London TB Hospital

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London TB Hospital
Established 1944
Construction Began 1946
Opened 1948
Closed 1975 (as a sanatorium)
Current Status Preserved
Building Style Single Building
Architect(s) Fred J. Hartstern
Location London, KY
Alternate Names
  • District Five State Tuberculosis Hospital



History

On March 17, 1944, Governor Simeon Willis approved the passage of House Bill No. 147 that divided the state into six tuberculosis sanatoria districts, allowed for the construction of sanatoria, and created the Tuberculosis Sanatoria Commission of Kentucky. Government funding provided for the expansion of Louisville’s Hazelwood Sanatorium and the erection of five new 100-bed sanatoria throughout the Commonwealth.

Architect Fred J. Hartstern recommended to the Tuberculosis Sanatoria Commission that London, in Laurel County, be the site of the new District Five State Tuberculosis Hospital. London scored high on a series of factors, including accessibility, population within highway distance, and elevation, and consequently secured the right to house the new tuberculosis hospital. Once the site was chosen, construction of the new sanatorium at London commenced in 1946 and a cornerstone was laid on July 19, 1946 to commemorate this occasion. Over the next four years, contractors from both locally and out-of-state, specifically Ohio, completed work on the London Tuberculosis Hospital.

The London Tuberculosis Hospital signaled a modern approach to tuberculosis treatment and prevention in Kentucky. Medical Director and Superintendent John S. Wisely gave voice to the optimism and hope instilled in the new sanatorium: “There is every indication that the new hospital program answers an urgent public health need and should play a decisive role in community efforts to achieve adequate control of the disease, perhaps within the next decade.” As a source of community outreach, the London Tuberculosis Hospital hosted meetings for public health nurses in District Five to learn about the operation of the hospital and how to improve relations between the sanatorium and local health departments. These meetings were sponsored by the Kentucky Tuberculosis Association, State Department of Health, and State Tuberculosis Commission.

The arrival of bronchoscopic and surgical clinics at the London Tuberculosis Hospital ensured that patients could receive local consultations rather than journeying to the surgical center at Louisville’s Hazelwood Sanatorium. With the development of local clinics at all sanatoria, the waiting list for surgery was eliminated and patients received surgery immediately upon arrival at Hazelwood. Despite the effort to expand the mission of the hospitals, the twenty-year anniversary of the tuberculosis state sanatoria saw the 112-bed capacity of London Tuberculosis Hospital and its fellow sanatoria underutilized (Tuberculosis Sanatoria Commission 1969-1970 Annual Report). Obsolete by the mid-1970s, the set of Kentucky Tuberculosis Hospitals were decommissioned as the medical community embraced drug therapy over regimented bedrest in a hospital setting. The Commonwealth’s 1975 Plans for renovation of T.B. Hospitals successfully closed the sanatoria chapter in Kentucky. Currently open as a government office building.