Blue Ridge Sanatorium

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Blue Ridge Sanatorium

View over the Sanatorium towards the City
Established 1902; 1919
Opened 1903; 1920
Closed 1996
Demolished Underway
Current Status Closed
Building Style Rambling Plan
  • Charles Robinson
  • Marcellus E. Wright, Sr.
  • Eugene Bradbury
  • W.E. Stainback and Pruitt and Brown Architects
Location Charlottesville, VA
Architecture Style Varied
Alternate Names
  • Moore's Creek Sanitarium (1903 to 1914)
  • Blue Ridge Tuberculosis Sanatorium (1919 to 1978)
  • Blue Ridge Hospital (1978 to ~1996)


The Blue Ridge Sanatorium began life in 1902 when a group of Charlottesville area physicians lead by Dr. D.M. Trice[1] purchased 106 acres of land in the Blue Ridge foothills including farm structures, a spring, and the Lyman Mansion from Mrs. J.E. Lyman.[2] The company soon acquired a charter from the state allowing them to hold voluntary and legally committed patients for treatment of nervous and mental disorders plus drug and alcohol problems. Boasting steam heat, gas lighting, and indoor plumbing the Moore's Creek Sanitarium had a twenty-three patient capacity. Men were housed on the second floor, and women on the first. Typical of contemporary sanitariums the patients were engaged in outdoor activities on the former farm or in crafts indoors.

Trice's company dissolved in 1914 and the property lay unused until 1919. In that year the Commonwealth of Virginia was looking for another tuberculosis sanatorium site to complement the original Catawba Sanatorium (for whites) and the Piedmont Sanatorium (for blacks). Several factors made the former Moore's Creek site attractive to the Commonwealth. Not only was the University of Virginia Medical School located nearby, but paved road access, mountain scenery plus money and water connections offered by the city made it a hard location to pass up. The Lyman Mansion became the Administration (Davis) Building, central facility of the sanatorium. Even as the facility expanded it maintained the connection to the land begun by Moore's Creek. The Sanatorium largely subsisted on the produce it raised and a surplus of milk produced by the dairy farm on the property was sold in the city.

The first addition to the property were the three pavilions, designed to the then modern concept of providing as much fresh air as possible to help cure patients. Built to the same plans as the Morton pavilion at the Piedmont Sanatorium they were two story buildings of frame construction with wings off the sides of a central core housing the main facilities. The porches on the southern faces of the wings were key to the fresh air theory, allowing patients to be outside while being protected from the elements. Named Addison, Strode, and Thomas they housed forty patients a piece segregated by sex. Men were housed in Strode, women in Addison, and children in Thomas. Patients in advanced stages were housed in partitioned off rooms in the rear of the building until construction of the Trinkle Infirmary in 1922. As a state project the cottages were constructed of the cheapest materials, plainly furnished, and not expected to be in use for more then ten or twenty years at max. As early as their first months of service problems in the hastily built structures became apparent. The end began in 1939 with the opening of the WPA funded infirmary building; in 1950 the patients living in the rotted Addison and Thomas pavilions were finally moved to the west wing of the 1939 infirmary. In 1951 all patients remaining in Strode were moved to the Trinkle Building.[3]

When prominent Virginia Mason George W. Wright died in 1924, the Masonic lodges of the Commonwealth raised funds for construction of a pavilion in his name at Blue Ridge. Several conditions were stipulated in their offer to the sanatorium (such as Masons and their families having priority for admission and would approve changes; the Masons would also provide the equipment for the treatment of patients). On July 14, 1926 the cornerstone was lain for George W. Wright Building to great fanfare, with Masons and other dignitaries coming from all over the state. Consisting of two floors, a basement, and a roof garden to provide patients with sun the brand new fireproof building held sixty patients. Built to the same principle as the earlier wooden pavilions each floor had a single corridor with rooms and southern facing porches. It also held a brand new treatment room, called the Alpine lamp, to expose patients to ultra-violet rays in hopes of curing the Tuberculosis in their body. On the first floor was also an operating room where artificial pneuomothorax surgical procedures were performed. Consisting of the lungs being deflated and allowed to rest it was considered the second best treatment after the open air treatment. Completed in 1927 the Mason Relief Fund continued to support the building until the institution closed.[4]

Another 1926 addition was the Children's Preventorium, also known as the Garrett Building, which replaced the Thomas pavilion as the primary facility for care of children. Located some distance away from the main campus in an open field, it embodied the importance of separating the children from those adults suffering from advance stages of the disease. Serving as a home, hospital, and school the patients were kept away from any potential further exposure. Young patients received the same treatment as their seniors; open air sleeping on porches, exposure to the sun, and physical activity. The hope was that if caught at a young age, rigorous treatment could prevent development of full on Tuberculosis. Thanks to the agricultural activities of the Sanatorium, the preventorium was entirely self-sufficient. Every effort was made to make the children feel at home with holiday parties and regular activities. As a result of the 1944 Lymanhurst study which revealed no positive benefit to the preventorium plans began being made to close the Garrett Building, culminating in the final shut down June 1, 1950. The building was last used to house male staff members before it was torn down in the late 1950s.[5]

In 1939 the Sanatorium secured $167,726 in funding from the Works Progress Administration plus funding from the Commonwealth to construct the one hundred bed art-deco Infirmary-Culinary building, commonly referred to as the East Wing. While it contained a larger interior infirmary wards, it still possessed southern facing porches to provide patients with fresh air and a view much like the pavilions it replaced. After the discovery of the Tuberculosis antibiotic in 1944 the open air porches were converted to private rooms.[6] Later construction included the Prisoner Barracks and Stafford Hall staff housing.

By the 1950s the increased use of the Tuberculosis antibiotic meant fewer patients were committed to the sanatorium, with the first lasting vacancies opening in 1954. The average age of committed patients also increased the challenges faced in providing care, as the decade wore on. In 1965 Blue Ridge opened its doors to African American patients as the Piedmont Sanatorium was closed. Treatment programs were expanded in the early 1970s, and outpatient alcoholic treatment programs opened at the Sanatorium. By 1978 the sanatorium facilities were transferred to the University of Virginia, who renamed it Blue Ridge Hospital. While it continued to treat Tuberculosis patients, many other UVA medical and outpatient services were moved to the campus in the 1980s.[7] Blue Ridge Hospital was finally closed for good in 1996, bringing to an end almost a hundred years of medical use of the Lyman Farm.[8]

Images of Blue Ridge Sanatorium[edit]

Main Image Gallery: Blue Ridge Sanatorium

See Also[edit]