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Woody Guthrie's Wardy Forty: Greystone Park State Hospital Revisited
Buehler revisited Greystone to find and photograph places that Guthrie had mentioned in his letters to his family. Photo: Phillip Buehler.

NEW YORK, NY.- Woody Guthrie’s Wardy Forty: Greystone Park State Hospital Revisited, a new book by Phillip Buehler, reveals a largely unknown slice of American icon and folk music legend Woody Guthrie’s life. Through never-before-published letters, historic and family photographs, rare personal interviews, and new photographs by Buehler, Woody Guthrie’s Wardy Forty brings into view the five years the singer, songwriter, and activist spent as a patient at Greystone Park State Hospital in Morris Plains, New Jersey. Afflicted with Huntington’s disease (HD), Guthrie lived the last 15 years of his life in hospitals, suffering from this degenerative neurological disorder. One of these hospitals was Greystone Park, where he was a patient from 1956 through 1961. He lived in Ward 40 and called it “Wardy Forty.” It was here that 19-year-old Bob Dylan met his idol and the torch was symbolically passed to a new generation of folk singer.

Phillip Buehler has spent much of his life climbing over fences and into windows to explore the ruins of 20th century America. Greystone Park had been abandoned for over 40 years when Buehler first slipped past the state police station and climbed though an open window. After coming across thousands of negatives in the deserted darkroom, he researched the hospital and discovered that Woody Guthrie once lived there. He reached out to Guthrie’s daughter Nora Guthrie at the Woody Guthrie Foundation & Archives, who gave him Guthrie’s case number. Buehler was then able to pull negatives from Guthrie’s files at Greystone Park, beginning a 10-year journey that led to Woody Guthrie’s Wardy Forty: Greystone Park State Hospital Revisited.

Along the way, Buehler revisited Greystone to find and photograph places that Guthrie had mentioned in his letters to his family, such as murals painted on the walls of his ward. He spent countless hours over the years with the archivists at the Woody Guthrie Archives pouring over Guthrie's writings and medical records, interviewing Guthrie’s friends and family, helping bring to light Bob Dylan’s hand-written lyrics to his first major composition, “Song to Woody,” and locating Guthrie’s third wife, who hadn’t been heard from in 30 years, as well as one of Guthrie’s doctors.

Nora Guthrie had not allowed previous publication of this sensitive archival material, explaining, “I've been waiting for the right moment to release many of the images and writings of my father which give insight into his many years spent coping with Huntington's disease. When Phil Buehler came to me with his photographs, I knew immediately that this would be the way to communicate and hopefully illuminate Woody’s heretofore-unexplored life with HD. As he so often determinedly proclaimed, ‘I ain't dead quite yet’.”

The book includes:

· More than 75 color photographs by Phillip Buehler dating from 2001 through 2006

· Over 25 rare family photographs from Nora Guthrie's personal collection

· Historic, never-before-published photographs by photographer John Cohen

· Never-before-published photographs by Woody Guthrie’s close friend Bob Gleason

· Guthrie’s personal letters from Greystone to his wife Marjorie, and children Arlo, Joady, and Nora

· Archival documents and writings from the Woody Guthrie Archives, including a scene from an unpublished play Guthrie wrote at Greystone

· Rare personal interviews with Marjorie Guthrie, Arlo Guthrie, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Harold Leventhal, Anneke Van Kirk, John Cohen, Dr. Michael Hayden, and Guthrie's personal doctor at Greystone

· A very special afterward written especially for this project by Alice Wexler, PhD, author and founding Board member of the Hereditary Disease Foundation, with a brief history of Huntington's disease and update on recent research and steady progress towards a cure.

· Handwritten lyrics by Bob Dylan, for “Song to Woody” that have never been published

Phillip Buehler is a photographer and installation artist living in New York City. He has been investigating “modern ruins” since rowing out to then-abandoned Ellis Island in the 1970s. Many see Buehler as the founding father of “modern ruins” photography, a term he helped popularize starting in 1995, when he launched his website,, which has since had several million visitors. His photographs have been shown at PS1 MOMA, the Bronx Museum, Exit Art, Art in General, and have been written about or featured in Popular Photography, The New York Times, Beautiful Decay, The Star Ledger, ARTnews and Art in America.

Nora Guthrie is President of Woody Guthrie Foundation and Woody Guthrie Publications, Inc., and the former Director of the Guthrie Archives. She develops projects that bring her father’s vast cultural and, often unknown, creative legacy to life. Nora was executive producer of the Billy Bragg/Wilco Grammy-nominated Mermaid Avenue multi-disc sessions. Her groundbreaking pairing of Woody’s unpublished lyrics with music by contemporary artists has expanded Woody's iconic image, forever changing how we know him.

Steven Brower is an award-winning former Creative Director for PRINT, a former art director at The New York Times and currently for The Nation, co-author and designer of Woody Guthrie Artworks (Rizzoli, 2005), and author and designer of Satchmo: The Wonderful Art and World of Louis Armstrong (Abrams, 2009). He is the director of the “Get Your Masters with the Masters” MFA program for working professionals and educators at Marywood University in Scranton, PA.

Alice Wexler is a board member of the Hereditary Disease Foundation, a research scholar at the UCLA Center for the Study of Women, and the author of The Woman Who Walked into the Sea: Huntington’s and the Making of a Genetic Disease (2008), and Mapping Fate: A Memoir of Family, Risk, and Genetic Research (1995).

Woody Guthrie was born on July 14th, 1912, in Okemah, Oklahoma, and is widely regarded as America's greatest folksinger. He wrote over 3,000 songs in his lifetime, including “This Land Is Your Land,” which became America’s unofficial national anthem, and such standards as “Pretty Boy Floyd,” “Pastures of Plenty,” “Going Down The Road,” “Hard Travelin’,” “Jesus Christ,” “I Ain’t Got No Home,” “Deportee,” “Roll On Columbia,” “Vigilante Man,” “Do Re Mi,” “Tom Joad,” “Union Maid,” “1913 Massacre,” “This Train Is Bound For Glory,” “Oklahoma Hills” and “Riding In My Car.” On May 29, 1956, Woody Guthrie was arrested for “wandering aimlessly on the highways” and committed to Greystone. Guthrie spent the rest of his life in psychiatric hospitals and died on October 3, 1967 from Huntington’s disease, an incurable degenerative disease that he inherited from his mother. He called Greystone “Gravestone.”

Greystone Park State Psychiatric Hospital was spread over 1,000 acres and had 8,500 patients while Guthrie was there. The main building was constructed in 1877 and is said to have the largest foundation of any building in the United States until the Pentagon was completed in the 1940s. Greystone, like many other state hospitals, was notorious for patient neglect and abuse. Beat poet Allan Ginsberg’s mother was a patient at Greystone in the 1940s and his experiences there formed the basis for his poem Howl. Most of Greystone Park was abandoned in the 1970s with the advent of new drugs and changing attitudes about warehousing the mentally ill. It has been recently announced that the main building is to be demolished in early 2014.

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