Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital 



Each ward housed approximately twenty patients, most of whom had private rooms.  Wards also had a parlor, dining, enclosed galleries for exercise and attendant’s rooms.  Attendants on night duty had the privilege of sleeping in the attendant’s room from 8:30 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. when the patients were awakened.  Most wards were furnished with wool rugs that ran the full length of the corridors.  Victorian stuffed furniture, pianos, pictures, curtains and fresh flowers adorned the wards. 

All wards, however, were not so attractively appointed.   Wards housing the most excitable patients were sparsely furnished with sturdy oak furniture.  Some rooms had heavy oak doors with cutouts in the bottom through which food was passed to the patients.   

On August 17, 1876, the massive oak doors under the imposing portico of Greystone’s Main Building were opened for the first time to receive patients.  On that steamy August day, 292 patients were received into the newly constructed 600-bed “New Jersey State Lunatic Asylum at Morristown.”  The first patients admitted here were transferred by train from the “New Jersey Lunatic Asylum at Trenton,” which was terribly overcrowded and the only other facility in the State for the treatment of mental disorders. 

Historic Treatments

In the late 1800’s physical injury and disease were known to be causes of “Lunacy.” In addition, the Moralists of that time felt it was due to social conditions, deleterious practices within the family, poverty, religious and political institutions, and the lack of education. 

In 1876, the therapy of choice was “Moral Treatment.”   This consisted of fixed schedules to encourage regular habits and to control and rehabilitate the patient.  Calm and pleasant surroundings, kind treatment with minimum use of restraints and a daily visit from the Superintendent were also part of this treatment plan. 

Other treatment methods used over the years at Greystone Park include: 

A.                DRUGS:  In the early 1800’s sedation was about the only available treatment for the mentally ill: 

¨       1857:  Laudanum (Phenobarbital) and Bromides were discovered for the treatment of Epilepsy. 

¨       1870:  Chlorate Hydrate and Digitalis were used for Manic-Depressive Psychosis. 

¨       1882:  Paraldehyde and Barbiturates, hypnotic drugs to control behavior, were put into active and extensive use. 

B.                ENDOCRINE TREATMENT -- The removal of the Thyroid Gland in cases of Catatonic Schizophrenia was a dangerous practice, aside from its irrelevance in most cases.

 C.                PURGATIVES & EMETICS -- Use followed a school of thought that claimed insanity was due to diseases of the blood vessels of the brain, and a reduction of congestion of these blood vessels was indicated. 

D.                FEVER TREATMENT -- In vogue around 1913, fevers were induced by Malaria, and artificially induced by high frequency currents, as a prescribed treatment of general paresis (impaired mental function caused by damage to the brain from untreated syphilis).  Patients suffering from Schizophrenia, Manic Depression and Psychotic Behaviors were not helped by this treatment. 

E.                FOCI OF INFECTION SURGERY -- Around 1919, various organs that were thought to cause psychiatric problems, including teeth, tonsils, and prostate glands, were removed. 

F.                 HYDROTHERAPY -- Widely used between 1906 and the 1950’s these therapies were believed to have a calming effect for agitated patients.  Today their equivalent can be found in health spas.  Several different types used were: 

  • 1.     Steam Baths -- used to deplete the energy of overactive patients.

  • 2.     Continuous Bath -- also used for overactive patients.  Treatment could last from one day to one week.

  • 3.     Cold Pack -- patient was placed into tub of sixty-degree bath water.  A hot water bottle was placed on the feet and cold compresses were applied to the head.  Body warmth turned the cold packs into a steam bath.

  • 4.     Needlepoint Shower -- used to stimulate depressed patients.  Fifteen to twenty showerheads shot needle-fine streams of warm water over the entire body.

  • 5.     Scotch Douche -- also used to stimulate depressed patients.  Hot and cold water was sprayed under 40 pounds of pressure from 20 feet away.   

  G.  INSULIN SHOCK COMA THERAPY From 1936 to the 1970’s this treatment was employed for Manic-Depressive Disorders and Postwar Trauma.

 H.                ELECTRO-CONVULSIVE THERAPY – From 1937 to 1950 this specific treatment for Depression and Postwar Trauma was often successful. It is still used today in other psychiatric facilities for the treatment of profound Depression.

 I.                   LOBOTOMY PSYCHOSURGERY – From 1940 to 1950 portions of the brain were surgically removed in an attempt to eliminate certain psychiatric problems.  This was thought to be the only successful way to control impulsive/destructive behavior.  This treatment sometimes caused the patients to lose their ability to express emotions and communicate or take care of their own basic needs.

 J.                 OCCUPATIONAL TREATMENT -- This consisted of grounds maintenance, road building, tree and shrub planting, brick-making, ironing, making clothing, keeping wards clean, and farming.  This treatment was abandoned in 1974 due to the 1973 Souder v Brennan Decision, which stated that all patients had to be paid minimum wage for their work.


School of Nursing

The New Jersey State Hospital Training School for Nurses was established in October of 1894.  All attendants and nurses employed by the hospital were required to attend the lectures, and were tested periodically.  Criteria for admission to the two-year course of study were: 1) Sufficient education and intelligence to understand the material presented; 2) Good health; 3) Good moral character, including sobriety; 4) Musical ability; and, 5) Athletic ability. 

The School of Nursing eventually developed into an accredited program with many affiliations before closing in the 1940’s.  In-service training, which had its beginning in the School of Nursing, continues to be provided to all employees through the Department of Staff Development and Training.

 Overcrowding and Expansion

In 1887, eleven years after the hospital opened, the exercise rooms on the wards were converted to dormitories to accommodate the hospital’s jump in population to 800 patients.

 In 1901, in an attempt to relieve the overcrowding, the Dormitory Building was built to the rear of Main Building.  It still wasn’t enough and in the same year the Main Building dining rooms had to be converted into dormitories.  (The Dormitory Building was closed to patient occupation on March 6, 1992.)  By 1914, the hospital had a capacity of 1,600 but actually housed 2,412 patients.

 In 1921, a survey conducted by the State Board of Mental Hygiene, found all State Hospitals overcrowded and in dire need of repairs, especially Greystone Park.  The State funded repairs and new construction, specifically to assist Greystone Park’s

expansion and to meet the needs of the 2,700 patient census.  As a result, by 1927, the Curry Complex was completed along with a new power plant, barns, greenhouses, a fire station and auxiliary buildings.

 The Curry Complex consisted of a Reception Building, Clinic Building, large staff congregate dining rooms, and new housing for staff.  The first of these, the Clinic Building, opened in 1923, and closed 52 years later in 1975 when the Central Avenue Complex opened.  The Reception Building was closed in 1976 and the dining rooms in the mid-1980’s.

 A post office had been established, May 20, 1908, and named Greystone Park after the superior building stone of light gray gneiss, resembling granite, that was quarried on site to build the hospital.  In 1924 the hospital was renamed Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital.  By then the use of the thirteen-century English word “Lunatic” had been dropped from common use when referring to the mentally ill.

 In 1929 and 1930 there were two serious fires in the Main Building, one that destroyed the attic and the other, first floor center.

 In 1930 the Chest Building (TB Treatment Center) and 30 Ellis Drive were opened.  The Chest Building housed mentally ill patients suffering from tuberculosis who were referred from other State, County and Local facilities.  Due to the decrease in tuberculosis, this building was closed in the mid-1970’s.  30 Ellis Drive was eventually used as the Children’s Unit (patients under the age of 18).  It was closed in the early 1980’s and remodeled for adult patient occupancy.  It is presently in use as the Admission Unit.

 By 1939 the census was approximated 5,600 people.  During this period the hospital employed hundreds of patients and staff to meet its needs in the flower gardens, greenhouses, dairy and furniture shop.  Wicker furniture was made from the locally grown willow trees.  Greystone became a community that largely fed, clothed and sheltered itself.  It was founded on a “Puritan work ethic” of “idle hands are the Devil’s workshop” and the notion of a self-sufficient institution. 

In 1940, 10 and 50 Ellis Drive opened, and 34 years later in 1974 a major renovation was completed on these buildings. 

Smaller Patient Populations

In the late 1940’s, the patient population had reached 7,000.  During this period many patients were veterans and victims of World War II “Postwar Trauma.”  At the time, Greystone Park was one of the few hospitals able to provide the only available treatments for this condition, Insulin Shock Coma and Electro-Convulsive Therapy.  Since so many patients were veterans, pressure was brought to bear on the research community to develop a drug to help facilitate their treatment.  This research resulted in the development of “Phenothiazine,” which we know as Thorazine.

 Due to the advent and use of Thorazine, psychiatric hospitals were able to discharge large numbers of their patients.  A World War had motivated the scientific research community to produce the first drug specific to the treatment of the mentally ill.  Thorazine was the beginning, since then many drugs have become available for the specific treatment of these disabilities.

 The late 1970’s and early 1980’s saw a movement toward de-institutionalization which further reduced the hospital’s census.

 One hundred six years after its founding, on another summer day, August 12, 1982, the hospital expanded its facilities by twenty “independent living” Cottages. Each Cottage provided housing for eight patients in a “home-like” environment “where two patients share a bedroom,” the concept originally espoused by Dr. Kirkbride, over a hundred years ago.



                                                                                                   - Louise Perugini




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