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Essex County Hospital / NJ

Essex County Hospital

Essex County Hospital

In 1896, Essex County officials designated 325 acres of land as the new location of the Essex County Asylum for the Insane. Located in what was then Verona and is now Cedar Grove, the facility housed mentally ill patients who required daily care. The site was selected due to its remote, high altitude location, which, it was believed, could provide a healthy, peaceful setting for patients to rehabilitate in. The complex came to be known as Overbrook, due to its location just beyond the Peckman River.
In the early half of the twentieth century, Overbrook was at full capacity. In the 1940s and 50s, thousands of patients were housed at the Fairview Avenue facility at any given time. The facility was so large that it had its own train stop on the Caldwell Branch of the Erie Railroad, used to transport the massive amounts of coal and fuel needed to run the hospital complex. Patients were fed largely by food grown in huge farming field located on the hospital’s property, which they also worked as part of their rehabilitative occupational therapy. Inmates from the nearby Essex County Jail annex also worked the farm, as well as tended to the many cows that provided dairy products for the patients of Overbrook. A salaried farmer lived on the Overbrook grounds to oversee these operations. A bakery and firehouse also stood on the hospital complex’s grounds, further cementing its status as a strange town within a town. Overbrook even had its own semi-professional baseball team that competed with teams from neighboring towns!
Throughout the 1960s and 70s, the introduction of new medications meant that mental hospitals and their methodologies were quickly becoming outdated. The number of patients that made their way to Overbrook plummeted drastically. Throughout the 1990s, the hospital operated, albeit with a miniscule population, and many of the buildings on the property were abandoned. Curious locals began exploring the abandoned portions of Overbrook, and dozens of local legends were born. In 2007, Essex County announced that a newer, smaller, more modern hospital was being constructed, and that the Overbrook site would be converted into a 90-acre county park. That was the end of it.
Overbrook was a central facet of Essex County’s history throughout the 20th Century. It also was a focal point of the area’s local legends. The hospital was laid out at the bottom of a hill atop which sat the Mountain Sanatorium – a facility used at various times to treat tuberculosis patients, wayward children, and drug abusers. These two facilities, and the many abandoned buildings associated with them, became Essex County’s most legendary location, home to escaped lunatics, troubled ghosts, and roving gangs of ne’er do wells. For a generation of North Jersey teens, a visit to the Overbrook site was a rite of passage – going to “The Asylum,” “The Bin,” or “The Hilltop”, as it was called by various gangs of teens, was a surefire way to test your mettle and impress your friends. The thousands of tales that made their way back from the site via these adventurous teens have long cemented Overbrook as a vital part of the tapestry of New Jersey’s local lore.
Soon, the Overbrook facility will join the Mountain Sanatorium in being demolished and gone forever. But the stories that abound regarding the site have ensured that it will never be forgotten.
During its last days of existence, Overbrook is being immortalized on film, as it serves as a major location in the film Choke (released October 2008) , based on the book by Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk. In the movie, the hospital was called St. Anthony’s.
Source: Weird N.J.


I visited this impressive site about three times during 2010 and 2011. Some of the buildings shown in my photos have been demolished meanwhile. Even though it had been only three/four year since the newer buildings had been abandoned, the extent of vandalism was breathtaking and very sad. Police keeps patrolling the old campus regularly though, in order to keep people off the grounds.


Here is the link to the Slideshow

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About Roman

Hobby photographer since 2005, Canon user. Mainly interested in Urban Exploring and Travel photography. Some first experiments with videos. On the professional side: PhD in Chemistry, working in the generic pharmaceutical industry. German citizen but living and working currently in New Jersey, USA

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