Friday, December 4, 2015

The Valley View Sanatorium (Preakness Hospital)

It was a cold fall day when I first found out about Preakness. A few photos and a vague sentence about  it's closure was all I had to go by. At the time I didn't have my drivers license, so I told my friend who usually drove us about the hospital. He forgot about it, until one day another one of my friends told him that he found a way in. It wasn't long before we loaded up the car and headed over.

Built in the 1920's as a WPA project, the main building originally served Passaic County as a tuberculosis sanatorium. The main building was designed by the famed Fred Wesley Wentworth, who is known for designing several of the greatest buildings in Passaic and Bergen Counties.

In the mid 1920's, tuberculosis was a major problem in America. It was a highly contaigous disease with a stiff rate of mortality. Essex County had the Essex Mountain Sanatorium, Morris, Camden, Middlesex, and Bergan County all had tuberculosis sanatoriums, and Hudson County was a few years away from building theirs too. Even the state had their own facility in Hunterdon County to treat the disease. Passaic County took the opertunity to construct their own.

The complex consisted of a number of buildings spread out across Oldham Road in the Preakness section of Wayne and a small piece in Haledon as well. The main campus was tucked away on 27 acres down a seperate driveway from the larger buildings which on a patch of land right on the roadway. The main campus consisted of the original building, power plant. a nurses residence and two doctors houses. The campus on Oldham also had its own power plant, which sat just behind the large building.

After new drugs came about to treat tuberculosis, there was no need to have such a large facililty anymore. The facility was turned into a county run nursing home. In 1987, a new wing was added to the left side of the Oldham stucture. It was also around this time that the nurses residence on the main campus was renovated into the Passaic County Youth Detention Facility. The facility was renamed the Preakness Healthcare Center.

The hospital buildings were all renamed. The main building was referred to as "Unit One". The large building on Oldham Road became "Unit Two" and the new wing they added on was "Unit Three". The hospital soon became a topic of contention for the local residents of the facility. The quarry next door, Braen Stone, made a deal to acquire nearly nine acres of hospital property in order to expand their operations. Local residents were understandably upset, as the constant blasting and other quarry operations were already too strong to ignore. The quarry was now going to be much closer to their houses

Despite the new wing being built only ninteen years earlier, the administraion of the hospital decided they wanted to replace Unit 2. The grounds around units two and three were cleared in 2006, and work began almost immediately to demolish the older of the two structures. The rest of the new hospital was built around Unit 3. Unit 1, the original hospital, remained open until all the patients were transferred to the new facility. The building oficially closed in 2009. When we first went, everything was still totally intact. The lights were still on, all of the equipment was still there, even the morgue cooler was still running. We felt that at any moment a nurse was going to come around the corner. That did not last long. Within a matter of months, water began leaking through the rubber roof, flooding the hallways and starting to feed what would become the worst mold we has ever seen. The brand new wheelchairs and other perfectly intact valuables were now soaked. Some of the chairs were even still wrapped up in plastic from the day they were unloaded from the trucks. Everything was quickly going to shit.

 We eventually found a way into the building that the police used as a forensic lab. Inside were crime scene photo's, evidence, collection kits, and tons of other unexpecteditems. We were used to the typical patient files and such being left behind. But nothing like this.

As we continued to visit Preakness, it continued to rapidly deteriorate.

One day as we were leaving, heading back to our car parked at the police academy behind the building, we popped out of the woods as usual. Right as it was too late to turn back, I saw the oh-so-familiar grill of a Sheriffs car. He saw us and quickly pulled up. He threw threats our way, saying that we were going to go to jail for trespassing. However, as there were no signs about trespassing and no fence around the property, we knew he couldn't really do that. We just played dumb, and eventually he let us go. It would be a few months before I went back to the hospital, and by the time I did it looked like this.

My asthma began to act up, and I told my girlfriend we needed to make it quick. We both left that day with upper respiratory infections. We both vowed that we were done with Preakness. I kept my word, only driving by a few more times a year. Then one day in 2015, I drove by to see it like this.

With the demolition of both Greystone and Marlboro state hospitals, we somehow lost track of the Preakness hospital. There was no protesting or fanfare. There was no citizen outrage. Preakness came into the world with a noble purpose, served thousands of people, and then was just demolished without any consideration.

Even the police building, which just two weeks earlier was still packed with stuff, was just a smokestack sticking out of the rubble.

The buildings were demolished by Braen Stone, in another expansion movement similar to the deal they made with Passaic County in the 1990s. The folks who lived around the hospital were outraged, as the quarry was already a nuisance to them. However, as is the case far too often these days, they were helpless in their pleas to local representatives. Passaic County saw a multi million dollar deal on the table and took it without any public input. They wouldn't care if the citizens left. If they do, that's just more land to sell to the quarry. I'm not sure how many people will remember Preakness, or how many people knew about it in the first place. Even people who grew up in town had no idea it was there. As with all abandoned locations, the end has to come one day. Whether it be renovation or demolition, most places will at least get a paragraph in the local paper. Preakness didn't. While it wasn't the greatest location New Jersey had to offer, anything this old should at least be considered for another future. Maybe one day we will wake up and realize this. But, the way things are going, by then it will probably be too late.


  1. When I lived in Paterson during the 1940's, one of my classmates contacted tuberculosis and was sent to this hospital.In 1954- 1958, I lived off of Central Avenue and Valley View Road which lead up to the hospital. As a teen, we would walk partly up the road towards the hospital.

  2. Politicians won. So much waste because of a leaky roof. How convenient.

  3. Just found a picture of my grandma dated 1949 with "Valley View San." on the back. She was treated there for TB and went on to live a full and healthy life. Thanks for posting!