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.
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.
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.