Tuberculosis is a contagious bacterial infection that infects an individual’s lungs, and until the development of streptomycin in 1943, there was no known cure. Louisville, Kentucky, a major United States city during the early 20th century, was no stranger to tuberculosis and boasted three tuberculosis institutions or buildings with tuberculosis wards at one point: City Hospital, Hazelwood and Waverly Hills.
Early tuberculosis treatments included collapsing the infected lung and filling it with gas or filtered air daily for three to four years, introducing the patient to fresh air, massive amounts of food and milk, sleep and exercise. With that, Hazelwood Sanatorium was completed in 1907 due to the efforts of William Carrier Nones and his Kentucky Anti-Tuberculosis Association that was formed only two years prior. The 34-bed open-air clinic was located in Hazelwood, a still far-flung locale in the Louisville metropolitan area near the Dixie Highway, and built upon the top of a hill. The hospital featured two-story wooden buildings with plenty of open windows for the intrusion of fresh air,because it was believed that being in the country, away from overcrowded locations and buildings with access to pristine air would cure tuberculosis.
Of course, the first builder of a tuberculosis sanatorium was Hermann Brehmer, who was supposedly cured from tuberculosis after retreating to the Himalayan Mountains, which exposed him to high altitudes, fresh, clean air and a rich diet.
In 1914, Hazelwood was engulfed in a fire that destroyed the main building and laundry. Because the institution was heavily mortgaged, Hazelwood was having trouble securing contributions. But it was not long before the hospital was receiving funding, and within months, construction on a new facility began and was opened to patients in 1915. The enlarged hospital was able to house 120 patients, expanding in 1943 to 250 beds.
In 1962, when Waverly Hills closed as a tuberculosis hospital due to the drug streptomycin, the remaining patients were transferred to Hazelwood. Only nine years later, Hazelwood itself closed as a tuberculosis facility and portions of it were reopened as the Hazelwood Center, a long-term mentally handicapped institution.