Monday, December 7, 2015

Irvington General Hospital

Situated on a small hill along Chancellor avenue in Irvington, the Irvington General hospital was first built on the former Glorieux farm in March of 1924. At the time it was just one small three story Tudor building.

Siegel, Alan A. Irvington. Dover, NH: Arcadia Pub., 1997. Print.

Over the years the small community hospital saw a decent amount of growth, as the small township of Irvington became more and more populated. In the 1950's the Garden State Parkway project began right at the edge of the hospital property.

Before long, dormitories for the staff were built on the southernmost portion of the property. As Irvington and Newark grew, so did the hospital building. Between 1966 and 1969, a large L shaped addition was built to the back and left side of the original structure. This new addition was built right up to the dormitory building, and in 1969 the dorm was demolished. The building would once again be added to in 1987, when a new emergency room was built on the side of the property that runs along Krotik Place.

The hospital was owned by Irvington until 1994, when it was bought out by the nearby Beth Israel hospital in Newark. In 1996, the hospital became one of eight acute care hospitals in the Barnabas Health Network, which was the largest healthcare provider in the state at the time.

Despite it's role in the Barnabas health network, the hospital saw a severe decline in admissions. In 2004, a section of the building was renovated and became a "community health center". Essentially it was a place for underprivileged and uninsured people to get cheap, quality hospital care. A $400,000 grant from the state helped fund the new program. The hospital was mainly open as a psychiatric hospital at the time it was closed by St. Barnabas in 2006.

Many Irvington residents, including the local head of the NAACP at the time Kathleen Witcher, sincerely opposed the closure of the hospital. She felt that the only way the site would be of any use to the residents of the township would be as a hospital. She also felt that initial  plans weren't adequately discussed with the residents of the township, nor was the  initial offer of $3 million enough for the property.

The town of Irvington tried to keep the hospital open after the property was given back to them when it was closed by St. Barnabas, but they didn't have anywhere near the budget to make that happen. It wasn't long before the six acre site was overgrown and falling into serious disrepair. Several offers were proposed to develop the site over the years, but none of them were ever accepted by the town. The proximity of the parkway meant that any development had to be the right one. During this time, the small 160 bed hospital fell into serious disrepair. Scrappers had made their way in and took everything of value. Taggers made their way around the property, leaving colorful scars all over the outside of the building. Thankfully, only a few of them actually made it inside.

Finally in 2013, a development group came forward with a plan to demolish the hospital and build several residential towers on the site.

The 200 million dollar plan was met with overwhelming support from the community. Many of the people interviewed by the local press were thrilled to finally see something come of the site, which had been derelict for nearly a decade. Despite a 30 year tax abatement program offered to the Hilltop development group for the project, it is expected to be the anchor of an Irvington renaissance. A groundbreaking ceremony for the Hilltop development was held on May 18th, 2015. The hospital was supposed to be demolished that same week, but it didn't happen right away. Instead, demolition started in December of 2015.

I was driving up the parkway one day, and noticed a huge gaping hole in the back of the building. The scrap metal was being ripped out of the building and the hazardous materials were abated. Shortly after seeing this I went by the building to get a better look. Sure enough, the building was slowly being picked away at.

Usually, you will hear me arguing against demolition of any historic structure. Especially one that served a community as Irvington General has. Many generations of the towns citizens were born there. Thousands and thousands of people pass by it everyday, hard to make the claim that it is not a landmark. As a matter of fact, I was actually a patient there myself as a child. I had a serious reaction to an unknown insect bite, and it was thought that the doctors here may have a wider range of experience with different bites that you wouldn't usually find in Livingston where I usually went. However, you will not hear me opposing this course of action for the Irvington General site. Heavy modernizing has left the old building with almost no real architectural significance. It would also cost an unrealistic amount to fix all the damage a decade of neglect has caused. But most of all, Irvington needs this. With so much blight and violence prevalent throughout the town, moving forward needs to mean moving away from much of it's scarred past. I sincerely hope to see the renaissance come through, so that a few of the towns other architectural treasures don't fall into the same sort of disrepair Irvington General has.

1 comment:

  1. Very good read thanks for sharing. It was extremely sad to see IGH torn down. I lived right behind IGH (Glorieux St) to be exact. they where building the newest addition at that time The late 80's.