A History of the Woodbridge Developmental Center and New Jersey State Residential Facilities for the Developmentally Disabled

Section 1: Introduction to the Woodbridge Developmental Center

Originally known as the “Woodbridge State School” when it opened in 1965, the Woodbridge Developmental Center was a 65-acre residential facility for the developmentally disabled located in the Avenal section of Woodbridge Township, Middlesex County, New Jersey. The Woodbridge Developmental Center consisted of a complex of approximately 29 buildings designed by architects Vincent G. Kling, John R. Diehl, and Francis R. Stein. The campus reflected both the design philosophies promoted by a group of architects called the “Philadelphia School” as well as an evolving treatment philosophy at the time for developmentally disabled individuals and the architecture of developmental centers. The facility was operated by the State until its closure in 2014. All buildings on the property were demolished in 2021 and the land redeveloped (Figure 1). 

Fig 1- cover from hist contextFigure 1: 1967 aerial photograph of the Woodbridge State School (Source: Athenaeum of Philadelphia n.d.).

The Woodbridge Developmental Center is historically and architecturally significant as a representation of shifting philosophies of care for the developmentally disabled after World War II, and the physical evolution of state-operated residential facilities. The Woodbridge Developmental Center was one of eight state-run residential facilities for the developmentally disabled in New Jersey, five of which are still in operation today (Figure 2).

Fig 2_NJFacilities 22miles - Copy

Figure 2: Map of New Jersey showing state-run residential facilities for the developmentally disabled, both present and former, and their years of operation.


A Note on Terminology:

The term “developmental disability” is used throughout this history as a broad term to refer to a wide “group of conditions due to an impairment in physical, learning, language, or behavior areas” (Centers for Disease Control 2023). These conditions include both intellectual or mental and physical disabilities that tend to have a lasting impact on a person’s life and can affect the ways they function on an everyday basis. A number of antiquated and offensive terms for people with developmental disabilities are mentioned throughout this history, where key sources are quoted and where the historical term is key to the context.

Section 2: Pre-World War II Care Philosophies and Facilities for the Mentally Disabled

Late Nineteenth-Century Theories of Developmental Disability 

In the mid- to late-1800s, ideas about the causes and preventability of developmental disabilities were underwritten by inherently racist, classist, and ableist theories of human development, such as Social Darwinism, progressivism—its counterpart degenerativism—and evolutionism. The vague understanding of developmental disabilities at the time and their relationship with heredity led many to see disability as a threat to the social order (Trent 1994:141). In this context, institutions became the permanent “locus of care and protection” for the developmentally disabled to prevent them from becoming “menaces to society” (Trent 1994:142–144). 

In the mid-nineteenth century, French physician Édouard Séguin began to study children with intellectual disabilities and theorized that a “lack of will” and stimulation resulted in “mental deficiency” (Trent 1994:16). With this in mind, he theorized that training could improve the capabilities of the developmentally disabled and took steps toward the establishment of training institutions. Institutions for intellectually disabled children began as experiments in education, based on the research of people like Séguin, who “proved” that through certain methods, the developmentally disabled could learn.


Early Training Schools for the Developmentally Disabled in New Jersey

American psychiatrists did not fully embrace Séguin’s explanations of the causes of developmental disabilities, but his emphasis on education and training was more widely accepted. Training became an important function of institutions for the developmentally disabled in the United States, and New Jersey was a leader in the field beginning in the 1880s. New Jersey’s first institution for the developmentally disabled, the Vineland Training School for Feeble-Minded Boys and Girls (Vineland Training School), was founded in 1887 as a private school for the intellectually disabled (Leiby 1967:74; Figure 3). 

Fig 3- Vineland 1907 LOC photo

Figure 3: Circa 1920 postcard of the campus of the Vineland Training School in the early twentieth century, at center is the Maxhan “Cottage” and at the right is Garrison Hall (Source: ).

The Vineland Training School was at the cutting edge of the architectural, training, and research trends in the field of developmental disability at the turn of the century, and heavily influenced the course of schooling for the developmentally disabled across New Jersey. Research undertaken at the Vineland Training School served as a basis for the field of behavioral psychology which evolved from psychiatry and eugenics. Advocates of eugenics, including some professionals studying residents at the Vineland Training School, believed that people with developmental disabilities needed to be removed from the general population and prevented from reproducing in order to promote the overall health of the human species. This treatment philosophy assumed that the residents were genetically incapable of improvement and should be warehoused away from their families (Reim 2004:6–8). These ideas became the basis of a new paradigm for the design of facilities and care for the developmentally disabled across the state through the turn of the century.

In 1888, New Jersey opened its first publicly funded residential home for the developmentally disabled: the Vineland State School for Feeble-Minded Women (Vineland State School). Located just across the street from the private Vineland Training School, the Vineland State School was heavily influenced by the prevailing treatment models of the time (Figure 4).

Fig 4 21-095 Fig2_VinelandSS_VinelandTS

Figure 4: 1930 oblique aerial view of Vineland Training School (foreground) and Vineland State School (background). View north. (Photograph courtesy of Hagley Museum and Library). 

The Vineland State School embraced the dual beliefs that developmental disability was a “hereditary defect” and that education could improve the ability of the developmentally disabled to live independently. Many physicians advocated for the segregation of people with mental deficiency from the general population or even for sterilization. In the face of moral and public health panic, the Vineland State School was founded to empower the state to remove developmentally disabled women from county almshouses and prevent them from reproducing (Leiby 1967:74, 103, 240). While education was one goal of the school, in reality it became a “custodial institution for pauper girls” (Leiby 1967:104). 

In the pre-World War II era, the New Jersey Department of Institutions and Agencies managed the state’s facilities for developmental disability, undertook research on intellectual disability, and implemented models of care that were largely custodial, even as research held promise about the potential of many disabled children to learn self-help skills and become self-sufficient. 


Pre-World War II Facility Design

At the turn of the twentieth century, the architectural design of facilities for the mentally disabled were not significantly differentiated from other institutions—such as asylums, prisons, hospitals, and schools. In fact, the state often cared for the developmentally disabled in conjunction with the care of other types of patients, such as the mentally ill or socially deviant. Specialized care philosophies and specialized spaces had not yet been developed. 

State institutions presented beautiful and stately campuses, often with large brick buildings arranged around orderly quads, meant to please the eye of outsiders. These campuses were “total institutions,” intended as places where the state hoped to create “self-directed, moral, normal individuals” (De Cunzo 2006:167). In the early 1900s, most care for the developmentally disabled was based on ideas of “genetic determinism” which proposed there were no avenues for improvement due to their ancestry. The recommended care was warehousing of residents in large dormitory-like buildings.

In 1892, ahead of the trends in facility design for the developmentally disabled, the private Vineland Training School broke from the traditional use of large dormitories and adopted the “cottage plan.” The cottage plan was characterized by residents living in multiple small houses and working together. This model became the primary approach to designing residential facilities in New Jersey for the next three decades (Leiby 1967:103). The cottage plan was used at facilities for the developmentally disabled throughout the country and was often organized according to “different functional grades, sexes, and medical conditions” (Trent 1994:94).  The “cottages” within this model, however, typically continued to be multi-storied, brick-faced buildings with the same design as earlier dormitories, though on a somewhat smaller scale. The cottage plan was utilized by the New Lisbon Developmental Center (est. 1914), Woodbine Developmental Center (est. 1921), and the North Jersey Training Center (est. 1928).


State-run facilities for the developmentally disabled, est. Pre-World War II 

1. Vineland Developmental Center (1888–present)

  • Location: Vineland, Cumberland County, NJ
  • Original Name: Vineland State School for Feeble-Minded Women (Vineland State School)
  • InformationEstablished in 1888, the Vineland Developmental Center is the oldest state-run residential facility for the developmentally disabled in New Jersey, and is still operational today. Research undertaken at the facility led to the development of what is now known as the “IQ Test” which quickly became the standard intelligence test used to classify children for special education programs.


Fig 5- vineland dev center

Figure 5: Undated aerial photograph of the Vineland Developmental Center (Source: Reim 2004).


2. New Lisbon Developmental Center (1914–present)

  • Location: New Lisbon, Burlington County, NJ
  • Original Name: State Colony at New Lisbon (New Lisbon Colony)
  • Information: Founded in 1914, the New Lisbon Colony became the state’s first public residential institution for boys with developmental disabilities and primarily accommodated “educable and trainable” boys (New Jersey Department of Institutions and Agencies [NJDIA] 1966:96).

Fig 6- 21-095  edit-01

Figure 6: 1935 photograph of cottages at the State Colony for Boys in New Lisbon (Source: Devery 1939).


3. Woodbine Developmental Center (1921–present)

  • Location: Woodbine, Cape May County, NJ
  • Original Name: Woodbine State Colony
  • Information: The Woodbine State Colony took over buildings of the Baron de Hirsch Agricultural College, which had been built in 1894 for the education of the newly established Jewish community in Woodbine and closed with the onset of World War I in 1917 (Batesel 2020). Sometime between 1924 and 1930, the facility was completely redeveloped according to a “total institution” design. The staff at the Woodbine State Colony played a major role in challenging the theory of “genetic determinism.” They instituted an instructional program that demonstrated that with compassionate care, even residents with severe limitations could improve their abilities and could learn life skills to survive outside the institution (Leiby 1967:242–244). These discoveries were transformational in the field of developmental disability care and were nationally applauded.

 Fig 7 - 21-095 _Woodbine_Sanborn 1932

Figure 7: 1932 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map showing the cottage plan of buildings at the Woodbine State Colony, indicated on the map as the “State Cottage Colony For Feeble Minded Males” (Source: Sanborn Map Company 1932).

 4. North Jersey Training School (1928–1992)

  • Location: Totowa, Passaic County, NJ
  • Original Name: North Jersey Training School for Girls (North Jersey Training School)
  • Information: Programming at the North Jersey Training School focused on returning residents to the community through school and occupational training. The facility’s close proximity to a population center enabled the school to run a day-placement program which found jobs in domestic work for its students. When founded in 1928, the North Jersey Training School was the only facility for the developmentally disabled in the northern part of the state (NJDIA 1966:97). 

 Fig 8 21-095 _NorthJerseyTotowa_Barns

Figure 8: Circa 1930 postcard of the campus of the North Jersey Training School for Girls.


Section 3: Post-World War II Care Philosophies and Facilities for the Mentally Disabled

In the post-World War II era, caregivers and lawmakers alike were looking to solve problems associated with the state’s developmental disability care system in the face of long waitlists, poor treatment conditions, and rapidly aging facilities at the four existing state-run facilities for the developmentally disabled. During this period, an array of federal and state legislation sought to improve the lives of the developmentally disabled through an improved healthcare system and a patchwork of funding mechanisms to build new hospitals, state schools, and community care centers. The federal government began to actively fund research into developmental disability in the 1960s, as well as the construction of new facilities. Parent groups in particular were instrumental in advocating for the developmentally disabled, pushing for their rights to social services and education alike.

Post-World War II Parent Advocacy

In 1947, a group of parents established the Association for Retarded Children (ARC) to advocate for their children and argue further against the idea of genetic deficiency. This association convinced the state to appoint the State Commission to Study the Problems and Needs of Mentally Deficient Persons, whose report prompted passage of the Beadleston Laws in 1954. These laws overhauled large portions of the previous legislation; an important clause required the state commissioner of education to distinguish among the educable (who could lead semi-independent lives in communities), the trainable, and the non-trainable. As local school districts responded to the new requirements that they provide services to the educable, they drastically expanded their counseling services and removed those residents from state institutions (Leiby 1967:324–328). 

Post-World War II Facility Design

After World War II, the stately and palatial hospital campuses of the early twentieth century were seen as cold and isolating. Care models for the developmentally disabled had not kept pace with research showing the benefits of education and training and parents pushed for more opportunities for their disabled children that took them out of permanent residential institutions. Parents and administrators alike also agreed that regionally located, residential institutions were needed for those children who required long-term residential care. Bringing these facilities to the communities that would use them enabled families to stay close and involved in their children’s lives at a moment when institutions were being destigmatized. 

Between 1946 and 1974 the subfield of “environmental psychology” sought to reduce the alienation and trauma associated with institutional settings through empirical analyses of the ways that the built environment impacts the mind and behavior (Knoblauch 2020:6–7). The prominent theory in this subfield was “psychological functionalism,” which held that form influences psychology, and designs should be shaped to fit the psyche of the user (Knoblauch 2020:7). Under this theory, psychiatrists, social psychologists, and architects came together to explore the potential of buildings to contribute positively to treatment plans for the developmentally disabled and mentally ill.

Post-war architects of state schools utilized the theories of psychological functionalism as they designed facilities on the “human scale,” creating home-like living spaces, and reducing a sense of isolation and alienation typically associated with turn-of-the-century institutions. These designs typically featured single-story cottages, floorplans designed for specific activities, and discrete buildings for ancillary needs such as group gatherings, medical care, food service, and utilities. These new designs hoped to disguise the dehumanizing aspects of institutions such as the need for surveillance and the lack of personal space. New Jersey’s Woodbridge State School and Hunterdon State School exemplified the new model of psychological functionalism which flourished in the 1960s and early 1970s. 


State-run Facilities for the Developmentally Disabled, est. Post-World War II 

1. Johnstone Training and Research Center (1956-1992)

  • Location: Bordentown, Burlington County, NJ
  • Original Name: Edward R. Johnstone Training and Research Center
  • Architect(s): Guilbert & Betelle
  • Info: The Edward R. Johnstone Training and Research Center was the first residential facility for the developmentally disabled opened in the state after World War II. The facility was located on a former industrial school campus called the Manual Training and Industrial School for Colored Youth.

 Fig 9 21-095 Fig9_Johnstone_NJSA

Figure 9: Circa-1930–1950s photograph of the grounds of the Manual Training and Industrial School for Colored Youth, which would become the Edward R. Johnstone Research and Training Center in 1955  (Source: Department of Education Records, New Jersey State Archives, Trenton, NJ).


2. Woodbridge Developmental Center (1965–2014)

  • Location: Woodbridge Township, Middlesex County, NJ
  • Original Name: Woodbridge State School
  • Architect(s): Vincent G. Kling, John R. Diehl, Francis R. Stein
  • Information: The Woodbridge State School (later the Woodbridge Developmental Center) was the first public residential facility for the developmentally disabled built post-World War II that utilized mid-century theories of development and education in its design. Though the Edward R. Johnstone Training and Research Center opened after World War II and before Woodbridge, it occupied an existing campus. Woodbridge employed a modern take on the cottage plan, featuring octagonal cottages and a central, triangular-shaped hospital. 

 Figure 10

Figure 10: Bird’s eye view of the Woodbridge State School (Source: Architectural Record 1967:150).

 3. Hunterdon Developmental Center (1969–present)

  • Location: Union Township, Hunterdon County, NJ
  • Original Name: Hunterdon State School
  • Architect(s): Kramer, Hirsch & Carchidi
  • Information: The Hunterdon State School was designed to resemble the layout of the Woodbridge State School by utilizing residential clusters which surround a central hospital building and administrative building. Similar to the Woodbridge State School, the Hunterdon State School was built on farmland belonging to a prison, the Clinton Women’s Reformatory, and relied on labor from the state correctional facility to reduce operation costs (Courier-News, 4 March 1967:13).

 Fig 11- 21-095 _HunterdonStateSchoolAerial-01

Figure 11: 1970 aerial photograph of Hunterdon State School (Source: Trenton Times, photographer Warren Kruse).

4. Green Brook Regional Center (1980–present)

  • Location: Green Brook Township, Somerset County, NJ
  • Architect(s): Collins, Uhl, Hoisington & Anderson
  • Information: In 1980, the Green Brook Regional Center took over the building formerly occupied by the Raritan Valley Hospital, and cared for elderly patients who were moderately and severely developmentally disabled. The Green Brook Regional Center retained many of the hospital’s medical spaces such as the X-ray and stress laboratories (Feiner 1981). During a flood at Green Brook in 2010, residents temporarily moved to the Woodbridge Development Center and noted the lack of privacy that Woodbridge afforded. Residents had to sleep six to a room and share a communal bathroom in contrast to the ensuite bathrooms they enjoyed at Green Brook (Lampard and Lampard 2010). The modern sensibility about what made a residential facility a “good institution” had once again settled on the basics of everyday life. In this case, the scale of the building was less important than the services, cleanliness, and privacy available in a patients’ immediate surroundings.

 Fig 12- 2016 google

Figure 12: 2016 image of the Green Brook Regional Center (Source: Google Imagery 2016).

Section 4: The Woodbridge Developmental Center

Built in 1964 and opened in 1965, the Woodbridge Developmental Center (originally called the Woodbridge State School until 1983) is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places for its architecture and association with mental health care treatment philosophy as a state-run facility. The facility was the New Jersey Department of Institutions and Agencies’ first opportunity in decades to build a campus for the developmentally disabled that met mid-century theories of intellectual disability and approaches to education. 

The facility was constructed just off U.S. Route 1 in Woodbridge Township on land originally used for limited farming activities associated with the Rahway State Prison. The selection of the site marked a distinct change in policy. Earlier facilities had mostly been located in remote, secluded areas that made it difficult for families to visit and isolated the institutions from nearby communities, but close proximity to U.S. Route 1 made the Woodbridge State School more accessible to patients’ families (Vanston 1967: 148).

The architects for the Woodbridge State School, Vincent Kling and the firm Diehl and Stein, brought a distinctly modern approach to the design of the school. Kling, a prominent member of the “Philadelphia School” of modern architecture, engaged with design theories that emphasized the human scale of design. The design of the Woodbridge State School campus embodied this “human scale” through its reliance on low-profile, single-story buildings and the close-knit environment evoked by the neighborhood-like arrangement of the buildings along curvilinear paths and roads with trees screening the campus’s perimeter (Busselle 1965; Figures 13 and 14). One innovation Kling, Diehl, and Stein employed was a hexagonal design motif that dominated the complex and served as a unifying element for the campus. The triangular and hexagonal shapes were used to “distract from the impression of alienation or even manipulation that plagued long hospital wards” (Knoblauch 2020:82). The central hospital building had a triangular shape, and was surrounded by 19 octagonal cottages. Support buildings such as the power plant, maintenance shop, and food service buildings had rectangular footprints and were sequestered to the northeast corner of the complex. 

Fig 13- 21-095 Fig11_GeneralViewWoodbridge_AR-1967-02 - General View

Figure 13: 1965 general view of Woodbridge State School (Source: Vanston 1967).


Fig 14- 21-095 Fig10-01

Figure 14: 1965 plan view of Woodbridge State School (Source: Woodbridge State School Pamphlet, NJDIA 1965).


The hexagonal design provided a highly efficient building plan for the cottages, which created an arrangement of six triangular segments radiating from the compact, central core (Architectural Record 1967; Busselle 1965).  Each cottage accommodated 50 residents, and the six triangular segments were arranged radially around a central, shared bathroom facility (Figure 15). The six segments were designed for use as a classroom and administration area, dormitories, dayrooms, dining spaces, and service rooms for staff. A bathroom was placed at the center of each cottage for ease of access from each dormitory and the dayroom/dining room. A dedicated space for surveillance was not designed into the living arrangements, rather, the interior hallways of the cottages were short, and allowed staff to quickly move between dormitories and day rooms if needed. This design element provided a less intrusive and less visible means of surveillance. The non-ambulatory cottages were conjoined in pairs, their service segments linked together to concentrate staff (NJDIA 1965; Figure 16). Each cottage was also furnished with a “quiet room” should patients need to be temporarily isolated (New Jersey Association for Retarded Children 1968:22). Stairs were excluded from the design so as not to hinder patients, and no rooms were entirely closed off so that staff views were not obscured (Oates 1964). 

 Fig 15 21-095 _AmbulantCotttage-01

Figure 15: 1965 cottage layout for ambulant cottages at Woodbridge State School (Source: Woodbridge State School Pamphlet, NJDIA 1965).


Fig 16  21-095 Fig13_NonAmbulant-01

Figure 16: 1965 cottage layout for non-ambulant cottages at Woodbridge State School (Source: Woodbridge State School Pamphlet, NJDIA 1965).


With a new care philosophy and new architectural approach to residential facilities, Woodbridge had the potential to perfectly blend the ideal community living with specialized education and health care, and was held up by the New Jersey Department of Institutions and Agencies as the future of residential facilities in the state. While the design was hailed as an innovative contribution to the field of institutional architecture, its design came under scrutiny almost immediately from the programmers at the school (Architectural Record 1967; Busselle 1965; Vanston 1967). The first superintendent of Woodbridge State School, David Rosen, pointed out that a number of design features that were intended to reduce the institutional feel of the facility, and which might even be characterized as “luxurious,” did not meet the needs of the staff in administering care, treatment, and training to the school’s residents. Terrazzo floors, for example, created dangerous slipping hazards. Design features such as tile walls, radiant heating, drains, and stainless-steel tables caused Rosen to lament that “in stressing simplified maintenance and sanitation, warmth and safety have been sacrificed” (Source: Rosen 1967:4-6; Figure 17). 

 Fig 17 21-095 Fig14_InteriorPhotos-01

Figure 17: 1965 interior photos of Woodbridge State School cottage dormitory room (left) and a classroom (right) (Source: Woodbridge State School Pamphlet, NJDIA 1965).


Woodbridge’s saving grace was that although the segments of each cottage were designed for specific activities, the interior spaces could be reorganized. This flexibility allowed for staff to change the buildings to meet the needs of the residents and staff. In the non-ambulatory cottages, for example, some beds were moved into the sector originally intended as a recreation area, and the middle of the bedrooms became recreation areas instead. Other sectors were reconfigured for physiotherapy and occupational therapy activities. Even with the spatial flexibility of the buildings, the staff hit the design’s limitations almost immediately. Six months after the campus opened, the office space was in maximum use. The cottages had been designed without basement space or extra offices, which was regarded as an unfortunate oversight as growth was inevitable. 


During the half century Woodbridge served the needs of the developmentally disabled community (1965 to 2015), public policy shifted dramatically. At the time of its opening, the New Jersey Department of Institutions and Agencies initiated a study of those admitted, indicating the needs of each person. The progress of each resident was then monitored to ascertain how residents with various needs responded to the services, with new admissions to be drawn from people on the waiting list with similar characteristics to those with the best results (NJDIA 1970:10). Plans for another innovative facility, to be named the Somerset State School, to further address the growing waiting list fell through due to a lack of funding. Also at this time, parents were taking children with less pronounced challenges out of state institutions, which gradually changed the training needed for staff. Another impetus for the shift away from institutions was the Equal Education Movement, which pursued lawsuits and legislation to enhance community options (NJDIA 1975). In Robinson v. Cahill, 62 N.J. 473 (1973) (Robinson I), New Jersey’s Supreme Court ruled that the system of financing public education did not provide a “Thorough and Efficient Education” for children with disabilities as required by the state constitution. Then, the 1975 Federal Education of All Handicapped Children Act (the Individuals with Disabilities Act) shifted federal funding towards community services rather than institutions (NJDIA 1978, 1984). The shift to daycare centers had become so pronounced that in 1991, the Johnstone Training School closed, followed by the North Jersey Development Center at Totowa in 2013. In 2015, the New Jersey Department of Institutions and Agencies declared Woodbridge Developmental Center a surplus property and closed the campus. At that time, the campus was largely unchanged with limited alterations to the plan of the early 1960s. 

Section 5: Deinstitutionalization

In the mid-1970s, waitlists for residential care facilities for the developmentally disabled showed no signs of abating and strong opposition to institutionalization was growing among parents and over-stretched state administrators. Institutions had become the destination for any developmentally disabled child who did not fit neatly into the school system, even those with mild disabilities for whom 24-hour residential institutions were not appropriate for their needs. What followed was reform to the state’s educational system and reform to the state system of developmental disability care. With an emphasis on networks of local services, the state could rely on institutions much less, or perhaps not at all. Thus began a shift toward “deinstitutionalization” on both the federal and state levels. 

Deinstitutionalization was driven in part by federal legislation and funding mechanisms in the late 1970s, which encouraged states to reduce the number of residential institutions, improve those that remained, and create community-based care networks that could serve people locally. By the early 1990s, legislation related to disability rights and court cases to uphold these rights further pushed states toward deinstitutionalization. By the 2000s, these court cases were being used by state governments to defend moves to close even well-used and liked facilities for the severely developmentally disabled. Most recently, New Jersey’s move away from residential facilities for the developmentally disabled can be seen in the closure of the Woodbridge Developmental Center and the North Jersey Training Center in 2014.  

While five residential facilities still remain in New Jersey (Hunterdon Developmental Center, Vineland Developmental Center, Woodbine Developmental Center, Green Brook Regional Center, and New Lisbon Developmental Center), the emphasis once put on close proximity to parents and densely populated areas is gone. Many developmentally disabled patients have been placed in family homes, group homes, and larger, more remote institutions. Deinstitutionalization has allowed more and more developmentally disabled people to live in a community placement context, in the “least restrictive environments” that can accommodate their medical needs. As such, the architecture of these spaces is varied and no longer dictated by the institutional typology developed in the post-war years.

Section 6: Project Information and Sources

Content on this webpage was compiled and prepared by Richard Grubb & Associates, Inc., on behalf of Morris Avenel Associates Urban Renewal, LLC., as a mitigation measure for the demolition of the National Register of Historic Palaces-eligible Woodbridge State School in the Avenel section of Woodbridge Township, Middlesex County, New Jersey. Preparation of this webpage was one of four mitigation measures required by the New Jersey Historic Preservation Office to document the architectural and historical significance of the Woodbridge State School and similar state-operated facilities for the developmentally disabled that were built in the post-World War II era. The other mitigation measures completed by RGA consisted of documentation of the Woodbridge State School to the standards of the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), compilation of resources and repositories that contain publicly accessible materials for the Woodbridge State School and related topics, and the development of a historic context study of state-operated facilities for the developmentally disabled in the Post-World War II Era. The completion of the other mitigation measures informed the content presented on this webpage. The HABS-like documentation and historic context study are available for review at the links below. Where possible, links have also been provided for repositories and similar resources containing related research materials for the Woodbridge State School and related topics.

Mitigation Studies

HABS-like Documentation of the Woodbridge State School

Historic Context Study: “Today’s Hope for Tomorrow”: New Jersey State Residential Facilities for the Developmentally Disabled in the Post-World War II Era


Repositories & Resources

Athenaeum of Philadelphia

The Lawrence S. Williams, Inc. Collection held by the Athenaeum of Philadelphia is a photographic archive containing approximately 240,000 negatives and prints created between circa 1945 and 1999. Part of this collection includes a large holding of negatives taken of the Woodbridge State School taken between 1961 and 1965, shortly after the facility was constructed.


New Jersey State Library Digital Collections

This digital library includes a vast collection of New Jersey State government publications, digital books, photography, and postcards related to New Jersey History. Among these are many of the Annual Reports from the New Jersey Department of Institutions and Agencies and the New Jersey Department of Human Services. 


ARC of New Jersey 

This website hosts a broad range of information related to programs, advocacy, and public policy to benefit people with developmental disabilities. Some resources include the ARC Annual Report, newsletters, and archived webinars.


New Jersey Archives 

Though primary materials are not available online, finding aids for state documents related to administration of the New Jersey Department of Institutions and Agencies are available through the New Jersey Archives website. These materials are available for in-person review at the New Jersey Archives in Trenton, New Jersey. 


Institute of Education Services, Education Resources Information Center (ERIC)

This electronic library of education-related research and information offers a vast range of journal articles on developmental disability, as well as some research on the intersection of architecture and developmental studies. 



Architectural Record

1967     Cottages Create Human Scale in a State School for Retarded. February. Vol. 141(2):150–151.


Athenaeum of Philadelphia

n.d.       Lawrence S. Williams, Inc. Collection. On file, Athenaeum of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


Batesel, Paul

2020     Baron De Hirsch Agricultural School, Woodbine, New Jersey, 1894–1917.  https://www.lostcolleges.com/baron-de-hirsch-agricultural-school#: ~:text=In%201894%20the%20Baron%20De,and%20eighteen%20years%20of%20age, accessed March 31, 2023.


Busselle, Alfred

1965     To Fit the Need. Modern Steel Construction 4(4): 8–9.


Courier-News [Plainfield, New Jersey]

1967     State School Construction to Start. 4 March: 13. Plainfield, New Jersey.


De Cunzo, Lu Ann

2006     Exploring the Institution: Reform, Confinement, and Social Change. In Historical Archaeology, edited by Stephen W. Silliman and Martin Hall, pp. 167–198. Blackwell Press, Oxford, England.


Devery, Elizabeth

1939     The Story of Four Mile Colony: A Successful demonstration of Human Conservation. New Jersey State Colony, New Lisbon, New Jersey.


Feiner, Robert Z.

1981     Some Residents Remain Bitter about Raritan Valley Closing. The Courier-News, 19 October: 11. Bridgewater, New Jersey. 


Knoblauch, Joy

2020     The Architecture of Good Behavior: Psychology and Modern Institutional Design in Post-War America. University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


Lampard, Cletus, and Dorothy Lampard

2010     Move clients back to Green Brook. 25 April 2010, Asbury Park Press, 25 April 2010. Asbury Park, New Jersey. 


Leiby, James

1967     Charity and Correction in New Jersey. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey. 


New Jersey Association for Retarded Children

1968     Residential Care in New Jersey. New Brunswick, New Jersey. On file at the New Jersey State Library, Trenton, New Jersey.


New Jersey Department of Institutions and Agencies (NJDIA)

1965     Woodbridge State School. New Jersey Department of Institutions and Agencies, Trenton, New Jersey. 

1966     The New Jersey Comprehensive Plan to Combat Mental Retardation. New Jersey Department of Institutions and Agencies, Trenton, New Jersey.

1970     General Information, Vineland State School, Main Campus and Colony Campus. New Jersey Department of Institutions and Agencies, Trenton, New Jersey.

1975     The New Jersey Comprehensive Plan for the Developmentally Disabled. New Jersey Department of Institutions and Agencies, Trenton, New Jersey.

1978     “Plan to Address the Impact of the Conversion of New Jersey State Schools for the Retarded to ICF/MR Facilities on the Displaced Population. State of New Jersey, Department of Institutions and Agencies, Trenton, New Jersey. [947.90 I52 1978a].

1984     “Phase Two: Restructuring for Service:  A plan to improve New Jersey’s Mental Retardation System” State of New Jersey, Department of Institutions and Agencies, Trenton, New Jersey. [947.90 M549 1984].


Oates, Mary Louise

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