Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Elizabeth General Medical Center

The roots of this historic New Jersey health care complex go back to 1877, when the "Elizabeth General Hospital and Dispensary" was formed. The need for healthcare in the growing city was paramount, and just two short years later the hospital was officially incorporated. In 1880, several local doctors aquired property on Jaques Street, and with that the hospital was ready to tackle the growing needs of the population. The original complex consisted of a small home like building with a detached surgical pavilion and laundry building. As the years began to pass, public support for a larger building was growing. Massive fundraising efforts were launched, and eventually the necessary capitol was raised. Those involved with donating and raising the funds were given a mention in the newspaper at the time. In 1894, the hospital complex moved to the corner of E. Jersey and Reid Streets. The new building was much larger, featuring more office  and care space, and a new wing dubbed the Blake Memorial Hospital for Women. There were also two separate pavilions for patients dubbed contagious.

Source

The hospital formed what was called "The Daisy Ward". It was the area in the hospital children were relegated to. One important player in the formation of the ward was Eliza Grace Halsey. She was an advocate for the ward, donating money and time to try and spread the word. One surviving example of Miss Halsey's efforts is a letter published in a local paper. She spoke to the children of Elizabeth, asking them to donate their pocket change to the new ward, rather than spending it on candy and toys for themselves. She was ultimately successful in her efforts, and the collective was able to make the ward a reality.


The hospital continued to expand into the 1900's. Large brick buildings replaced the humble shingle style structures. The new buildings were still quite elegant, boasting ornamental limestone detailing like this band that ran below the roofline. 


In the late 50's or early 60's The largest wing to be added to the the hospital site was the maternity ward. The yellow brick wing stood in stark contrast to the aestetically pleasing brick structures. Another small wing was added in 1966, bringing the total building size to 350,000 square feet. The new complex occupied almost the entire block and towered over it. The campus was even visible from the New Jersey Turnpike. 


Despite the long and storied history of the hospital, EGMC merged with St Elizabeth's to form the Trinitas Medical Group in 2000. Hospital operations were moved to the former St Elizabeth's campus. After a few years of remaining partially open, the Elizabeth General Medical Center was officially shuttered.


The complex stood vacant until 2012, when a partial demolition occurred. The power plant and an attached section of the building were removed, leaving a large gap in the lot between the hospital and parking garage. The vacant and overgrown hospital campus became a magnet for crime, and with that came a push to finish the demolition that was stalled for years. In 2017, demolition resumed on the campus. The beautiful brick buildings were abated and emptied, and by the end of the year there was almost nothing left of the once important campus. 


I didn't make my way inside the old hospital complex until the second spate of demolition was well underway. As I parked my car, I looked around the neighborhood at all the people going about their business. Knowing I wasn't going to have another chance, I threw on my high-vis construction vest and hard hat and headed on in. The stories i'd heard about criminal activity around the abandoned hospital kept me on my toes as I walked alone through the barren halls. Thankfully nobody followed me in, or found me inside, and I was able to get my own little tour in before the final walls came down.


Now the Elizabeth General Medical Center is no more. The complex was built through the efforts of the community, saw thousands and thousands of patients cared for, and scores of nurses trained. However, just like many other historic hospitals in New Jersey, it's been demolished in an unceremonious fashion and is on the path to being completely forgotten.


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