Ahwahnee Hills School for Boys

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Ahwahnee Hills School for Boys
Opened 1969
Closed 1985
Current Status Demolished
Building Style Cottage Plan
Alternate Names
  • Tri-County Tuberculosis Sanatorium (1918-1969)


In 1918 the Sells sold the Ahwahnee Tavern and ranch to Madera, Merced, and Stanislaus Counties to create the Tri-County Tuberculosis Sanatorium. The counties also purchased an adjacent parcel to increase the size to 480 acres. The sanatorium built dozens of structures over the years, including a hospital complex, quarters for doctors and nurses, a children's home, and a school. Julia Morgan, noted architect of Hearst Castle, designed some of the buildings. The original tavern building served as a kitchen and dining area until it burned down in 1937. The sanatorium started with 16 patients and eventually grew to care for more than 100. Besides taking care of patients, sanatorium staff kept farm animals and grew fruit and vegetables on the property. The patient load declined as new techniques and medicines were found to treat tuberculosis, and the sanatorium closed in 1969.

In 1969, a private non-profit corporation established a school on the site, using many of the existing buildings, for boys with behavioral problems. The students learned to care for the school's animals and perform other vocational tasks. The population of boys eventually reached 59, with about that many staff. The school closed in 1985. The property ended up in the hands of Madera County and a caretaker lived on the property until the early 1990’s, at which time local residents began to push for establishing a park on the site.