DeJarnette Sanitarium

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DeJarnette Sanitarium
Opened 1932
Closed 1996
Current Status Closed
Building Style Single Building
Location Staunton, VA
Alternate Names
  • DeJarnette Center for Human Development
  • DeJarnette Center


The DeJarnette Sanitarium was founded in 1932 by Dr. Joseph DeJarnette, who was also the director of the nearby Western State Hospital (the sanitarium was a private unit for middle-income patients that operated separately from the government-supported state hospital). DeJarnette was a respected doctor among the white Virginia elite at the time, but his career would ultimately be defined by his strong support for eugenics, specifically the forced sterilization of the mentally ill and others he deemed “defective.” DeJarnette drew fresh inspiration from Nazi Germany’s 1933 Law for the Prevention of Genetically Diseased Offspring, Hitler’s opening bid to purge the Reich of its genetically and racially “inferior” stock. In 1934 DeJarnette calculated that 56,244 defectives had already been sterilized under the new regime.

The institution maintained financial independence from its foundation in 1932 until it was re-formatted in 1975, and at that time, was absorbed into the state-managed health-care system as it existed in the 1970s. At the time of the conversion, patients above the age of 21 were transferred to the relatively new campus of Western State Hospital, which had moved from downtown Staunton to its current location (parallel to the DeJarnette Center, on the opposite side of Richmond Road) during the early 1960s.

In 1996, the DeJarnette Center relocated to a new 48-bed facility, adjacent to the grounds of Western State Hospital. In 2004, plans were made to demolish the original DeJarnette complex, and to replace it with a shopping mall and parking lot. However, plans for the project fell through when not enough tenants were secured for the proposed mall. As of 2011, the campus of the former DeJarnette Center for Human Development still exists, though in a considerable state of disrepair.