Waverly Hills Tuberculosis Hospital
Waverly Hills Tuberculosis Hospital is a former tuberculosis hospital that operated between 1910 and 1961 in Louisville, Kentucky. It reopened as the Woodhaven Geriatrics Center between 1963 and 1981.
Waverly Hills Tuberculosis Hospital was constructed between 1908 and July 26, 1910, when it opened in a wood-framed, two-story building designed for 40 to 50 patients. 1 By the early 1910s, with the spread of tuberculosis approaching epidemic proportions, the need for a larger, more permanent building was warranted. Waverly Hills was already grossly overcrowded with 140 patients.
Construction of a new 180,000 square-foot, four-story facility began in March 1924. 4 It opened on October 17, 1926, and featured separate patient rooms, sunrooms, modern laboratories, and recreational spaces with room for up to 400 patients. 1
Tuberculosis, by 1938, was the leading cause of death in Kentucky, and the state had the highest death rate in the nation, partly because of a lack of facilities, a lack of consistent statewide funding for treatment, and a lack of long-term care options. 6 7 8 On average, 2,000 died from the disease each year.
Initial treatment for tuberculosis included fresh air daily, a diet high in ascorbic acid, vitamin A, and protein, and bed rest. 9 Later, pneumothorax treatments were developed that allowed the partial or complete collapse of a lung by the introduction of air into the pleural cavity, giving the lung a chance to rest and heal. Treatment times were shaved in half, from an average of 2oo days to 300 days per patient to an average of 90 days. 10
The development of the drug streptomycin led to a dramatic decline of tuberculosis rates and deaths in the United States. 5 Streptomycin was first isolated in October 1943 by Albert Schatz, a Ph.D. student in a laboratory at Rutgers University as part of a research project funded by Merck and Company. 11 12 The first randomized trial of streptomycin against pulmonary tuberculosis was carried out between 1946 and 1948 by the MRC Tuberculosis Research Unit and was widely accepted to be the first randomized curative trial. 13 The results showed efficacy against tuberculosis. 14
Waverly Hills, in 1950, had 373 patients, but it had dropped to 293 patients by 1960. 15 In 1962, when Waverly Hills Tuberculosis Hospital closed as a tuberculosis hospital and the remaining patients were transferred to Hazelwood. 6
In 1963, the former sanatorium reopened as the Woodhaven Geriatrics Center, a rest home for the elderly. It closed in 1981 when the remaining patients were transferred to Hazelwood Center.
On March 19, 1996, a non-profit ecumenical group announced plans to construct the world’s tallest statue of Jesus Christ after purchasing the abandoned Waverly Hills complex. 2 The project was a collaboration between local sculpture Ed Hamilton, whose work included several prominent monuments, local businessman Robert Alberhasky, and local architect, Jasper Ward. The 150-foot statue, modeled after the 120-foot high Christ statue in Rio de Janeiro, was proposed to rest atop the old sanatorium. The building itself would be converted into an “arts and worship center” with a chapel, theater, and gift shop.
The cost of the statue was $4 million while the interior renovations were projected to cost between $8 million and $10 million. 2 Donations from churches and individuals nationwide were expected to flow in, but by December 12, 1997, the statue plans were dropped after just $3,000 was donated. 3
In 2001, Charles and Tina Mattingly purchased Waverly Hills for $250,000. 4 The Mattingly’s began work to stabilize the hospital, which had been undermined by a previous owner. A new roof was installed on the buildings in 2007, followed by a sprinkler system and the installation of some windows.