Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Essex County Isolation Hospital





I remember passing by the Essex County Isolation Hospital as a child. By then the campus only had a few buildings left, but the one that caught my eye was the 8 story children's building which stood proudly across the large lawn at the corner of Franklin and Belleville. The structure was quite imposing , made of yellow brick and limestone. The building was still in use, or at least half of it was, by the Garden State Cancer Research Center. As soon as I got home, I researched everything I could about the hospital.





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.






34 comments:

  1. I always wondered about this building! interesting...

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    1. I live in bloomfield and this building always scared me. Then i saw a beautiful mind and thought it was beautiful.

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  2. great post!!!!!

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  3. It's on the corner of Franklin Ave and BELLEVILLE AVE, not Bellvue
    I went to school across the strett for 7 years

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    1. I am sure by spell/grammar checking someone you would spell check yourself too...just saying

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    2. Thank you for the correction.

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  4. Dear AbandonedNJ
    Hi - great job gathering these lost bits of history. If you could, please email me at address below. I'd like to connect and ask you a couple of related questions. Thanks, Steve
    steve@deepimage.info

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  5. My father spent many years as a patient there iv'e been inside countless times.

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  6. This place looks haunted

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  7. This should be next episode of Ghost Adventures......

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  8. This used to be known as the Essex County Geriatric Center as recently as 1981. It became the County geriatric hospital in 1955ish. It is also called SOHO. I'm not sure of why.
    Anyone who was there as a child in the children's shelter it was out back where the condos are. The proper name for it in the 60's early 70's was "The Essex County Emergency Children's Shelter". It was not a nice place to be for me. Later it became the "Center for Abused and Abandoned Children" also still run buy the County/DYFS until it closed in 1981.
    There was a ward on the 4th floor of the main hospital if I recall correctly where disabled children resided in one wing they had a few large rooms, until??? These are children with conditions that live at home in the family now. Until the 1980's it was common for doctors to encourage families to institutionalize disabled children.

    If you were there look online at least one other person is looking for people who were there.

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    1. Prior to that. I had the good fortune to work with North Jersey Developmental Center, Totowa, NJ which was closed a few years back. A residential institution whose residents at the time, late 90's celebrating birthdays, 80+ yrs, had been there possibly at the ages of 4+. A place riddled with phenomenal Persons of varying cultural, social, economic & financial heritage. I always wondered as to the why a Medical Group has not considered purchasing.

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    2. Prior to that. I had the good fortune to work with North Jersey Developmental Center, Totowa, NJ which was closed a few years back. A residential institution whose residents at the time, late 90's celebrating birthdays, 80+ yrs, had been there possibly at the ages of 4+. A place riddled with phenomenal Persons of varying cultural, social, economic & financial heritage. I always wondered as to the why a Medical Group has not considered purchasing.

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    3. Prior to that. I had the good fortune to work with North Jersey Developmental Center, Totowa, NJ which was closed a few years back. A residential institution whose residents at the time, late 90's celebrating birthdays, 80+ yrs, had been there possibly at the ages of 4+. A place riddled with phenomenal Persons of varying cultural, social, economic & financial heritage. I always wondered as to the why a Medical Group has not considered purchasing.

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  9. I remember my first rotation in nursing school I had to go on Fridays to what was called the Essex County Geriatric Center. I remember the cold feeling inside. It was dreary and dark and I do remember it did not help when it rained everytime we went for out rotation. The types of people we worked with were those that were pretty much done except for them being able to open there eyes and starte. I knew that that was not what I wold do for life. I did not know there was children's ward and today on 10.5 they were talking about abandoned buildings and it brought me back to the early days of nursing school.

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  10. DG Hughes,
    The children's ward was there in the 60's. I was one of the Shelter kids and you'd be shocked to know what happened to me. Take a look at the Belleville, NJ Topix page you should recognise the title of the blog.
    I'll post a direct link but in case it i s not allowed I mentioned the webpage it is located on.

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  11. Oops, here is the link DG HUghes,
    http://www.topix.com/forum/city/belleville-nj/TV02FNMT3GE8K208B

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  12. Absolutely horrific story at that link. Always suspected there were bad things going on there when I was a boy in the late 50's early 60's. I'd thought it was to isolate TB cases,,, never knew the children's part of the story! OMG!

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  13. Thank You for reading that Anon 2-6-15.
    I finally got some honest feedback telling me it was "very, very, very difficult to read and you have no ability to tell a narrative".
    I should describe it as a journal of what I was remembering and thinking on the date of the post.
    The Children's Shelter was not part of the hospital but the whole property was owned by the County and had several county agencies on it. The hospital had the County Geriatric Center and a separate ward for special needs children run by a "Private Agency" which got its money from the government. Most of those children would stay at home today. Then there was the protective custody children's shelter which I think now, was not run by DYFS in the time I was there but by whatever agency preceded it, CPS possibly.
    Some of the people who abused me, three young men, orderlies from that ward for special needs children, were how it was possible to bring me into the hospital to ECT me without people noticing. They often came down to the Shelter on break time under the pretense of modeling good adult males for the kiddies. I never saw anything good in them, they abused the children's need for affection to manipulate them by with holding it until the child did what they wanted or being overly affectionate to get the child off guard to do something for them.
    I have seen stories of good experiences from people who were there then both adult and child but that is my experience of my time there and I expect the ECT's are why it is so hard to find more like myself. there is probably a lot of shame based culture still holding people back as well at least that is what I get when I speak to people in the area by phone.
    Anyway those children ate and bathed in the hospital otherwise stayed out back in the buildings that were where the condos are now.

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  14. I came across your site because I found that my great grandfather and a great uncle both died at the Essex County Hospital for Contagious Diseases - which I guess became the Essex County Isolation Hospital. One died in 1913, the other in 1929 so well before your time in the Children's Shelter part. Very interesting reading. Thank you for the page.

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    1. Does any one know where the records from the Hospital went?
      Anon (4/16/2015) I too have a great grand father that died there in 1916. I have no information on him, and I was wondering if the records had names of nearest kin, ect. Anyone know? email me cworth 2288 at MSN dot com please!

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    2. I would love to know the answer to this question as well if anyone ever answered you.

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    3. There is a State agency that tracks old records from when Hospitals shut down.

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    4. Try calling the State Archives in Trenton and ask them about NJDARM
      I think that is a branch associated with saving medical records from hospital closures. I tried to get my records from this place with no success but they are trying to prevent me from proving the serious abuse I endured.

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  15. @anon 4-16-15
    The Isolation Hospital building in these pics was built in 1929. The Shelter was out behind it and I think some of those buildings may have been part of the original hospital which started in 1905. I am not the blogger when he/she posts the B icon will be next to the post.

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  16. OOps I may have been wrong about the B icon. I have seen the blogger of this sit epost and I recall it was clear it was the blogger posting and not just a viewer.

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  17. I believe this was used as a location for the film "A Beautiful Mind" used as the exterior building complex for what is referred to in the movie as ‘Wheeler Defense Laboratory’ at MIT.

    http://www.movie-locations.com/movies/b/Beautiful-Mind-locations.html#.VYbg6PlVhBc

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  18. Just saw this today. Its from June 18th. http://www.northjersey.com/opinion/opinion-editorials/a-piece-of-history-in-township-could-be-preserved-1.1358261

    I guess they intend on saving the building. Heck I had thought they were repointing the bricks months ago. I saw pics of the scaffold up one of the corners.

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  19. News of progress on plans to reuse the site. This plan intends to keep the building.
    http://www.northjersey.com/news/belleville-board-approves-proposal-to-revamp-old-hospital-1.1372458?page=all

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  20. This is great news not only for the community of Belleville, but for all of us fighting to see these structures re-integrated back into the community.

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  21. Are there any people looking who were abused in the Children's Shelter out back? Or taken from there to the Hospital to be abused? Or do you have unusual holes in your memory of the place? There is a link above to a Topix blog by a former resident. Speak up the perps are still alive we can get them held to account!

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  22. Is this the Essex County Geriatric Center in Belleville, NJ? If it is I did my nursing rotation there in 1980. I went there every Friday and made the remark that it also rained every time we had to go there and that did not help the drab feeling inside. I was in a wing working with patients who were there long term and this is before they kept you in hospital and then transferred patients to nursing homes. Anyway, the halls were a drab color green and the lighting was dull......not like your hospitals today. I remember even the cafeteria was eerie and the rain made it worse. I often wondered what happened to some that I was able to take care of.

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  23. My mother was a polio victim, in isolation there, from October 1954 until April 1955. She was in an iron lung. When they admitted her, they wrote out her death cert but didn't date it. To their surprise, she survived and lived on until January 1990.

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  24. The Topix page link above has been removed from the Topix site. The admin there did so after I asked why I was having difficulty posting my latest post. Apparently the lesson is to not ask. shrug

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