Waverly Hills has a long and
colorful history. Unlike other buildinds after its closure the
sanatorium seems to have a history of its own despite decades of
The name of the Waverly Hills Sanatorium dates back to
1883 when Major Thomas H. Hays bought his family a vast estate
on the grounds of the future
Waverly Hills Sanatorium. Back then the area of Waverly Hills
was not heavily settled. Rolling meadows and forests covered
hills surrounded the former private residence of Major Hays. His
kids were home schooled due to the remoteness of their estate
from other settlements. Eventually a separate building for a
home school was constructed on Page Lane. Major Hays also hired
a local woman Lizzie Lee Harris to teach his kids. She
apparently was very fond of Walter Scott and literature in
general. She even named a small one room school house, that was
constructed by the orders of the Major, Waverley School after
one of Walter Scott's novels and its protagonist Edward
Waverley. Major Hays like the name and renamed his whole estate
into a Waverley Hill that later became simply known as Waverly
Hills. THe name stuck and later gave a name to a new
Tuberculosis hospital knows today as Waverly Hills Sanatorium.
First Building of Waverly Hills Sanatorium
history of Waverly Hills Sanatorium date back to an act of the legislature
passed in 1906 that reserved these lands for a hospital for treatment of
tuberculosis. "White Death" as it was known at the time had no cure.
Unfortunate victims of this disease would be infected by a
Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria. It would survive inside their
lungs in white blood cells knows as macrophages forming large
granulomas. During dormant period, patients don't suffer or experience
any symptoms, but during active stages these formations would burst and new bacteria
would spread throughout out the organism without warning. Previously healthy
individuals experience weight loss, fever, night sweats, blood sputum
and many other symptoms. Without adequate antibacterial treatment people
burned out in a short time and in most cases they died. People, suspected of the infection had to be isolated in an area far
from major cities and with plenty of fresh air and sunlight. Waverly
Hills Sanatorium proved as an ideal location for that.
Most of the residential area
that surrounds Waverly Hills Sanatorium today did not exist at the time.
Instead, it was a fairly extensive expanse of wilderness. In 1907 first
tuberculosis dispensary was opened to accept first patients and just
three years later in 1910 Waverly Hills Sanatorium was opened. It was a
fairly small building with modest capacity of only 40 patients. That,
however got filled fairly quickly. On August 31, 1912 all tuberculosis
patients from the City Hospital were moved to temporary make shift camp
around Waverly Hills Sanatorium. People lived in tents for just three
months until the new building for advanced cases was not completed on
December 1912. Its capacity reached 50 people, but it allowed some more
free space for incoming patients. Later the building for advanced cases was
turned into a Colored Hospital for non- white patients of the Waverly
some cases kids of the sick patients of Waverly Hills Sanatorium stayed with other relatives like in
case of Hazel Howell (pictured right, 1891- 1919). This was not the case
for everyone, however. Often families didn't have the financial means or
any relatives so they brought their kids to the sanatorium. In 1914 a
children's pavilion was added that with a total of 50 beds. Growing
number of incoming children forced administration to cut few corners and
add new beds with available space, making live there crowded and fairly
uncomfortable. Additionally the administration of the hospital opened an
open- air school in 1913 to
house all the newcomers and provide them with quality education.
Waverly Hills Sanatorium
grew steadily. New wooden buildings were added to a medical complex to
house all the patients. However the expanses grew steadily and it became
apparent that a new grander brick and concrete building had to be
erected. Number of patients grew steadily and in 1923 a bond was issued for
$1,000,000 for construction of much larger building for Waverly Hills
Current Building of former Waverly Hills Sanatorium
Hills Sanatorium started its construction in March 1924 and was opened
October 17, 1926. New five- story building replaced the old hospital (opened
July 26, 1910).
Swampy areas around
offered a great location for spread of tuberculosis bacteria and thus
the disease became almost an epidemic.
Waverly Hills Sanatorium construction was
to be state of the art of its own time and incorporated theories that
were widely spread at the time. It was widely believed that TB can be
cured by sun exposure and plenty of fresh air. Architects of Waverly
Hills James J Gaffney (1863- 1946) and Dennix Xavier Murphy (1854-
1933) took this into a consideration. The bat like structure of
the building was designed so that it followed natural wind patterns of
the area and did not block it. Most of the windows had no glass and
instead had meshed screens that allowed sun inside the building. The building
Waverly Hills was five stories high and
contained about 400 rooms for the patients. Corridor that runs through
the middle of the levels allowed access to all rooms in the building.
These long halls that divide the building have
wide open rooms on one side and smaller rooms on the other. Open
spacious rooms were made for those who were in early stages of the disease.
Their beds were wheeled out on the promenade (shown on the picture)
where they lay all day. During winter they were given blankets, but rule
stayed the same. Plenty of fresh air was believed to be the only good way to
safe patients of Waverly Hills. On the other side of the halls are smaller rooms. They
were made for those who had no chance of survival and were left to die.
Patients were simple transported across the hall from open rooms to more
closed and isolated ones.
Hills Sanatorium lost its purpose when antibiotic streptomycin was discovered in 1943. This proved
to be the best way to fight the infectious disease and soon cases of TB
dwindled. The sanatorium was closed in June 1961, but reopened quickly
in 1962 as a Woodhaven Geriatrics Hospital. Grim history of the building did not end
here. Electroshock therapy was commonly used on senior people to cure
some of the disorders that were badly understood at the time.
Additionally lack of proper funding decreased overall sanitary
conditions of the medical centre. The conditions were so bad and old patients were treated so badly
that it was closed in 1981. Remaining citizens were transferred to
Hazelwood Centre. The deterioration and overall state of the
building was too expansive to restoration and it was closed.
After final closure of the Hospital
of Waverly Hills Sanatorium
years several people came forward with their ideas for the abandoned Waverly Hills Sanatorium.
Some offered minimum state prison within its walls. Others suggested
erection of huge statue of Jesus Christ after demolishing a hospital
similar to that in Rio de Janeiro. The last project even had its own
"Christ the Redeemer Foundation Incorporated" organized by Robert Alberhasky with the help of architect Jasper Ward and artist Ed Hamilton
who designed the sculpture that was supposed to be tallest statue of
Savior in the World standing at incredible 270 feet. No sculpture was
ever erected here, but the main building of Waverly Hills medical
complex was badly damaged as the owner allowed vandals to loot every
part of the original building as they could. Most of damage you see
today in the eerie hallways and abandoned rooms date to that period.
Now the property
is owned by Tina and Charlie Mattingly and The Waverly Hills Historical
Society since 2001 who offer guided
tours, half- night and overnight stays within the walls of Waverly Hills
Sanatorium. They plan to remodel the structure and turn it into haunted
Bed and Breakfast 120 room hotel, conference centre and a restaurant. They fixed some of the windows, removed
asbestos insulation, secured the exterior brick sidings, but there is
still a lot of work to do to bring the structure of Waverly Hills
to its original
appearance. Fortunately the haunted guides will still continue after the
complete restoration of a four star hotel.
The main building of Waverly Hills Sanatorium was reserved for white patients. Children were
separated and lived in children's unit those cost was $153,000 to
construct. African American (obsolete term used in the documents is
Colored) were kept in a separate Colored unit that was smaller, less
sophisticated at a cost of $212,000.
American aka Colored Unit of the Waverly Hills Sanatorium
African American Unit Waverly Hills that was known at the time as a Colored Unit was
intended to house African- American patients as well as other non- White
races. It is clear that "separate, but equal" does not apply here. The
building was much smaller with only 50 beds and had less staff. It was
originally opened on December 18, 1912 as a building for advanced cases
of Tuberculosis. After the main building of Waverly Hills was opened the
building was transformed into the Colored Hospital. However the general layout
was similar to the main building. Windows were meant to allow fresh air
inside the promenade. The original building was replaced by a two story
larger hospital. Today both structures have been demolished. Only photos
remain. As far as we know no one tried to explore this area for any
paranormal activity or strange occurrences.
Children's Unit of
the Waverly Hills Sanatorium
Children's unit of
the Waverly Hills Sanatorium was opened to house ever growing number of kids in
Waverly Hills Sanatorium. Original living headquarters were not enough to fit all the
residents so a separate wing was constructed. Many patients had no other
options, but to bring their kids here. Unfortunately many healthy
newcomers often contracted the deadly disease and themselves became
patients in the hospital.