Waco VA Medical Center
|Waco VA Medical Center|
|Building Style||Cottage Plan|
|Architecture Style||Mediterranean Revival|
The Veterans Administration Medical Center at Waco opened on May 8, 1932, at a 508-acre site five miles south of the city in what became the Beverly Hills community. Its initial capacity was 308 patients. The facility was expanded in 1939 to include bed space for 1,151 patients and again during World War II; its capacity was 2,040 by 1945. It was one of the first Veterans Administration facilities to have an approved residency program and in the 1940s was the only one in the state devoted entirely to the treatment of mental illnesses.
In 1932 the Waco VA included a 508-acre reservation with a full time working farm. The farm had 262 acres under cultivation including a vegetable garden, fruit orchard, hay and grain crops. Farm animals including a herd of 126 pigs and a flock of 63 sheep were feed and slaughtered on the reservation producing up to 1,000 pound of pork or lamb per week for subsistence purposes. Pigeons, rabbits, turkeys, geese, pheasant and quail were also raised on the farm. A portion of the original farm was awarded to the Waco Independent School District and was designated as Veterans Field for athletic events. This original farm land was also developed into a municipal golf course.
To process the food, the hospital had a modern “ice plant” furnishing cold storage for kitchens and bulk supplies. The “ice plant” had a capacity of manufacturing 2,400 pounds of ice daily. In addition, the hospital operated a laundry and fire department. Clinical services on the reservation included an “industrial therapy program” to help rehabilitate selected patients to their highest level of functioning. The therapy included work assignments to the grounds, farm, slaughter house, laundry, sewing and upholstery shops giving patients an opportunity to adjust to the hospital community and prepare them for life supporting skills.
It served as a teaching center for professional education in neuropsychiatry, clinical psychology, and psychiatric nursing. The opening of other VA hospitals in the state took some pressure off of the Waco facility. By 1972 the center was able to reduce its available bed space to 1,184.
During the 1970s and 1980s the laundry, which served three medical centers, was expanded and renovated; a new warehouse and a dietetics building were added; and the two buildings were renovated. In 1990 the medical center had 684 hospital beds and 160 nursing home beds; 340 additional beds were out of service because of construction projects. The hospital's medical programs included a day treatment center, a mental hygiene clinic, rehabilitation for alcoholics and the blind, and a community residential-care program. The center also had the state's only inpatient post-traumatic stress unit.
In the 1990s the hospital expected to complete the renovation of two more medical buildings, an admissions and canteen area, and a new plant to air-condition the entire facility. The buildings are red brick structures featuring clay tile, dressed stonework, and ornate light fixtures of the Mediterranean Revival style. The center was proposed as a national historic site in 1991.