciate the grand nature of the architecture. If it could be saved, renovated, and made ready for a new, modern use, that would be the best of all worlds. It just seems a shame to lose such a significant history building. Just one man’s opinion.

  4. It was only in its later years that conditions deteriorated. When my family would take our children there to visit in the 50’s, it was still a pleasant place, although already neglected and overcrowded. We lived near by and the farm was still functioning. Many elderly residents lived there, some blind and visitation was encouraged. Mothers suffering from postpartum depression were in residence amd their husbands would bring their children to visit. There was a shop where you could purchased lovely items made by the patients. The building was an architectural wonder designed to provide an optimum setting and environment for the care of the mentally ill. When first completed, tourists came from miles away just to visit and appreciate the building and the setting in which it was placed.

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