Waverly Hills Sanatorium

We now have a patient death index for patients that died at Waverly Hills starting in 1911. Please click here to view the index. This is an active project so check back often for updates. We do not have access to records of any patients from Waverly Hills and we cannot accommodate any requests at this time.


The area known today as ‘Waverly Hill’ was purchased by Major Thomas H. Hays in 1883 as the Hays’ family home. Since any existing schools were a good distance away, Hays decided to establish a sone room school house for his children to attend and hired Ms. Lizzie Lee Harris as the teacher.  Ms Harris’  had a fondness for author Walter Scott’s Waverley novels, and she received Hays’ permission to name the schoolhouse the Waverley School. In turn, he renamed his property Waverley Hill.

At the beginning of the 20th century Louisville Kentucky had the one of highest rate of tuberculosis deaths in the United States. The Beginnings of industrialism, as well as geographic make-up were contributing factors. Nestled in the Ohio Valley, Louisville doesn’t get a proper amount of fresh air flow. In an attempt to to contain the disease, a “Board of Tuberculosis Hospital” was established in 1906.  The search began for a proper location to constructed the much needed facility. Eventually Hays’ property was chosen for several reasons; it’s distance from the city, it’s picturesque tranquil view, as well as it’s high altitude with increased air flow. The Board decided to keep the name Waverly, as it had a peaceful sound to it. 

In 1908, ground was broken on what would become known as Waverly Hills Sanatorium (no one is quite sure when or how the second “e” was dropped from Waverly). Over the next two years of construction, a two-story wooden administration building as well as two connected open air pavilions on either side, each housing 20 male and female patients were built at a cost of $25,000. The new Sanatarium was officially opened July 26, 1910. 

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Due to the rapid increase of Tuberculosis cases, the original hospital was soon to capacity. Even with the building of additional pavilions, space for patients was consistently at a minimal. After careful planning, Construction began on a new 5-story brick and concrete Sanatorium in March 1924. With a design from local renowned architect D. X. Murphy, the new building now had a capacity of 400 and opened on October 17, 1926.

Over the following years, Waverly would become a nearly “self contained” community. Laundry facilities, a maintenance garage, butchery, as well as several hundred acres of farm land were established on “the Hill.”

With the discovery of a new antibiotic, Streptomyc in 1943, there was finally a way to combat Tuberculosis . However it wouldn’t be until 1949 when Streptomycin would be available to the patients at Waverly Hills. This new treatment meant that newer cases could now be treated as outpatients in a regular hospital. Over the following years the population of Waverly began to decrease until it closed in June 1961.

After being vacant for almost a year, the building was reopened in 1962 as Woodhaven Geriatric Center, a nursing home primarily treating aging patients with various stages of dementia and mobility limits, as well as the severely mentally handicapped. Woodhaven was closed by the state of Kentucky in 1982 after a Grand Jury inspection found several patient abuse, and the degrading state of the facilities.

The following year, most of the land on which the buildings sat were auctioned off, and the main hospital building, several remaining facilities, as well as 40 acres were purchased by Simpsonville developer J. Clifford Todd, at a cost of $3,000,5,000. His plan was to turn the main hospital building into a minimum-security prison for state use. However, after massive protest from the surrounding area, the plan was dropped. Another of Todd’s plans was the refurbishing of the building into apartments, this also feel through due to lack of funding.

In March 1996, Robert Alberhasky bought Waverly Hills. Alberhasky’s intentions were to construct the world’s tallest statue of Jesus on the site, along with an arts and worship center. The statue, which was inspired by the famed statue of Christ on Corcovado Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, would have been designed by local Louisville sculptor Ed Hamilton and architect Jasper Ward. The first phase of the development, coming in at a cost of $4 million, would have been a constructing the 150 foot tell statue, to be situated on the roof of the sanatorium. The second phase was to convert the old sanatorium into a chapel, theater, and a gift shop at a cost of $8 million or more. Alberhaskys plan fell through, as only $3,000 was raised in a year. The project was canceled in December 1997. Over the next several years, the main building as well as surrounding structures fell into a state of abandonment.

After Alberhasky’s efforts failed, Waverly Hills was sold to Tina and Charlie Mattingly in 2001. The Mattinglys have established the Waverly Hills Historical Society in an effort to raise funds to help restore the interior of the old sanatorium. They do this through offering tours, am annual haunted house held on the main buildings first floor, as well hosting private events in the restored laundry room.

Waverly Hills Blueprints

Original Building

Contributed by Phil Tkacz, Shawn Logan, Jay Gravatte, & Hope Bryant | contact@kyhi.org

⁘ Works Cited ⁘

  1. The Lexington Leader, 9 December 1949
  2. The Lexington Leader, 12 December 1952

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