Greystone Park Psychiatric Asylum

  • Project: Introduction to Greystone Park Psychiatric Asylum
  • Book: Greystone Park Psychiatric Asylum
  • Authors: Rusty Tagliareni and Christina Mathews
  • Publisher: Arcadia Publishing
  • Location: Mount Pleasant, South Carolina
  • Year: 2016

The Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital was more than a building; it embodied an entire era of uniquely American history, from the unparalleled humanitarian efforts of Dorothea Dix to the revolutionary architectural concepts of Thomas Story Kirkbride. After well over a century of service, Greystone was left abandoned in 2008. From the time it closed until its demolition in 2015, Greystone became the focal point of a passionate preservation effort that drew national attention and served to spark the public’s interest in historical asylum preservation. Many of the images contained in this book were rescued from the basement of Greystone in 2002 and have never been seen by the public. They appear courtesy of the Morris Plains Museum and its staff, who spent many hours digitally archiving the photographs so that future generations may better know Greystone’s history. (Back cover, Greystone Park Psychiatric Asylum)

There are complex and conflicting views toward the preservation or destruction of Kirkbride Hospitals. Embracing this complexity is critical to the imaginative reuse of these immense structures, which average hundreds of thousands of square feet and offer remarkable examples of architectural know-how, embodied energy and memory, personal and communal. They also offer remarkable opportunity. Buildings like Greystone accumulate dense histories, inspiring mixed sentiments that are easily overlooked in favor of a single coherent narrative. Yet there is no single omniscient history; there are coexisting truths and crosscurrent histories, unfolding from vantage points that differ and are dynamic.

The last chapter, titled 'Greystone's Last Stand' is unusual for a book in the 'Images of America' series. Although 'modern history' typically does not exceed 9% of a given publication, after speaking with Arcadia about this preservation fight and its significance for communities with similar Kirkbride-plan hospitals across the United States, a full quarter of the book was allotted to cover the controversy surrounding the hospital’s demolition.

“Introduction,” Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital, R. Tagliareni and C. Mathews (Mount Pleasant, SC: Arcadia Publishing, Images of America Series), pp. 7-9