University of Virginia Historical Collections at the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library

Tuberculosis Sanatoriums in Virginia: Catawba, Piedmont, and Blue Ridge

The Virginia Board of Health Appropriates Money for the First State-Sponsored Tuberculosis Sanatorium

Catawba Sanatorium (ca. 1915) near Roanoke

Catawba Sanatorium near Roanoke, ca. 1915

When the National Association for the Study and Prevention of Tuberculosis (NASPT) formed in 1904, there were approximately one hundred Trudeau-style sanatoriums in the United States; by 1910, there were nearly four hundred. One of the many sanatoriums built during this period was the Catawba Sanatorium near Roanoke, the first sanatorium in the state of Virginia.



William Washington Baker

William Washington Baker (1844-1927)

In 1908, Captain William Washington Baker (1844-1927), a member of the Virginia General Assembly, introduced a bill to reorganize the State Board of Health. The “Baker Bill” appropriated $20,000 “for the establishment and maintenance of a suitable sanatorium for consumptives.” Baker had lost four of his six children to tuberculosis. For his pioneering efforts, he is justly called “the father of Catawba Sanatorium.” Baker was also instrumental in the formation of the Virginia Anti-Tuberculosis Association (which became the American Lung Association of Virginia) in October 1909.[1]

Piedmont Sanatorium (ca. 1918)

Piedmont Sanatorium, ca. 1918

In 1918, the State Board of Health and the Negro Organization Society founded Piedmont Sanatorium as a rest home for African-Americans. Before its establishment, the only treatment facilities for African-Americans were the Central State Hospital for Mental Diseases and the State Penitentiary. Miss Agnes D. Randolph, Director of the Educational Department of the State Board of Health, requested in 1916 an appropriation from the General Assembly to build the sanatorium and purchase three hundred acres of land near Burkeville. The first building at the site was named in her honor.[2]


Blue Ridge Sanatorium (ca. 1920's)

Blue Ridge Sanatorium, ca. 1920′s

Blue Ridge Sanatorium opened in April of 1920. The close proximity of the University of Virginia Medical School was a major factor in the government’s selection of the Charlottesville area as the site for the new facility. The State Board of Health and the University agreed that a special course in tuberculosis would be developed for third and fourth year medical students, to be taught by the Medical Director of Blue Ridge Sanatorium and his staff. The city of Charlottesville donated $15,000 for the building project and promised free water from the city supply for five years.[3]


[1] Ernest Drewry Stephenson, Catawba Sanatorium, 1909-1929 (Publisher unknown, 1930); S. Adolphus Knopf, A History of the National Tuberculosis Association: The Anti-Tuberculosis Movement in the United States (New York: NTA, 1922), 135-136.
[2] Ethel C. Dodson, “A Very Brief Sketch of the History of Piedmont Sanatorium, Burkeville, Virginia” (Unpublished, 1956).
[3] Jennifer Davis McDaid, editor’s note to Margaret V. Rastetter, “Blue Ridge: Eight Months in a Tuberculosis Sanatorium,” in Virginia Cavalcade, vol. 46, no. 6 (Autumn 1997): 244-255; “The Story of Blue Ridge,” reprint from Sunbeams (n.d., in ALAV Collection).