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Famed Journalist Arthur Brisbane’s Abandoned Children’s “Asylum” Destroyed in Fire

WALL TOWNSHIP, NJ – If you’ve ever snuck into the Arthur Brisbane Children’s Treatment Center, which was often referred to as the children’s asylum, it had the aura of an episode of American Horror Stories.    It sits within the boundaries of Allaire State Park, surrounded by a barbed-wire fence along the Brisbane Trail.  Today, the main building which was once the dream-home estate of the late Brisbane was destroyed in a fire.

The center, which bears the name of  Arthur Brisbane, the man who first sought to preserve the history and heritage of Allaire State Park.   Brisbane was a newspaperman and real estate investor.  He brokered many newspaper acquisitions for media mogul William Randolph Hearst.  He began buying real estate around Allaire in 1907.  His goal was to restore the old Howell Iron Works and share it with the public.  Brisbane died in 1936 and his wife carried out his wishes to donate 1,200 acres of the Allaire property to the State of New Jersey.  It later became what is known today as Allaire State Park.

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Brisbane built his home on the property. After his death, in 1944 his family deeded his mansion to the State of New Jersey.  Three years later, the state began using the home to treat mentally disabled children between the ages of 5 and 12 years old.  The facility became the children’s unit of the infamous Marlboro State Hospital.   In 1972, a larger school building was constructed on the property.  By most accounts, life for children at the asylum at Allaire was no walk in the park.  Stories of mistreatment, neglect, abuse, and even sexual assault were commonplace during its existence.   In 1987, the role of the facility was expanded to care for mentally ill children up to the age of 17.

In 1988, the children’s mental unit at the Trenton State Hospital was shut down after a lawsuit alleging poor treatment of children. That lawsuit prompted a state investigation into Brisbane, which found that children were being injured by negligence due to outdated equipment and practices by the staff at the center. The building house more than twice as many children and staff members were caught mistreating the children.   State officials in 1989 recommended Brisbane be shut down.  It was not until 1998, despite repeated warnings of rampant patient abuse, things came to a head at the center with the death of 17-year-old Kelly Young.

According to records, Young died while being restrained by workers during an emotional frenzy.  A male social worker who was the only person on duty at the time after two co-workers left for dinner.  When the workers returned, Young was nearly dead from asphyxiation.  She was put on life support in a nearby hospital but died on January 5th, 1998.   Parents were told initially that Young choked on an object to cover up their actions.  An investigation was conducted, but no charges were ever filed.  Nelson Williams, one of the social workers was fired months later.  In 2004, the state made the decision to shut down the Bristlebane Treatment Center.  It has sat abandoned ever since the doors were shuttered in 2005.

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In the end, the home that Arthur Bristlebane, one of the world’s most notable journalists of the day,  built as his dream home, played out more like a horror story for the children who stayed there.

This morning just after 8 am, firefighters from the Glendola Volunteer Fire Company were dispatched to the Brisbane Property. The fire was extinguished and the building was demolished by Monmouth County Public Works.

Photos by Glendola Fire Department.

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