In 1896, Essex County acquired 325 acres in Verona and Cedar Grove to build a new facility for the county’s mentally ill. The Essex County Asylum for the Insane became colloquially known as Overbrook because it was just over the Peckman River.
Overbrook closed in 2007 and this summer, its many buildings were demolished to make way for 460 Hovnanian townhouses and a new park. Next week, there were be two presentations on Overbrook and its legacy.
On Tuesday, October 4, the Verona Historical Society and local author Robert L. Williams will present “Overbrook Speaks” at 7:30pm at the Verona Community Center. “Share your stories and recollections of Overbrook, whether you were a former employee or someone who explored the vast ruins and extensive tunnel network in recent years,” Williams says. He will also display some of the relics that were recently salvaged and tell the story of a bygone era in local and national history. The Verona Community Center is located at 880 Bloomfield Avenue.
On Thursday October 6, author Wheeler Antabanez will read a haunting tale from his new book The Old Asylum and Other Stories, which was inspired by Overbrook. The reading will be followed by a discussion and Q&A with Wheeler, Mark Moran and Mark Sceurman of Weird N.J. magazine. The reading will begin at 7 p.m. and include original video footage and artwork of Overbrook Mental Hospital by Wheeler Antabanez. Copies of The Old Asylum and Other Stories, published by Sagging Meniscus Press of Montclair, and the new issue of Weird NJ will be available for purchase and signing.
The reading will be held at the Montclair Art Museum, and kicks off its free “First Thursday” nights for 2016-2017. The museum, which is located at the corner of South Mountain and Bloomfield avenues, will be open from 5 to 9 p.m.
Top photo copyright Robert C. Berner. Bottom photo copyright Robert L. Williams. Both used by permission.