The Sanatorium was a rest home for tubercular African American’s in Burkeville, Virginia from 1917 to 1965. The Sanatorium was later to become the site of  Piedmont Geriatric Hospital. You’re probably spotted my Newstead Sanatorium and may well be familiar with the USA Waverly Hills (another fascinating place) and aware of the killer TB, at it’s height it was accounting for around one in every ten deaths and the self-contained hospitals were pretty much known as “waiting rooms for death”.

In some cases the stories are grossly over exaggerated or at seem so but the fear of this killer was immense and now worryingly in the more recent news it seems the cases of this killer are once again on the rise. I was (I admit) a little surprised to think of a rest home specifically for black people, everyone to me deserves health  are on some level regardless of who they are. At the time of it’s opening the only treatment facilities for the care of black people were the Central State Hospital for Mental Diseases and the State Penitentiary.

For the black people in the 1910’s the urbanisation meant that Virginia Health Officials worked on evidence that pointed to the worsening situation, the “Negro  Health Problem”. It pointed to the high levels of disease, the maternal and infant mortality rates and the terrible conditions of sanitation mixed with poor diets and very hard physical labour. After lobbying for the new care home it was originally considered a good spot for the place would be Ivor but the local white population protested this fiercely and is recorded as such in August 1916. Lynchburg was considered to be the next site but they had an even worse response, it seems so sad that in a time of health crisis these people thought so little of the needs of others, yet again however I shall try to keep my thoughts to myself, this isn’t a political blog!

By the time they reached Burkeville the State Board of Health had lost its patients and despite protests they ignored the opposition and began construction. It was an organised routine for activities, meals and relaxation. Some patients learnt skills that would hep them when they left. Patients were also required to attend weekly lectures on tuberculosis to learn how to deal with sputum and other aspects of the illness. It was hoped that learning about it there would mean they took the lessons into their community.

It was the end of the era for the segregation of black and white patients around 1965. Piedmont Sanatorium closed and black patients were admitted into Blue Ridge Sanatorium, by 1967 the Burkeville establishment was converted to Piedmont Geriatric Hospital.

Pictures can be found at this website


  1. Nice Blog, thanks for sharing this kind of information.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s