History of the Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital (1876-2008)

Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital opened in 1876 and was notable for its massive edifice built in Second Empire style and its expansive campus. It was a classic example of a new therapeutic approach known as “Moral Treatment”, as conceived by Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride , a Quaker physician. Kirkbride believed that a patient’s prognosis was enhanced by pleasant surroundings, educated staff and productive involvement in work or recreation. This concept of “environmental determinism” would best be promoted through hospital architecture with a linear emphasis. This linear plan became known as the “Kirkbride Plan”.  Approximately 60 “Kirkbride Plan” hospitals were built throughout the United States from approximately 1849-the late 1880’s. By the later 1880’s however, the perpetual crowding, low rate of “cured” patients, the psychiatry field’s loss of status within the medical field, and the ballooning costs of these huge structures, destined many psychiatric hospitals like Greystone, to troubled histories.

On a positive note, during the early 20th century, Greystone offered a wide range of state-of-the-art therapeutic modalities. In the mid 1950’s, Greystone was the site utilized by Dr. Hildegard Peplau, known as the “Mother of Psychiatric Nursing” to train her Rutgers University students in the new specialty of Psychiatric Nursing. Greystone’s position in popular folklore was enhanced by some of its famous residents, Woody Guthrie and Naomi Ginsberg. They were immortalized in song and poetry by their visitors, Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg respectively. However, by the 1970’s, Greystone’s inability to properly care for its patients reached a critical point. In 1976, a class action lawsuit by Greystone patients, Doe v. Klein, was initiated which resulted in the Doe v. Klein Monitoring Committee which was active for 32 years. In 2008, due to continued overcrowding and deteriorating buildings, Greystone patients were relocated to a new treatment facility on the same campus .The Preserve Greystone advocacy group along with preservationists around the country, valiantly fought to save Greystone’s finest piece of architecture, the Main Building, from demolition. Viable plans for repurposing the building (which had been successful at other Kirkbride Plan buildings) were rejected by policymakers.   The building was demolished in 2015.