In the 1945 Report on Sites for the Tuberculosis Sanatoria Commission of Kentucky, architect Fred J. Hartstern investigated locations for tuberculosis hospitals in Kentucky. Organized by district, locations were judged based on factors including population, travel, and distance. Potential sites for District One’s tuberculosis hospital consisted of Dawson Springs, Earlington, Greenville, Hickman, Hopkinsville, Madisonville, Owensboro, Paducah, and Princeton. Although Paducah ranked first in the recommendations, second choice Madisonville ultimately housed District One’s tuberculosis hospital that served twenty-two counties in the western part of the Commonwealth. According to the September 27, 1950 edition of the Madisonville Messenger, local resident Lawrence H. Ashmore, an original member of the state sanatoria commission, advocated for Madisonville’s selection.
Construction on the four-story, 100-bed facility commenced in 1946 with the cornerstone laid by Governor Simeon Willis on August 9, 1946. The $1.5 million dollar project entailed a five-building complex on thirty-one acres:
In addition to the hospital building itself, there are also three other buildings about 200 yards southward. These are the residences for the medical director in charge and for the business manager and the assistant doctor in charge, and the 23-room dormitory for nurses. About 50 yards to the northeast of the hospital proper is the combination power plant and laundry. All buildings are brick.
Source: Ernest Claytor, “Hospital Will Serve 22 West Counties,” Madisonville Messenger, September 27, 1950, Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives.
Dedicated on September 29, 1950, Madisonville TB sanatorium joined the Paris and Glasgow hospitals as the third of five state sanatoria constructed in the late 1940s to treat Kentucky’s tubercular patients.
Fast-forward sixty-five years later and I found myself on the grounds of the Madisonville TB Sanatorium. Identified as late as 1986 as the “State Tuberculosis Hospital”, the site today remains in use. The well-maintained main hospital building now functions as a state office building. Of the other buildings, the power plant and laundry is extant. Another nearby building, the staff residence (housed the families of the business manager, assistant doctor in charge, and physician), looks to be in fair condition and currently resides on the campus of Madisonville Technical College.
In 2007, the Ashland TB Hospital was individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Although the Glasgow and Paris ones were razed in recent years, the tuberculosis sanatoria in London and Madisonville have been repurposed as state office buildings. These two sanatoria will be individually listed and included in the multiple property submission I’m preparing for my doctoral residency project. I hope to soon return to fully photograph the power plant/laundry building.