Buildings started to show up on this campus as early as 1905. The county needed a hospital to take care of numerous infectious diseases that were infecting residents of Essex. They already had a psychiatric hospital as well as a tuberculosis sanatorium in what was then the countryside, but the isolation hospital had to be built near the city of Newark.
Before long, the campus was becoming more and more crowded. In addition, the children's ward was insufficient for the demand. In 1929, the crown jewel of the campus was built. The towering edifice was occupied before long, and functioned for decades before the dwindling population of the campus forced the buildings to close.
After the demolition of the Essex Mountain Sanatorium, the county set their eyes on the vacant complex of buildings in Belleville for condominiums. After 3 years of remediation and securing the proper credentials, the county demolished most of the brick buildings in the back of the campus. Two structures in the back of the campus were spared, and renovated into office buildings, and the children's building was occupied by the Garden State Cancer Research Center. Well, half of it was.
The group occupied the administration area and the right wing, leaving the left wing to rot. After a friend of mine posted some photos of the interior, I had to go see the place for myself. After finding a way inside, I was taken aback by the peeling paint and rusting hospital equipment. This was one of the first buildings I ever wandered into, so my friend and I spent almost an hour cautiously walking around. As I mentioned before, the building was still partially active. There were disused floors on the active sides, but they were all totally stripped.
It didn't take very long to finish seeing the wing, so we headed out. We were determined to come back to the hospital at some point, but I didn't get my chance for a while. The cancer center declared bankruptcy in 2011, and was forced to vacate the building. So now, once again, the entire building was empty. Plans were made to visit the building soon after it's closure. Unfortunately we got busy, and a number of break ins and fires kept the building sealed for the longest time. The building eventually sold for 3.7 million dollars. I knew it was time to go back, before I lost my chance forever.
It took a visit from a friend from Idaho to get me back to the hospital. The new owners went around and sealed up the building, but a door they missed swung open we tried it. It was bittersweet walking through the building, seeing all the vandalism that wasn't there during our last visit. After spending some time on the roof, watching the police pull somebody over below, we decided to head out.
After posting some of my shots on an online urban exploration forum, a former patient (who had found the site through photos somebody else took) began to tell the stories of terror and abuse he was subjected to at the hospital. He even tried to escape the hospital at one point, to no avail. Hearing him tell his stories sent a chill down my spine; I had walked the same hallways he is talking about, but without the fear he experienced.
A few weeks after my second visit inside, I decided to drive by the hospital to see what had come of the new ownership. I was surprised and a little saddened to see the entire hospital sealed up, with full dumpsters sitting in the driveway. As I watched the owner toss items out of the building and into the dumpsters below, I felt a calm come over me, knowing that the building was going to be seeing new life, as opposed to all of the other county owned properties which ended up in a landfill. The hospital is being transformed, like everything else around here, into condos. Only time will tell what happens to the building now, I can only hope it is kind.