Catawba Hospital

Catawba History

The land that Catawba Hospital now resides on has an interesting history dating back to 1857. The Roanoke Red Sulphur Springs Resort was established in 1857 by several businessmen from Salem, VA. The 700 acres was part of a mountainside that rose from the Catawba Valley containing a sulphur and limestone spring. The resort opened in June 1858, ten miles north of Salem on the north border of Roanoke County, VA.

Joe Chapman later bought the Roanoke Red Sulphur Springs resort and he catered to people who wanted to escape to the mountains for the good, clean, healthful air and the peace and quiet that this remote resort offered. Chapman advertised his water as being valuable in the treatment of lung diseases. "Catawba Iron or All Healing" he called the water and shipped it around the country. At the height of its popularity, the main hotel accommodated 300 guests. Residents of Roanoke were repeat guests at the resort and it continued to operate until 1908.

By the early 1900's, the resort was attracting many tuberculosis victims. The Chapman family sold the property to the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1908 and the Commonwealth appropriated $40,000 to establish the first Tuberculosis Sanitorium.

At first wooden pavilions were used for patients, but later more permanent facilities were built until finally the hospital building, which is still standing, was constructed. Patients in 1909 were treated to fresh air (cold or hot), plenty of sunshine, rest and as much food as they could handle. These were the only known treatments for Tuberculosis until the Thoracic Surgery was begun around 1920. Tuberculosis was eventually brought under control with the invention of Streptomycin and Isonicotinic Hydrazide (INH) in the late 1940's and 1950's.

The only evidence of the Resort today is an ornate iron pavilion over one of the springs and an old two-story building above it. The Gazebo, which covered the mineral spring, still stands at the northeast point of the Hospital campus behind the Garst Building. The marble fountain at its center is etched with the names of many of the former patients of the Sanatorium. Up the hill from the Gazebo is the only remaining building from the Roanoke Red Sulphur Springs. The Infirmary stood where the Main Hospital Building or Nicholls Building stands now. Erected in 1918, it was designed to house 1260 patients at a time when the Sanatorium’s census was escalating rapidly.


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Red Sulphur Spring Gazebo

Brauer Chapel

Click here for images of Catawba postcards
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Catawba Leads War On Tuberculosis August 1, 1937 Article 

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Catawba Hospital Staff August 1, 1937 Article

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1953 Article on Dr Nicholls

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The Catawba Cure Article May 29, 1992 

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Tuberculosis Is On The Rise Again, Article May 29, 1992 

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Dedication of the Marsh-Thomas building

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February 17, 2001 Article about a Catawba Patient
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Virginia Health Bulletin
Volume 2 Number 3 March 1910
"Consumption How Virginia is Fighting It"

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