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Former Sanatorium grounds offers glimpse into Missouri’s history

April 28, 2008 History/Preservation, Steve Patterson, Travel 12 Comments

Since March 21st I have been at the Missouri Rehabilitation Center located on a big hill overlooking the small Missouri Town of Mt Vernon. Originally the facility was opened in 1907 as a Tuberculosis sanatorium. In the 1980’s the focus shifted to physical rehabilitation.

Back in the day the facility was completely self sustaining complete with its own farm fields, dairy cows and so on. So yesterday I got bored and decided to go exploring — in my wheelchair!

I did three outings yesterday in different directions, taking my camera on two out of three trips.

Above is the main administration building although this entry is no longer the main entrance. Wings were added on each side in the 1950’s.

Sifting to the right we see the new main entrance which is part of the 1970 Hearnes Tower — named after then Gov. Hearnes. The pond, fountain and garden makes for a pleasant space — we go outside for rehab whenever possible. My room is on the 5th floor of this tower.

The above older structure is connected to the administration building and is still in use today.

Getting further away from the main complex we see some of the industrial roots of a self sufficient facility. To the right above is their old firehouse used today as a garage for equipment. You just have to admire old water towers as well. If we rotate to the left from above we have the power house:

The power house, dating to 1937, is still in use. The architecture masks the industrial use within. Prior to the 1950’s Tuberculosis patients would spend their entire lives at such facilities so I can only assume they made attempts to make all the buildings as pleasant as possible.

Above is to give you a sense of where we are in relation to the main facility — the main entrance is around the building to the right. This was a long journey, especially when your only means of propulsion are you right hand and right foot. Going uphill can only be done by going backwards using my right foot to push the chair.

Around the corner from the power house is the laundry facility, above.

Across the road from the laundry on the outer edges is a reminder of an uglier time in our history — the Baker building is where black patients lived.

Behind the Baker house is one of the old barns on the grounds.

A large photo collection illustrates the 100+ year history of the facility and of structures like the dairy barn and silo that no longer exist. For a confirmed city boy I really like farm related structures like this one.

Yesterday I proved to myself that being in a wheelchair is not going to keep me from getting out on nice days. I saw that even on an isolated campus there can be sights of interest.

The hospital still maintains a ward for tuberculosis patients.

The town of Mt Vernon can be seen in the background above. The town history indicates at least one Civil War skirmish took place in the town square in 1862. Since its opening in 1907 the hospital has played an important role in the history of the town. Many town residents in the early 20th century located here because of a relative that was kept at the sanatorium.

To see all the photos from my exploration of the grounds click here.


Currently there are "12 comments" on this Article:

  1. southsider says:

    needs more valet parking!

  2. Joe Frank says:

    Hi Steve:

    I am sure you are being well cared-for by my fellow University of Missouri employees down there in Mt. Vernon!

    The photos are great, and a reminder that for all of our problems in managing public health (i.e., STDs, HIV, etc.), we have largely eradicated the long-time scourge that was tuberculosis.

    Of course, the City of St. Louis had its very own TB sanitorium, located in South St. Louis County along the Mississippi River bluffs — the Robert Koch Hospital.

    The hospital was located just south of the Jefferson Barracks bridge, via the exit that still bears its name — Koch Road.

    It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984; but sadly was mostly demolished by a developer in 1989, to build an apartment complex that never happened. It is mostly vacant now, owned at least partly by Bussen Quarry.

    Here’s an ongoing attempt at chronicling the history of this largely forgotten place:

    When I was very young, there were still signs on Telegraph Road at Forder/Pottle directing drivers to “Koch Hospital”

    Another road, called Robert Koch Hospital Road, still connections Pottle Road to Koch Road here.

    Here’s a satellite view of the former site. It’s pretty much all gone.


  3. Bloggegr says:


  4. Gayle Goudy says:

    I’m researching one of the buildings at this site from 1936 by the architectural firm Hoit, Price & Barnes. I wonder if you might have any photographs of it. If you email me your email address, I can send you an architectural drawing of it.

    I’ve enjoyed your history post.


  5. Charlene Lammers says:


    Thank you for posting these pictures. My fathers father was the for TB and I have been looking for what it looks like now from the pictures we have from the past. Thanks.


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  7. Keylargo77 says:

    Your photos brought back memories. I worked in the Sanatorium's commissary store for patients in 1969. We sold cigarettes … and the hospital's primarily purpose was to treat TB and lung patients!

  8. lexian82 says:

    In some places, sanatorium are developed that made it a historical spot. Good job! It simply means loving one’s homeland and giving importance to its history.

    expert on Griffin Hospice

  9. lexian82 says:

    In some places, sanatorium are developed that made it a historical spot. Good job! It simply means loving one’s homeland and giving importance to its history.

    expert on Griffin Hospice

  10. Howard Talbert says:

    My grandparents died from TB in 1901-1903.  Is there a record or list that was kept?  Would ultimately like to find where they are buried.

  11. Howard Talbert says:

    Sorry, should have given a little bit more info.  My grandparents died in the Kansas City, Missouri area.  Was hoping to find perhaps a sanatorium record.


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