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.


  1. I worked at Roosevelt Hospital for years while I was in college. It was emotional, as we all knew, that most of the residents would never leave the hospital. But if I could spend a little time to talk and get to know these people, hopefully I could make that time a little better.

    I loved the old style architecture. It had personality and class.

    Recently I was in the area and was heartbroken to see the building undergoing demolition. I am not sure if the building will be renovated but it is a disgrace to see such a historic building being torn down.

    1. Thank you for the comment. I always love to hear from former employees of these facilities. According to this article, the historic parts of the building will be renovated. http://medm.gmnews.com/news/2015-06-11/Front_Page/Roosevelt_Care_Center_proposal_to_go_before_Planni.html#.Vt3SIkU8Kc0

  2. My mother worked here as a nurse from the early 70's to the late 90's. I also volunteered as a candy striper here for several years. Knowing that this would be the last stop for many of these patients was embedded in the front of my mind. Fond memories of bonding with the patients follow me when I drive by. The unique tunnel that has long been demolished was enjoyable to walk through when I was a child.The County makes alot of promises they can't keep. It wouldn't suprise me if this building "falls" into terrible disrepair, and cannot be restored.

  3. hello, a good FYI for this building is being re-habbed as senior housing and work has started on it's comeback this past Oct 14....god news, stay tuned!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. My family and I worked there a total of over 30 years. Many family members even spent their last years there. so happy they are keeping it and taking care of it. awesome work done there by the many nurses Drs and staff!!! Thanks for the article!

  5. I worked in the maintenance department during my college days; and in subsequent years was employed as a social worker. In 1978, moved to Tallahassee to further my education at Florida State University. I have so many fond memories of my days at RH (1968-1978) and remain thankful for the experiences and relationships. Images of Roosevelt Hospital, "the annex" (next to "Rickel" store), and Roosevelt Park still bring smiles. The Roosevelt Hospital building is indeed a wonderful piece of history that should be preserved.

  6. Deborah Sharp LoebJune 27, 2017 at 7:54 AM

    My mother,Rowena Sharp, worked there as the head registrar of TB cases for Middlesex county. Her office was first on the porch of the main building and then later moved to the annex. She worked there from the 60's to the 80's.

  7. Growing up in Metuchhen in the 60's I remember the mysterious hospital, picnics at the park and July 4th fireworks that had to be stopped because it disturbed the patients. Also memories of sliding down a hill behind the hospital on sheets or cardboard and catching glimpses of the huge washing and drying machines in the basement, used for hospital linens.

  8. i am a union carpenter and my company is there now doing renovation work. they say it should be complete by december 2017

  9. We used to party in the asylum and stay overnight on Halloween or mischief night. Good times

  10. I just installed a pool table in this building.

  11. HI, building finally being completed as senior assisted living center, should be a real blast to live in with all the goings on there..BOOOOOO!!!!!!!


  12. My mother had TB and was hospitalized here for 6 months when I was a toddler. It was an early emotional trauma eased somewhat by looking up to see my mother on the balcony waving to me. My old Polish great aunt, Chutka Smith, made duck blood soup as a preventive measure meant to strengthen our immunity to TB. It worked, my TB test didn't become positive until I got TB later in life as a nursing student.