Waverly Hills Sanatorium
Archived photo, date unknown. Front of building.
Patients take in the sunlight on the open porches outside of the rooms. (U of L Archives)
Patients making the best of life at Waverly Hills. (U of L Archive Photos)
What the back of the building looks like today. Open areas where the screened in windows were can clearly be seen.
Backstory and Context
The building was originally purchased by Major Thomas H. Hayes in 1883 as a school for his daughters, naming it Waverly School in reference to their affection for for Walter Scott’s “Waverly Novels." Hayes liked the name and decided to name his property “Waverly Hills.” The name was kept after the building was sold to the Board of Tuberculosis Hospital. The building was home to thousands of tuberculosis patients, mostly children, from as early as the 1910s. Most of the patients returned home or died of the illness, but some of the young patients spent most of their childhood here.
The five story sanatorium was built on top of a hill and surrounded by wooded areas that presented a serene appearance. Two beds were in each room and the rooms were positioned in front of screened in windows to allow for the patients to be wheeled out on their beds to set along the wide hallways known as a breezeway that included open screens for fresh air. The rooms located on the other side of the building, away from the fresh air, were called “terminal rooms” and used for those with contagious diseases and those who were not expected to recover.
The sanitarium could accommodate more than 400 patients at once and was regarded as one of the most modern of its time. In extreme cases, the doctors would remove as many as 8 bones from patients to give the lungs more room to breathe, which was believed to be necessary at the time to allow for the tissue to heal properly.
When an antibiotic was discovered in 1944, Waverly had fewer and fewer patients. Medical equipment was moved out and the halls gradually emptied. The hospital closed in 1960 but reopened a year later as Woodhaven Geriatrics Sanitarium. Over the next few decades, the building became home to transients and vandals. In 2001, history buffs Charles and Tina Mattingly purchased the building and began the process of restoration.
Official Waverly Hills Sanatorium/ Woodhaven Geriatric Center Memorial & Historical Resource. Waverly Hills Memorial & Historical Research Group, 2003. Web. 28 July 2017. <http://whsmemorial.tripod.com/index.html>.