In the early 20th century Louisville, Kentucky held the highest death rates in the country from Tuberculosis. This was mainly because of it's location. The area had a lot of swamp land, and this was in turn the perfect conditions for the TB virus to thrive. It was evident by the number of TB patients that a new hospital for patients would need to be constructed.
The original Sanitarium, built in 1910, was a two-story wooden building that housed and administrative/ main building with two open air pavilions. Each pavilion could house up to 20 patients at a time.
Another structure was soon built in late 1912. This structure was built for the advanced cases of TB. This gave room for 50 more patients. After the construction of the main building in 1926 this building would then be used as the "colored hospital".
In 1923 a bond of $1,000,000 was issued. This now gave the funds to build a new bigger building that was sorely needed. Construction on this five-story building that would be able to house more than 500 patients began in early 1924. It would be completed and opened on Oct. 17, 1926. This main building would no longer be needed around 1943 when patient number dwindled due to Streptomycen being introduced. It would then close it's doors in 1961, only to be reopened in 1962 as Woodhaven Geriatrics Hospital. This hospital would be closed in 1981 allegedly because the patients being abused.
Also built at the same time as the main building was the "Infamous Death Tunnel". Also known as "The Body Chute". This tunnel was constructed originally as a steam tunnel with pipes that supplied the hot steam for the radiators. Inside the tunnel was concrete stairs on one side and a motorized cable system on the other. The tunnel was used by workers to move supplies to and from the main building and the railroad spur at the bottom of the hill. Employees often used this tunnel also as a way to stay out of the weather when going up and down the hill. It's not certain when, but it was decided that the bodies of the deceased would be transported down this tunnel so that the other patients would not see the bodies being taken daily.
The building along with it's property would have many developments and prospects that would fall through between the years 1983 till 2001. In 2001 it would be bought by it's current owners Charlie and Tina Mattingly. They now hold many attractions in the main building. This includes a haunted house, historical tours, and ghost tours. Paranormal investigations can also be done here for a fee. Money earned from these attractions goes towards the restoration of the building and it's property.
Understanding Tuberculosis and It's Treatments.
Tuberculosis is also commonly known as "The White Plague" and "Consumption". This is a fairly common disease even now, but was more deadly in the early 20th century. This is mainly due to the lack of antibiotics during that time. TB is a disease caused by Mycobacteria in the form of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. TB attacks the lungs mostly, but is known to attack other organ systems. This disease can progress at a slow pace and can re occur if left untreated. This could possibly lead to death.
The worst symptoms of TB include chest pain, coughing up blood, and a prolonged cough.
It is transmitted by breathing in infectious droplets that have been coughed or sneezed out of an infected person. These droplets can also be carried along in the air if light enough.
The people of the early 20th century had to be isolated away from public to help stop the spread of the disease. This is why Sanatoriums were built. These Sanatoriums were built in high hills mostly to create a nice relaxing place for the patients to relax and get plenty of fresh air. It was believed that relaxation and fresh air were the best treatments for the disease.
Other treatments were used however.
At Waverly Hills they had porches that were called solarium porch ways. The patients would be wheeled out onto these porches to get their daily dose of sunlight and fresh air, this was even in the cold winter months. The large windows to these porches would be screened in, but not glassed to allow the fresh air to move through and clear the germ ridden air away and replacing it with cleaner air for the patients to breathe in. When the weather would not permit the patients to go out on these porches they would receive sunlamp treatments.
The patients diets would also be regulated to high protein so that it could build up their immune systems.
In Heliotherapy patients would be exposed to moderate hot temps for periods of time. The sun was thought to kill the bacteria that causes TB.
The surgical treatments included: Pneumothorax, Thoracoplaty, and Lobectomy.
Pneumothorax - The infected area of the lung would be collapsed so that it could heal.
Thoracoplaty - The patients chest would be opened and several rib cage bones would be taken out at a time. Some of the doctors would only remove a few at a time causing the patient to endure more than one procedure. After the removal of up to 7-8 ribcage bones the lung could then be collapsed.
Lobectomy - Deceased parts of the lung would be surgically removed. This sometimes included the whole lung.