Built in 1876 as the New Jersey State Lunatic Asylum, Greystone Park’s historic Kirkbride building was closed in 2008 because of bad press and a poor public image. Despite a heroic effort to save the building for reuse – including a bid by Alma Realty to restore it at no cost to the state – NJ Governor Chris Christie rejected all attempts to save the building and demolition on the outer wings began this week.
A common misconception people have about abandoned buildings is that with the first signs of deterioration they become unable to be saved. Peeling paint and crumbling plaster are actually fairly superficial wounds; although they may give the room the patina of being terribly aged, it is not that difficult to repair. People also often point to the need for asbestos abatement as a reason to tear down historic structures and build anew, without realizing that the demolition process requires abatement anyway. There is no (legal) scenario in which a building can be knocked down without the asbestos removed first anyway. Even if areas of the building are in terrible shape, facades can be saved or the areas can be rebuilt. So many of places have been saved – places like the museum on Ellis Island, Eastern State Penitentiary, Transallegheny Lunatic Asylum, Traverse City State Hospital, or Danvers State Hospital have all been rehabilitated to serve the public again, and remain proud parts of their communities because of it.