Today, let’s discuss the Alvin C. York VA Medical Center, located on the northern edge of Murfreesboro. We drive past the beautiful 431 acre treasure all the time yet we hardly realize the history behind this treasure.
The newly formed Veterans Administration saw the need of veterans who had given so much for our country, who had returned home from war, in this case WWI, with not only physical scars from battle, but the war's mental scars. These veterans came to the peaceful solitude of rural Tennessee, they came to the new Veterans Administration neuropsychiatric hospital.
So, beginning in 1936, five family farms belonging to Batey, Carnahan, Posey, McCrary and Sullivan were purchased to create the 602 acre campus. FDR authorized the facility on November 19, 1936. Construction began in January, 1938 on the initial 15 buildings with the first patients being admitted on February 1, 1940. By the way, the price tag for the VA Hospital was only $1.3m lock, stock and barrel.
When the facility opened it has 351 employees and 600 beds on a budget of only $716,000. Today the facility has more than 700 beds, more than 1,300 employees and a budget of more than $65m.
It had a laundry, water treatment plant, a farm that produced beef, hogs and vegetables. The campus even included living quarters for the resident nurses.
The healing benefits went beyond medical and modern psychiatric care. Extracurricular activities were accommodated in the form of a bowling alley, a gymnasium, softball fields, badminton, croquet, pool tables everywhere, tennis courts, fishing on the Stones River, an excellent library, an indoor pool, that beautiful pond on the west side of the facility and a golf course. The facility even launched a radio station – WVAH Radio!
There were parades, patient carnivals, horse shows, car shows; the men’s softball team won the 1954 Murfreesboro City League title.
Who remembers when the main entrance sort of ran smack dab into the intersection of 231 North (present day Memorial Blvd.) and Compton/Thompson Road? The next time you are sitting at the red light, notice the line of trees that run from the intersection to the Main Building. It was the main entrance from 1940 till 1981. It created a five-way intersection till the main entrance was corrected in 1981.
Also, the next time you drive by, notice the front, or the façade, of the main building - it was designed to reflect a little Tennessee history – the façade strongly resembles the front of Andrew Jackson’s home ‘The Hermitage’.
In 1985, the facility was renamed in honor of Alvin C. York of WWI fame. Prior to the renaming it was known simply as the Veterans Administration – or VA – Hospital.
To meet the needs of an aging veteran population, a 120-bed nursing home was added in 1989 with the State of Tennessee building an additional 120-bed nursing facility, located on the Compton Road side of the Medical Center, in 1991.
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