Atlantic County Insane Asylum

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Atlantic County Insane Asylum
Opened May 20, 1896
Current Status Preserved
Building Style Single Building,
Architect(s) William G. Hoopes
Location Northfield, NJ
Alternate Names
  • Atlantic County Hospital for Mental Diseases


The county insane asylum is located at 201 Shore road, in the City of Northfield. The building is of brick and was erected in 1895. At a meeting of the Board of Freeholders, in the early part of that year (January 9th) Tobias L. McConnell, steward of the almshouse, suggested to the board the wisdom of providing means for taking care of the insane patients of the county on the almshouse property. The question was discussed informally and referred to a special committee to inquire into the practicability of the suggestion and report at a subsequent meeting of the board. The reason behind this suggestion was to save county money housing the chronic and incurable insane of the county.

At the following meeting, held on March 13th, the committee reported through Freeholder John T. Irving, that they had visited the asylums of Camden and Burlingotn Counties, and the results in both counties were very satisfactory, both as to the condition of the patients and the cost of maintenance. The committee was thereupon instructed to procure an approximate estimate of the cost of a building suited to the needs of Atlantic County. Two months later this committee reported an approximate estimate of the cost of maintaining the proposed county lunatic asylum at $3,500 annually after deducting the amount to be derived from the State. The following resolution was therefore adopted: "Resolved, That a committee of seven be appointed to secure plans, invite proposals and award a contract for the erection of an insane asylum and that work on the same be commenced and pushed to completion at the earliest possible date."

Mr. Irving offered a second resolution, which was also adopted, providing for an issue of county bonds, not exceeding $25,000 in the aggregate, to pay for the proposed asylum. Plan were prepared by William G. Hoopes, architect, proposals were invited and the contract awarded on August 13, 1895 to J. Summerill Smith, of Atlantic City, for the sum of $21,490. Including extras and furnishings, the first cost of the asylum was slightly in excess of $23,000. The building was finished in the early part of 1896, and the patients in the State Asylum, at Trenton, thirty-five in number, were transferred to Northfield in March. Mr. McConnell had been previously elected superintendent and Mrs. McConnell, matron.

The name of the "Atlantic County Asylum For Insane" was officially given the institution on January 8, 1896, on the motion of Freeholder John T. Irving. Upon opening on March 20, 1896 the asylum took in the 36 patients transferred from Trenton. The average admission rate was around 24 patients a year. The original was a simple corridor plan building, however shorty afterwards two wing additions were made, giving the building its current U shape.

Since the completion of the building two additions have been made. A wing was first added to the men's ward and about the beginning of 1904 a similar extension of the women's ward was finished. The total cost of the building, including furnishings and extensions, is $73,000. The dining room is now in the basement, and it is proposed to erect another wing in the near future, with a dining room on the main floor. The view on another page was made from a photograph taken in 1900, before the wings were added.

As of May 1904 the number of inmates was 73--37 male and 36 female--or about double the number when the institution was opened. The number of admissions since 1895 has been 1936. During the same period 58 have died and 40 have been discharged as cured. The county farm, which surrounds the asylum and almshouse, contains ninety acres, exclusive of meadow land. The farm alone is valued at $30,000. It cost the county $1,700 in 1837, when old Gloucester County was dismembered by the creation of the new county of Atlantic.

The insane asylum has saved the county an average of nearly $10,000 a year during the past eight years, and has thus paid for itself. This saving is due to the greater cost of maintaining the county insane at the State Asylum, in Trenton. The wisdom of Superintendent McConnell's recommendation to the board is apparent in this decreased cost of maintaining the indigent insane of the county. That the institution is properly conducted and is a model asylum is evidenced by a presentment made by the grand jury to the court at Mayslanding on April 27, 1904

Today the building still stand and is currently occupied by County Health Services, now known as the Stillwater building. North of the building is the former Almshouse, which is the newer structure built in 1912 to replace the older wooden one. In 1956 the almshouse was converted to a hospital for the chronically ill and geriatric.

Atlantic County Insane Asylum[edit]