Tunnel Races

Demise of Preakness (2015)

    Preakness was essentially the red-headed stepchild of abandoned hospitals in New Jersey. We acknowledged it's existence, we went a bunch of times, but that doesn't necessarily mean we liked it. It was sort of like if that really cute guy you met at Starbucks ghosted you, but it was Saturday night and you were really bored, so you resorted to texting that kinda cute but also kinda creepy guy from Tinder. Not that I would know anything about that. 

    The first time I visited Preakness, a friend of mine had driven up with me for the day to do some exploring and ultimately meet-up with someone else. This is where the misadventure begins. The person we are meeting up with has been to the hospital once or twice before, so in the car we decide upon an impromptu trip to check it out. By now, it's getting dark out, and a snow-storm has rolled in. My poor Honda Civic can barely manage the turns as we snake our way towards Preakness. Our backseat driver starts to realize that perhaps he doesn't quite know where he is taking us. This is before everyone has smartphones, so it wasn't as easy to quickly narrow down where we needed to be. 

    It's also worth mentioning that the directions were coming from someone I would eventually come to realize is usually so stoned that they couldn't tell their left foot from their right. This is a common theme you might come to notice throughout some of our stories here. No matter, we press on, even as conditions worsen. We eventually arrive, a few wrong turns later, including somehow managing to drive down the sidewalk in the middle of a college campus. My new co-pilot then instructs me to go ahead and leave my car in the Police Academy parking lot. So now it's dark, on a late December evening, as we are leaving footprints in the snow from the Police Academy down to the abandoned hospital. What could possibly go wrong you might ask?

    Nothing. Absolutely nothing. After an uneventful entry and exit, we spend a brief period of time poking around before the screech and rattle of a rusty garage door opening scares us off. It turns out that the town was storing some Public Works supplies in an adjoining building, and some workers had stopped by to pick up snowblowers and other equipment. We venture back to the car, having accomplished nothing more than a brisk workout in the subzero temperatures. 

    My friends and I must have visited Preakness a few dozen times over the years, each time coming out with some sort of new ailment brought on by the staggering amount of mold. One of my fondest memories is one of the first times I hung out with Vacant NJ here. A friend of mine made the trip up from Philly with me to meet-up with him, and we somehow ended up at Preakness. As we were wandering around, we entered the tunnels to see if they connected to the adjacent detention center. After quickly becoming sidetracked, we found a group of relatively new wheelchairs in a corner of the basement. I would like to take credit for coming up with the idea, but I'm not really sure which one of us it was, but we decided to see how fast we could race them down the decline of the tunnel. We raced over and over again in near total darkness until we began to cough up black soot. We laughed so hard that we surely inhaled enough asbestos and toxins to cut our lives short.   

    I usually end these stories by saying how the building was leveled or stands as a pile of rubble, but this isn't true for Preakness. It was not only demolished, but the site it stood upon for nearly a century was blasted out to be used as a quarry. The road we would walk on to go to it doesn't even exist anymore. So much has changed.   

  • Abandoned New Jersey

    on April 4, 2020

    @ Tom T. Travis

    Thanks for the comment! The current Preakness Healthcare Facility at 305 Oldham Rd, Wayne is actually a totally separate and new facility. The original Preakness was built in the early 1900's and served initially as a TB hospital, and was later turned into a longterm healthcare facility in modern times. The tunnels are original to the building and the furthest one that went past the prison was to an old nurses cottage that was demolished early on when the campus became abandoned. This campus featured here was the one on Valley View Road, which now doesn't really exist due to the quarry expansion. There is no evidence to us that there was ever a tunnel running to the current Preakness built in 2009. It's highly unlikely for a modern facility to build any sort of tunnel system, especially to go to a decrepit building over 1/4 mile away downhill. We also spent a lot of time in those tunnels and broke open any closed doors. It's very rare for any post 1960's buildings to have any form of human sized tunnel system in them.

    I think this stems from confusion in online articles regarding the expansion of the NEW Preakness up to 406 beds from an unknown initial number. Here is the press release:

    "In 2009, the Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders built a new facility for Preakness Healthcare Center, replacing the old one. The new facility expanded to house 406 residents. It continues to provide long term skilled nursing care, sub-acute care, behavioral care, respiratory, respite and hospice care, to ensure the upmost care for its residents."

    and from the developer:
    The Preakness Healthcare Center is licensed as a 406-bed skilled nursing facility that is owned and operated by the Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders.

    The Challenge
    This project involved the construction of a new Unit Four, 340 bed Long Term Care Facility in multiple phases. This project also involved the demolition of multiple outdated health care facility buildings, designated as Unit Two and the alteration and renovation of the existing Unit Three. The structures that had to be removed were constructed in the 1930's and were made of concrete and masonry. Prior to demolition, rodent, asbestos and lead abatement operations had to be performed. The demolition of the facilities was performed using conventional techniques. All materials were separated and recycled at offsite facilities.

    Our Solution
    All work was completed in accordance with NJDEP and other associated agency requirements. The new facility that was constructed consisted of a structural steel frame with cast-in-place concrete floors and masonry, metal panel and glass exterior. Multiple patient, examination, and treatment rooms, along with Administration areas were constructed. All demolition and construction work had to be completed in phases to allow for the facility to remain open and operational. "

    So yes, the original 2009 building is still standing and has had some additional units added onto it, but the 1920's TB ward building bit the dust in 2015.

    I haven't ever seen any footage of other film crews using it, but that would surely be interesting! Place was a real dump.

  • Tom T. Travis

    on March 25, 2020

    So Preakness is still open (2020) and thriving as the county nursing home with long term care and short term sub-acute/physical rehab care. Prior to 2009, there were two buildings. Building 1 and the main building, which were in opposite sides of the same hill. Both buildings were connected underground by a tunnel, or by vehicle. Building 1 was the building in these photos.
    A few years prior to 2009, Preakness, the state and Passaic County agreed that Building 1 was becoming too run down. The building was always freezing or blazing hot, uncontrollably infested with rodents, and in dire need of lead paint and asbestos removal. The choice was to double the size of the main building, or renovate Building 1. It was actually cheaper to double the size of the main building than to renovate Building 1. So, after construction was completed on the addition to the main building, Building 1's residents were all relocated to new units in the newly constructed addition to the main building. After all residents were transferred, the tunnel was sealed, and Building 1 was condemned.
    Occasionally, film crews used the newly abandoned site until the plot of land was to a quarry. Still today, the main building and it's giant addition are operating as Preakness Healthcare Center.

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