Hudson County Hospital for the Insane
|Hudson County Hospital for the Insane|
|Construction Began||1894 (Independent building)|
|Demolished||1927-1930 (Original buildings)|
|Building Style||Pavilion Plan (Original)|
|Location||Secaucus, New Jersey (original)|
The Hudson County Hospital for the Insane was located on what was then called Snake Hill, now Laurel Hill, which was a large igneous rock formation jutting some 150 feet from the floor of the otherwise flat swamps of the New Jersey "Meadowlands". Snake Hill first housed the counties Penitentiary and Almshouse, where the county's insane were maintained from their creation in 1863 until the construction of an independent Asylum Institution in 1894. This new building was located adjacent to the almshouse and was built originally for 250 patients.
The design consisted of a central administration building flanked on either side by a male and female wing which began as a single ward building each and connected to the administration via connecting "bridges". This building was four stories tall and 552 feet long and 8- feet wide. In 1916 it was recorded by the American Medico-Psychological Association; Committee on a History of the Institutional Care of the Insane, that a new wing on the male side was being constructed with modern treatment apparatus and planned was a similar expansion to the female side. The administration housed apartments for the superintendent as well as the hospitals offices.
As was the standard procedure at the time the county asylum provided housing for the chronic insane of the county, providing custodial care rather than real treatment. The acute cases and those deemed curable were sent to the State Insane Hospitals such as Trenton State Hospital or Greystone Park State Hospital.
It was recorded in the 1906 Annual Report that the hospital was maintained in a clean and orderly fashion however was over double capacity, housing 243 male and 327 female patients. By 1910 it as already being suggested that the Asylum be moved to a new location with 200-300 acres as it was hopelessly overcrowded, with 800 patients in space remodeled to accommodate 350 patients. As of 1916 the building was reported to have had accommodation for between 450 to 500 patients though it can be assumed, as with all hospitals at the time, that patient populations had since increased since 1906. By this time the municipal complex on Snake Hill included the Insane Asylum, the Penitentiary and it's quarry, Almshouse, Tuberculosis hospital, Isolation Hospital, and electric light substation.
New Location and Present Day
In 1927 the Asylum was moved to another location on County Avenue in Secaucus and shortly afterwards it's name was changed to the Hudson County Hospital Mental Diseases. Aerial images from as early as 1931 show that the original asylum buildings had been demolished after this move rather than re-purposed for other county uses. At the new location treatments both Insulin and Metrazol shock therapy was used. In 1939 the hospital's population was reported at 1,872. The hospital continues to operate as a county mental hospital today as the Meadowview Psychiatric Hospital.
The Meadowview Hospital was the victim of serious neglect, losing state funding and license in the 1990's and in 1995 services were contracted out. The hospital began a slow road to recovery and in 2011 became an accredited mental health facility. It continues to serve the residents of Hudson County and offers 84 beds with inpatients and outpatient treatment.
Snake Hill Cemetery
By 1962 most of the buildings on snake hill lay vacant and that same year the county closed the final operating institutions on Snake Hill and began a process of Quarrying which reduced the hill by four fifths its size. Snake Hill made headlines in 2002 when while digging for the new Secaucus Junction workers stumbled upon the former Snake Hill Potter's field which was long since forgotten. The bodies, almost 10,000, were removed and interred at the Hoboken Cemetery, North Bergen. This discovery prompted the making of the documentary "Snake Hill", released in 2007.
Images of Hudson County Hospital for the Insane
Main Image Gallery: Hudson County Hospital for the Insane