Abandoned hospital being sold as potential homes

Greytown Hospital in 1917
The opening of a new ward in 1947
An aerial view of Greytown Hospital in 1954
The front of one of the buildings
A room with weeds growing inside
The corridors between buildings have been removed
The inside of one of the wards

A lower North Island developer hopes property buyers will see the value in buying a piece of the dilapidated old Greytown Hospital to live in.

The 15,000sq m site – with a valuation of $610,000 – was sold in November to Rudy Van Baarle, who is splitting it up into smaller lots.

The hospital has been empty since the mid-1990s, when the Wairarapa district health board walked away from it, leaving equipment which remains to this day.

Some locals think the buildings should have been knocked down years ago, but Mr Van Baarle reckons there will be people who see the appeal of doing them up.

Significant decay

The main Greytown Hospital building was finished in 1890, with the most recent addition completed in 1947.

The complex includes wards, nurses' and managers' quarters, and the old nursing school.

Most of the buildings remain, but the corridors linking some of the buildings have been removed so what remains can be used as individual buildings.

There is significant decay inside, which could make an ideal haunted house.

Dark corridors are littered with debris, paint is peeling off walls and there are plants growing in fireplaces.

Windows are smashed, staircases creak and moan, and curtains are torn.

The decor in some rooms appears to be from the 1970s at the latest, suggesting the hospital was reasonably run down by the time it closed.

There have been failed attempts to resurrect the site.

In 2003, Julie and David Wilson planned to turn the historic site into a function and accommodation complex, but this never eventuated.

However, the buildings were earthquake strengthened and most of the asbestos has been removed.

Mr Van Baarle says there is evidence of previous attempts at development in some of the buildings.

Long history

Greytown farmer Barry Kempton – whose family were the original settlers of Greytown in 1854 – says as a life-long Greytown resident he has some sentiments attached to the hospital.

"My mother worked there as a sister during World War II. She was there from about 1941 until 1944, when she got married."

He says she worked at the hospital during the riot at the Japanese prisoner of war camp in nearby Featherston in 1943.

The hospital had treated patients who had been shot, with 48 deaths as a result of the incident.

"My first experience with the hospital was having my tonsils out about 1952 when I was six," Mr Kempton says.

"In those days you used to have the old chloroform cloth put other your mouth, which was pretty horrible."

He says the hospital was pretty much as one would expect a hospital of that era to be like – uninviting.

Mr Kempton is saddened by the state of disrepair the buildings are in.

"I went into it within a year of it being vacated in the 1990s, and I went through a couple of months ago and I was absolutely appalled at the state of the buildings.

"I visited a lot of family and friends there. As I walked down the corridor a couple of months ago I could pick out the rooms where I visited my father and mother in the later stages of their lives." 

The community rallied to stop the closure of the hospital in the 1980s, but eventually lost the battle.

He says the region is fortunate to still have a hospital at Masterton.

Plans for the site

Mr Van Baarle intends to divide the site into seven individual freehold titles of between 1200 and 3000sq m. Six of them have a building. 

"I've left them there as part of the added-value for the sites, so people can have the site with a structure already there and do it up, or demolish it."

He reckons the sections are a bargain. The cheaper ones are selling for $225,000 to $240,000. 

"We've had a lot of interest already from people wanting residential homes." 

The smallest building is the old nurses' home at 200sq m, while the largest, which includes the operating theatres, is 800sq m.

While most of the valuable items such as the copper pipes and toilets have been removed, some hospital equipment remains. 

"There's still an old X-ray machine there if anybody wants one. Feel free to pick it up next time you're driving past," Mr Van Baarle says. 

He expects the development to be completed by the end of February.

callison@nbr.co.nz

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