essex photography

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Essex County Hospital Center

WARNING: please, if you are visiting this location, stay on the outside of the barricades and do not attempt to go onto the campus/inside the buildings for the time being. It has been a hotspot for multiple arrests as of late August
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Essex, California (the alphabetical predecessor to Fenner) lies about seven miles west  of the deserted crossroads along the National Trails Highway.  It’s a veritable metropolis in comparison.  There is a picturesque abandoned cafe with its impressive cactus situated between an apparently functioning (although very small) post office to the east and some kind of automotive business to the west.  Across the street is the ruins of a private residence.  Considering the proximity of living humans I kept a respectful distance from private property for these photos (which are also from 3/28/2016.)

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Overbrook Asylum

(1 of 3)

Construction of northern New Jersey’s Essex County Hospital for the Insane, known locally as Overbrook Asylum, began in 1896 and continued through the early 1900s. It was built to ease overcrowding at Newark Hospital, but it wasn’t long before it started experiencing some trouble of its own.

Thousands of mentally ill patients who required daily care were sent to Overbrook, and it was soon operating at full capacity. To handle this enormous patient influx - as well as provide for the needs of the workers - Overbrook grew into a small town complete with farms, a power plant, firehouse, theater, school, bakery, and much more. It even had a semi-professional baseball team. The facility required so much fuel and other resources that a railroad stop was constructed to service it.

There are a lot of stories of tragedy at Overbrook, and given the time period and the nature of the institution, many of them are surely true. But one stands out. As reported by the New York Times, Overbrook’s boilers failed for 20 days during the frigid winter of 1917. Twenty-four patients froze to death in their beds, and many more suffered frostbite. 

Along with other asylums, Overbrook began to decline in the 1960s with the advent of new psychiatric medications and other treatments for mental illness. By 1975, it was maintaining only a very small patient population and most of the buildings were abandoned. By the mid 1990s, no more patients remained. The buildings and their contents - including patients’ records dating back to the late 1800s, were left to rot.

During the latter half of the 20th century, Overbrook became a New Jersey legend. Ghost stories proliferated, and venturing onto its decaying grounds became a rite of passage for many youths in the region.

In the 2000s, a lot of the buildings were torn down. Yet, a massive complex of structures remains - a testament to Overbrook’s former dominance of the surrounding area.

I visited in April 2014.

(For more photos of this site, see sets two and three.)

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March 2016

I will never stop going here until it’s all gone.

Took a trip to the hospital today and plenty of things were going down. My friends and I were in the breezeway hallway when we heard the sound of a generator and noticed a white van down the road towards building 5. We also noticed a dumpster next to the van. Moments later, the van drove off through the campus and we didn’t see it again. Multiple cars drove through the campus while we were inside. After it was quiet for a bit, we headed toward building 5 to see what was up. It was noticed that there were microwaves and chairs covered in plastic - unfortunately, the demolition process for the hospital is underway. There was a large dumpster outside with plenty in it, so they have began to remove materials from inside. Please, if you are visiting the hospital anytime soon, be aware of the fact there may be workers inside, and try to avoid the building 5 area. Be safe!! There is still 24 hour security and now workers on campus.