Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Roosevelt Hospital/ MIddlesex County Sanatorium

During the height of the tuberculosis outbreak in America, several New Jersey counties operated sanatoriums to combat the disease. Bergen County had the Bonnie Burn Hospital in Berkeley Heights. Passaic County had the Valley View Sanatorium on the border of Wayne and Haledon. Essex had the Essex Mountain Sanatorium on a small mountain overlooking the town of Verona. Even Hudson County built a 23 story "chest hospital" tower on the Jersey City Medical Center Campus. Camden County established a sanatorium on the edge of the Lakeland Psychaitric Hospital property, and private sanatoriums like the Cooley Hospital were popping up all over the state. Middlesex County had 212,208 residents according to the 1930 Census. They needed their own facility to treat the disease.

The Roosevelt Hospital was established in the town of Metuchen in 1937. Built in a grand Colonial Revival style, the hospital served Middlesex County as their own sanatorium. The hospital was relatively small, having roughly 150 beds. The building resembled the Preakness Hospital, however the left wing of the Roosevelt Hospital had a small extra piece of building jutting off the back of the left wing. Set behind a small pond on an empty 13 acre parcel, the hospital was as scenic as it could be in such a densely populated area.

In 1946, a new antibiotic called Steptomycin was introduced. The drug proved vastly effective in treating tuberculosis. While the patients at the Roosevelt Hospital were being put on regiments of Streptomycin, a new psychiatric hospital was built on the edge of the property, to alleviate overcrowding at both Greystone and Marlboro State Hospitals. By the late 1950's, the antibiotics proved so effective that the facility was no longer needed. Instead of being demolished. the facility was renovated into a geriatric care facililty. The building would see several small expansions in its history. In the 1970's, 100 more beds were added behind the right wing of the old building. A large 250 bed wing connecting the two rear portions was completed in 1982.

The building was added to the State and National Registers of Historic Places in 2002, helping to ensure that the historic building would not be demolished. However, the Menlo Park Psychiatric Hospital wasn't so lucky, and was demolished the same year. Just a few years later, a new geriatric care facility was built on the site of a modern county building and a historic mansion aross the main road from the Roosevelt property. Minimal operations were carried out at the old Roosevelt Hospital, until they were phazed out in 2012. That same year, plans were announced that the building was to be renovated into senior housing. These plans would come to fruition in 2015, when the rear, modern portions of the buidling were demolished. The original portions of the building were renovated shortly afterwards.

Thankfully, the Roosevelt Hospital escaped the wave of demolition that took out seven other disused hospitals across New Jersey in 2015. Hopefully the building will be completed and remain occupied for many more years to come.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Newark Presbyterian/United Hospital

The story of the old hospital in Newark's Central Ward goes back to 1910. At the time of its creation, the Newark Presbetyrian Hospital was operating out of an old mansion. By the end of the next decade, the hospital owned several more houses down S. 9th Street. As the city continued to grow, however, the hospital needed more space. in 1929, a large new six story building was constructed. Sitting on a nearly 8 acre parcel of land. The hospital towered over the central ward.

In 1958, the United Hospital Network formed. It consisted of the Presbyterian Hospital, the nearby "Babies Hospital", the Newark Ear & Eye Hospital, and the Newark Home for Crippled Children. Over the years, the Presbyterian Hospital would provide care for the citizens of the central ward. However, the hospital faced severe turmoil during the Newark riots of 1967. An article in the New York Times reported that the hospital itself came under sniper fire, and several of the surrounding homes were torched. While responding to an alarm in the vicinity of the hospital, Captain Michael Moran was shot off of the ladder he was on. This was truly the worst time in the history of the city. While Newark rebuilt, so did the hospital. The "North Tower" Was constructed increasing capacity to 449 beds.

The downfall of the hospital began just a few decades later in. 1989. The President of the United Hospital network was accused of stealing millions of dollars from the hospital, and subsequently resigned. Two trustees struggled against each other to fill  the position, which grew into a series of legal battles leaving the hospital scrambling for funding. By 1991, the former President was convicted of several felonies. The same year, the replacement president was fired for not moving quicky enough to correct the damage done by the previous administration. Four years later, the United Hospital Network entered a partnership with the Barnabas Health Network, and the Networls name changed to "United Healthcare System". Unfortunealty this only lasted a brief time, and the hospital was shuttered to years later. Nothing that the administration tried could fix what had been done. Not only did the neighborhood lose across to local medical services, the closing also affected hundreds of employees, who all lost their jobs. This was a contributing factor to the the further decline of the neighborhood.

After the closure of the hospital, the property was purchased by "New United" for $725,000.
Headed by Clyde Pemberton, the group had plans to renovate it, but keep it open as a medical campus. In 1999 Essex County purchased the "North Tower" for $6.5 million (Nearly $5.75 million more than Pemberton bought the entire property for), with the intention of moving operations from the Overbrook Psychiatric Hospital there. Despite supporting the plan while in office as a freeholder, Joe Divencenzo changed the county's plan to move Overbrook operations to United site in 2002. The county then planned to move some of their offices into the building, but Mr. Pemberton included a clause in the purchase that the building could only be used for medical purposes. He felt strongly that the area needed a hospital, not more offices. Essex County then intentionally neglected their portion of the building in order to ensure they would be able to take the rest of the property through a condemnation clause.

Then, in 2010, the deed was seized by the county without any warning given to the owners of the property. Plans were announced that the building was going to be razed entirely. After hearing Mr. Pemberton's attorney explain the situation, the court ordered Essex County to do $200,000 worth of repair work to their portion of the deteriorated hospital. Joe D. refused, saying "Why should I put money in a building that is going to be demolished". Two years later, the New Jersey Superior Court ruled that the county misused their authority to blindside the owner and seize the property. Despite this, the county retained ownership of  the hospital. At this point, the Essex County was using inmates from a nearby CEC detention facility to clean up the neglected grounds. One day in 2014, a security gaurd at the United site was assaulted by a man stealing scrap metal. This was the final straw, and official plans were announced that the hospital was to be raised to make way for a new VoTech building. Remediation work began at the end of Spring, 2015. On May 6th, one of the managers was knocked down an elevator shaft after cutting the wrong cord on the machine when preparing the structure for demolition. By November of that year, the entire property was completely empty.

The United Hospital story is laced with corruption and political bullying, so its not a suprise Mr. Divencenzo wanted the buildings gone. These buildings are just more examples of Essex County's blatant and systematic disregard for the historic properties they have been entrusted with. Soon, Essex County will stop obbliterating their history. But that will only be because there is none left to save.

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Colt Gun Mill/Allied Textile Mills

Thousands and thousands of people visit the Great Falls Historic Site every year, to view the beautiful  scenery. While these folks enjoy the view, occasionally their eyes settle on the small crumbling smokestack protruding from the trees at the base of the falls. Though little more than a few scattered shells, these ruins are actually the remains of one of the most historic manufacturing facilities in the history of Paterson.

The history of the Patent Arms Manufacturing Facility goes back to 1836, when Samual Colt built a new four story factory building at the base of Paterson's Great Falls. The grounds originally held a failed nail factory operated by Colt. After a few decades of service the facility was demolished to make way for the new gun factory. .

Not only was the building the first facility in which the Colt revolver was manufactured, it was also the first silk processing plant in Paterson. The silk mill was operated out of vacant mill space by Samuel Colt's brother Christopher in 1838. Silk would go on to be the main export of Paterson throughout its Industrial Age.

Thee silk mill was quickly abandoned by Colt, who locked up the facility with everything intact. It would be another year before the space was leased to a new company. The new operation was overseen by John T Pyle. In the early 1840's, three new buildings were added to the facility, to accommodate future productions.

By 1842, the gun mill closed. Colt decided to move production further up north. Operations silk mill expanded. The facility faltered once, having to be shuttered and completely restructured, but before long the mill was back up and running. Over the next few years, much of the factory had been aquired by Mr. Pyle, who had started as a manager only a few decades earlier.

The facility would go on to see more expansion in 1846, when a new dye house built on western portion of property. Here, the fabrics spun in the main bull buildings were colored. It would function as such for several decades. In 1870, the dye house was occupied by a man named Albert King. He used the building for a few different purposes, and then later the building was used by Joshua Mason when he invented the"Mason Radiator".

One day in 1887, John Pyle passed away. The factory and grounds would continue to remain in the hands of the pile familiy. The facility continued for a number of years to produce silk and other fabrics. Roughly four decades later, the property would leave the Pyle familiy's  hands, and the facility was purchased by "Allied Textile Mills".

Allied textile mills would proceed to build several large factory buildings on the property, including a new power plant and a sprawling new manufacturing building. During the new building they considered the history of the existing mill building, but eventually decided to demolish several of them. However, the original 1836 building would remain standing.

In 1976, the Great Falls was designated a national historic landmark. The facility would continue to be used as Allied Textile Mills until 1983, when the facility was vacated. The site was largely abandoned and fell into serious disrepair over the years. The buildings were commonly used as shelter by the many drug users and homeless folks of Paterson. Decades of disuse brought the 1836 building almost entirely to the ground. The future didn't look good for the site.

Then, in 2010, work began to stabilize the historic buildings. The original 1836 building was painstakingly rebuilt using existing original stone from the site. The property received further good news in 2015 when it was announced that the facility was to be included in the historic state park, which will include a walking path dedicated to the industrial heritage of the site. While many of my write ups end with bad news, this historic mill facility isn't going to meet the same fate as so many other historic  treasures in this state. While only a small step, this a great sign for the future of historic preservation in NJ.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

St. Paul's Abbey/The Queen of Peace Retreat House


Sitting along what is now Rt. 206 in Newton, NJ, this beautiful monastery has been a landmark for travelers since it was built in 1924. The order lived under the direction of  Father Michael Heinlen, and comprised of mostly of men of German & Eastern African descent. These men were missionaries, and wanted to share their lifestyle with those in the United States.

The order quickly rose through the religious ranks, becoming a "simple priory" four short years after being established. This meant that  the order was now headed by a Prior. A new chapel, the "Little Flower shrine" building was added to the right side of the structure in 1925. This new chapel was built with pieces of the "Jefferson Street Church", one of the first churches in Sussex County. Four additional years later, the building was designated a "Conventual Priory".

Before long, under the leadership of Abbot Corinston, that the facility was officially recognized as an abbey in 1947. A peripheral focus of the order was tending to the 500 acres of farmland that 
surrounded the Abbey. The monks tended to livestock, crops, and even had a small Honey Bee colony they maintained. Among the most popular items sold by the monks were traditional Christmas trees. Folks from all over Sussex and the surrounding counties would load up the family and travel to the abbey to choose the perfect tree.

In 1962, a new facility was built across the street from the old abbey. The building would be renamed "The Queen of Peace Retreat House". It served as a pale for the monks to get away from the abbey and devote more time to prayer and meditation. The building would function in this capacity for several decades until the building began to fall apart. In 2000, the building was vacated.

A decade would go by before any plans for the abbey were presented to the town. Then, in 2010, the town announced plans to convert the building into low cost housing. The building was cleared out and prepped for renovation. However, potential budget cuts kept the township waiting too long and the plans were dashed.

Nothing else has come forward for the property in the last five years. However, in that time, the building was overrun with vandals. The once peaceful structure was now used to host parties where kids tag and smash up the building. As is the case far too often, the building will probably be demolished before long. Until then, I will continue to monitor the historic, landmark building, hoping it will see  new life.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Naval Air Warfare Center: Aircraft Division

Though little more than a field, the land was originally referred to as the Skillman Airport. It would be several decades before it was developed into a traditional, more modern facility. In 1938, the General Motors Inland Fisher Guide Plant started operations near the airfield. The plant was originally constructed to manufacture cars, but in 1941 it began making torpedo bombers for the United States Navy. The "Avenger" bombers were built at the plant and then tested at the airport. Before being shipped out to the navy. One such plane would go on to be flown by George H.W. Bush when he was shot down over the Pacific.

In the mid 1940's, right after World War I came to an end, the airport was given to Mercer County. "Skillman Airport" as it was known became "Mercer County Airport". Several buildings were constructed on the north side of the runway, which appeared to be a barracks of some sort. The only other properties in the area were farms and the GM plant.

As the US quickly slipped into the Cold War, the need for more advanced and efficient aircraft was becoming paramount for the US Navy. In the late 1940's, several footprints were laid near the airfield. By 1953, the Naval Air Warcraft Center: Aircraft Division opened. Sitting on a parcel of over 500 acres, the new facility would soon be testing new aircraft technology which could be immeairable useful if a conflict arose.

The Nawcad campus featured some of the most advanced testing technology available at the time. The facility featured several test cells, a warehouse with a large gantry crane, and a massive power plant  with 16 turbines.

As one might expect, not much was ever reported about the operations at NAWCAD.  In the late 1960's and early '70s the barracks on the north side of the airport were demolished one by one, until only one building from this cluster remains standing today.

The late 80's brought a lot of  pressure on the US military. With the largest budget of any government agency, they understood and began a systematic closure of dozens of their facilities. In 1993, the Base Reallignment and Closure Act reccomended the NAWCAD campus be closed.

Just four short years after the army recommended the facility be closed, they did just that. Just one short year later, the GM plant closed and was subsequently demolished. This wouldn't be the case with NAWCAD however, as the facility would remaining standing for nearly two decades after it's closure.

The heavily contaminated NAWCAD property doesn't have much of a bright future. The buildings are heavily contaminated, dangerous from years of neglect, and patrolled frequently due to it's proximity to the airport. All we can do now is wait and see what will become of this large property.

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Passaic County Youth Detention Center

The history of the Passaic County Youth Detention Center goes back to 1928, when the building was built as a nurses residence for the Valley View Sanatorium. The hospital served as Passaic County's tuberculosis sanatorium during the outbreak of the 1920's. 

Around 1987, the nurses residence was renovated into the Passaic County Youth Detention Center. It wouldnt see any real change for another decade. Over time the attic space of the building was renovated into a third cellblock.

In the 1990's, Passaic county made a deal with the owners of a nearby quarry, Braen Stone, to sell nearly 9 acres of property directly behind the detention center. This caused a lot of uproar around town, as residents already thought the quarry was too close to their homes. The citizens caused enough of an outrage to make Passaic County fail to renew the contract.

Although blasting from the quarry occasionally damaged the building, a large addition was added to the rear of the structure. This brought the total capacity of the facility to 86. The new section of the building was a modern octagonal edifice similar to a warehouse. Girls were segregated to one half of the building, and boys in the other. The new addition included school rooms, a basketball court, and cafeterias on each floor.

Despite much resistence from the family members of those housed in the detention center, the Wayne facility was closed in 2010. Even though they had just spent millions a few decades earlier to build the large new addition, they felt it would be more cost effective to send the 60 juveniles living in the  building to Essex County. The projected savings were $128 million by the year 2019. This figure is so high because the closure eliminated 153 jobs for corrections officers in the county. Though Essex County promised to try and hire some of the staff back, they certainly didn't need everyone.

The building was vacated, but kept full of records throughout the first floor. The power was still on, and occasionally police officers used the first floor as a break room. However, the building was eventually sold to the quarry operated by Braen Stone. Braen was the same company who, just two decades earlier, was in a lawsuit with the county for taking the agitated neighbors complaints to heart and not renewing the contract they drafted for use of the land. This time, the neighbors would feel the same outrage they did 20 years prior. Only this time, nobody was going to listen.

While securing the proper permits to demolish the structure, they chewed up the land behind the building until they were almost underneath it. This ensured that this building would never see new life again. By the fall of 2015, the owners of the building finally got their permits, and before long the facility was completely leveled. Not many people ever took the time to visit the building. The complex it was a part of was obscured by the quarry, steep graded hills, and long driveways adorned with "No Trespassing" signs. Though the buildings may soon be forgotten by the residents of Wayne and Haledon, they will never be forgotten by my friends and I.

The Newcomb Hospital

The story of the Newcomb hospital goes back to the early 1920's. Leverett Newcomb, a prominent attorney from the city, donated six and a half acres of land and $225,000 to erect a new hospital.

Old postcared of the Newcomb Hospital

He wanted his hospital to be the cutting edge of modern medicine. Constructed in 1924 with its own power station and x ray machine, the new hospital was certainly living up to expectations. Mr. Newcomb only wanted two things in return for his generous donation. He wanted the hospital to be named for him, unlike all the other regional hospitals named by the towns they were constructed in. His second request was that he be buried on the hospital's property.

Mr. Newcomb died on September 16th, 1926, and as per his request he was buried underneath a beech tree in the parking lot of the hospital. Though the hospital would go on to change significantly over the years, he would remain buried in this same spot.

In the summer of 1959, a new wing was added to the right of the small three story original building. This was only the beginning of the hospitals expansion however.

By 1967, a five story edition was built onto the edition from the decade prior. The building was also expanded on the first floor all the way back to the power plant behind the original structure. The new expansion would take months to complete.

Over the years the Newcomb hospital maintained the purpose with which it was built, becoming one f the largest healthcare providers for all of Cumberland County. At its peak, the hospital had 235 beds spread out through 300,000 square feet of building space. The hospital had come a long way from when it was just a small three story building.

Unfortuneately over the years, the original hospital building was heavily updated. The only room to survive over those 80 years of countless renovations was the rotunda. A large round room with a compass rose style terrazzo floor and decorative marble pillars all the way around the perimeter.

Despite all of the growth over the years, the hospital began to lose many of their patients to the other, more modern facilities in other parts of Vineland. It was sold to the South Jersey Healthcare Group, who went on to close the facility in 2004.

Over the next four years, the hospital fell into disrepair. In 2008, the hospital was sold to the Danza group. The group received a six million dollar urban enterprise zone loan in order to jump start development on the blighted property.

The hospital appeared to have caught a break in 2012, when the UMDNJ had an interest in taking over the structure and operating it as a teaching hospital. However, Governor Christie's budget cuts stripped out the university and left it unable to expand as it planned. The Danza group resorted to trying to track down other buyers, but was left sitting on the property for several more years.

Finally in 2015, The Danza Affiliate organization for the hospital announced plans to chop up the property and build mostly assisted living units on the site of the hospital. However, the proposal also called for 11,000 square feet of existing Newcomb hospital building space to be renovated and reincorporated back into the new plans for the property. Included in these plans are at least a portion of the original facade, which is a relief for preservationists after a huge wave of demolition in 2015 saw the demise of seven different disused hospitals across the state.

In December of 2015, a news article ran about the hospital, stating that demolition was scheduled to begin in February of the following year. Developers said that the facility was too heavily vandalized and decayed to save, which was not far from the truth. Over a decade of neglect left the developers with no other realistic option. With only one room original to the construction of the building, it wasn't very hard for me to find myself agreeing. While the hospital served a noble purpose, it now only stands a a testament to the failure of both the he healthcare and historic preservation systems in place of this country. Nobody wants a constant reminder of their failures shoved into their face every day.