The Buildings of St. Joseph's Village: The Final ChapterNews article with followup and reactions at bottom
by Jim Brown
ROCKLEIGH, NJ The orange brick buildings that once were home to hundreds of dependent children will soon be demolished and many happy and sometimes sad childhood memories will be all that remain. For some the demolition of the physical buildings will bring a bit of closure to a traumatic time in their lives.
In May 2012, Bergen County officials announced plans to sell the 35 acres once known as St. Joseph's Village. The county bought the land, 17 buildings, and seven-eighths of a mile of connecting corridors from the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace after the Village closed in 1972. They used the complex to house six disability programs including the Bergen County Hearth Care Center, a nursing facility.
Jim Brown who maintains the StJosephsVillage.com website is investigating this story further and is looking into the status of the many artifacts that remain such as several stained glass windows and a pipe organ in the chapel. Brown says, "These objects should not be lost to the wrecking ball and a new home for them should be found." He adds, "A few orange bricks and a green glazed brick from the huge kitchen would be nice."
On Wednesday, March 20, 2013 county officials announced a plan to consolidate many of their special services programs located throughout the county, including at the Village, into a $46-million, 120,000-square-foot education complex to be built on the former site of the Bergen County Juvenile Detention Center, first known as the Bergen Pines Shelter at 296 E. Ridgewood Ave. in Paramus, NJ. The new facility will house programs for about 325 autistic students and adults and about 100 employees of the Countys Special Services School District. Plans call for rooftop solar panels and a parking deck for 75 cars. The project is expected to be completed in the Fall of 2014.
Deputy Chief of Staff Peter Incardone said the county has a potential buyer for Village property, but said he did not have the all the details. With a sale imminent, three programs still at the site must vacate the property by late August, he said. Those programs will be relocated to temporary quarters until the new facility is completed.
It is unknown at this time when demolition will begin.
County Administrator Ed Trawinski said proceeds from the sale would be used to offset the cost of moving the programs to the new complex in Paramus. Their goal is to save the county $770,000 a year it currently pays to lease space for three of the programs that already have moved from Rockleigh. The new facility is also expected to save on transportation costs as it is more centrally located within the county.
For the children and staff that occupied these buildings, watching their final destruction will for many be an emotional experience as the Village and its buildings once provided refuse, security, and happiness for some and vivid nightmares for others.
Ed note: Watch this website for any updates on this developing story. Those wishing to tour the facility may not be able to do so as there are no longer any programs operating out of the facility as it awaits sale and demolition. StJosephsVillage.com will attempt to photograph and report on the demolition of the Village.
(Some information for this article is from The Record.)
Ed note: We will try to get more information on the final days of the Village buildings and bring it to you here on this page. I hope to find out when the actual demolition will take place so I can announce it here and get pictures/video.
After reading of the property sale and demolition of the Village, members of the Village Memories discussion group on Yahoo! Groups left the following posts.
These walls that contained what should never have been,
adults once children, scars within
Parents who turned their back on a child, no matter their pain,
it can only be mild
Some of the Sisters at night in their room,
crying silently, never showing their gloom
Prefixes worked their job night and day, some for the children, all for their pay
Think of all the tears in the mile long hall, to and fro daily without even a call
When at the bottom, one can only look up,
I'm sure we all appeared like some scared pup
Black, white and Hispanic too, bunched together, without a clue
There we stood side by side, each one of us, along for the ride
Those days are now gone, with children of our own,
a tear in the corner when no one at home
I can still see them and their smiling face, no longer able to keep us in place
As long as it stands the memories remain,
for some of the residents continue with pain
Tear down those buildings, we should all go see,
the spirits of children finally set free
This place was evil.
Hope the people who ran it and the priest burn in hell.
It a good thing it is distroyed
and leveled hope people learn to never do this again.
StJosephsVillage.com spoke with the mayor's office of Rockleigh on Oct. 8th and they said that the county still holds the deed to the property and has been looking for a developer to purchase it over the last two years. The mayor's office has no further information at this time. The buildings now stand vacant and all county programs that have been operating at the site have been ordered by the county to vacate by the end of August 2013.
StJosephsVillage.com is in the process of contacting County Administrator Ed Trawinski to get more detailed information on the status of the Village buildings and their contents. The next step would be to get more information of any form and to inquire about sale, donation or auctioning of various objects within the complex. There is very little if any nonstructual objects left that would be related to St. Joseph's Village use of the buildings. We do know that many kitchen fixtures are origianl to the Village. Perhaps original items such as stained glass chapel windows an lighting fixtures still remain. We recently learned that the Peragallo Organ Company of Paterson, NJ, who built the chapel pipe organ, had recently rescued the instrument and is keeping it safe in their factory untill a new home can be found for it.
As the final day draws closer some former children of the village are certain to want pieces of the structure or items within it such as in the case of Robert Spinato whos father Salvatore frequently raised money for the Village and thus a room with a plaque was dedicated in his honor in the gymnasium building. He recently contacted StJosephsVillage.com to see if it could be saved and given to him in memory of his father. We are hoping that some arrangement can be made for interested parties to either obtain items or suggest appropriate new homes for items of significance.
There will likely be those, including this writer, who would like to have a brick from the cottage or even the dorm wing where they lived. It is acknoledged that still others would just want to see it and all their bad memories reduced to a pile of rubble.
As of this writing, no demolition has begun as of date.