Waverly Hills was constructed in 1926 as a tuberculosis hospital in Louisville, Kentucky, however, modern advances in medicine deemed the center obsolete by 1961. It reopened two years later as the Woodhaven Geriatrics Center, an elderly home, but was closed in 1981.
The first iteration of Waverly Hills was a wood-framed, two-story building and housed 40 to 50 tuberculosis patients. Construction on that facility began in 1908 and was completed on July 26, 1910.1 By the early 1910s, however, tuberculosis was approaching ‘epidemic proportions’ and the need for a more permanent, larger structure was warranted; the original structure alone was housing over 140 patients and was severely over-crowded.
In March of 1924, construction of a new 180,000 square-foot,4 400-patient sanatorium began. Featuring a large kitchen, dining hall, laboratory, recreational facilities and patient rooms, it was considered one of the most modern in its day when it opened on October 17, 1926.1 It was able to treat thousands of residents of the nearby cities for what was then a deadly disease. When advances in modern medicine made the long and often deadly stays in the sanatoriums unnecessary, Waverly Hills closed its doors in 1961. For two years, the building was quarantined and renovated, but stripped of intricate wood work and other architectural features, among other altercations that damaged much of the interior. In 1963, the former sanitarium reopened as the Woodhaven Geriatrics Center, a rest home for the elderly which lasted until 1981. The remaining patients were transferred to Hazelwood Center on Bluegrass Center.
A non-profit ecumenical group announced plans to construct the world’s tallest statue of Jesus Christ on March 19, 1996 after purchasing Waverly Hills.2 The project was a collaboration of work between local sculpture Ed Hamilton, whose work included several prominent monuments, and local businessman Robert Alberhasky who founded “Christ the Redeemer Foundation Incorporated” specifically for the project. A local architect, Jasper Ward, was also involved. The statue was proposed to rest atop the old sanatorium and would be modeled after the 120-foot high Christ statue in Rio de Janeiro.2
The Waverly Hills complex would be converted into an “arts and worship center” with a 270-foot high Christ sculpture towering over as a centerpiece, and would also include a theater, chapel and gift shop.2 The statue itself would be only 150-feet tall, but would sit on top of a large metal globe attached to the four-story former hospital structure. The statue would have its arms extended and stretch 150-feet from fingertip to fingertip. The cost for the first phase, including the statue, was $4 million. Phase two would include the chapel, theater and gift shop and would cost between $8 and $10 million. Donations from churches and individuals nationwide were expected to flow in, along with the numerous fund-raisers that were expected.
On December 12, 1997, however, the plans fell through because of funding issues. Donations totaled just under $3,000 in over a year.3
For several years afterwards, the hospital deteriorated.4 The owner attempted to have the former sanatorium declared condemned so that it cold be demolished, however, that request was denied. In a last ditch effort to see the place demolished, the owner attempted to undermine the structure on the southeast side by using a bulldozer to cause it collapse upon itself so that the owner could reap the insurance money. Those efforts failed.
Haunted Bed and Breakfast
In 2001, Charles and Tina Mattingly purchased Waverly Hills and the collection of smaller buildings that remained for $250,000.4 The Mattingly’s began work to stabilize the hospital, which had no windows, asbestos insulation and tiles, and a leaking roof. In 2007, the roof was replaced.
The long-term goal of the Mattingly’s is to create a haunted bed-and-breakfast with a rooftop restaurant and other features.4 The bed-and-breakfast would occupy the second and third floors. Renovations were projected to cost $45 million, although the Mattingly’s are expecting volunteer work will offset some of the cost. To help offset the cost and continue general renovations, tours began to be offered after a sprinkler system was installed. Over $100,000 in fees were raised in several years alone.
- Name: Waverly Hills Tuberculosis Hospital
- Location: Louisville, Kentucky
- Years of Significance: 1926, 1961
- Status: Abandoned
- “Basic Facts About Waverly.” Ron’s Official Waverly Hills Website. 2003. Ron. 09 Dec. 2003 Articles.
- “World tallest Christ statue planned for Waverly Hills.” Courier-Journal (Louisville) Mar. 1996: 1.
- “Jesus statue ‘would take a miracle’.” Kentucky Post 12 Dec. 1997: 1.
- Mateo, Darhiana M. “Owners saving sanatorium.” Courier-Journal (Louisville) 20 Dec. 2006. 20 Dec. 2006 Article.