York VA Medical Center is a Historical Treasure

DNJ – MURFREESBORO 5/28/2012 — Since 1940, soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen have been treated at what is now called the York VA Medical Center. It has seen the United States’ finest — those who have valiantly given service to their country — mending them from mental or physical illness, or both.

York VA Medical Center under construction in 1939.
York VA Medical Center under construction in 1939.

Its mission alone is of historical significance, and now so, too, is its campus.

The Murfreesboro Veterans Administration Hospital Historic District, which is now the Alvin C. York campus of the Veterans Affairs Tennessee Valley Healthcare System, recently was named to the National Register of Historic Places.

“The facility has been a significant part of the Murfreesboro and Rutherford County community for more than 70 years. During this time it has provided invaluable health care to veterans in Middle Tennessee and employment opportunities to local citizens,” said Juan A. Morales, director of the VA Tennessee Valley Healthcare System. “The Alvin C. York Campus is a treasure to the community and the Department of Veterans Affairs. I am pleased knowing, because the facility has been designated to have historic value, it will continue to be a treasure.”

Doug Pulak, who is the deputy federal preservation officer in the Department of Veterans Affairs Historic Preservation office in

York VA Medical Center under construction in 1939.
York VA Medical Center under construction in 1939.

Washington, D.C., worked on obtaining the historic designation.

“This was part of a nationwide effort. The Department of Veterans Affairs was looking at historic properties that were built following World War I and up until World War II,” Pulak said. “There are about 45 medical centers across the country that the VA still has that were built during that time.”

An architectural history consulting firm out of Lexington, Ky., was hired to research and prepare papers on the property to submit for National Register consideration.

The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the nation’s historic places worthy of preservation.

Begun in 1939, the historic campus contains 321 acres and 35 historic resources. It is important in the area of health and medicine at the state level and as an example of the federal government’s efforts to care for veterans. It is also a good example of the classical design influences the VA used when constructing this type of facility, according to a news release about the historic designation. The façade portico imitates Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage and shows how the agency tried to incorporate local styles and history into the campus buildings.

Aerial view, 1947
Aerial view, 1947

Timeline for the York VA Medical Center

1936: President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the construction of a neuropsychiatric hospital in the peaceful solitude of 602 acres in rural Murfreesboro on Nov. 19, 1936.

1940: The hospital was activated Jan. 1, 1940, with a bed capacity of 600 veterans and 351 employees. Living quarters were provided for resident nurses, attendants, and officials. The medical center produced a portion of its own vegetables, beef cattle and hogs.

1947: Hospital radio station WVAH inaugurated and programs were broadcast from the hospital.

1959: Building 107, which housed the gymnasium, movie theater, bowling alley and an interior pool was dedicated, along with a ball field.

1961: patients constructed the fountain in front of Building 107.DNJ 20120528-3

1981: New main entrance on Highway 231 opened.

1983: A 135-bed acute medical unit opened.

1985: The Murfreesboro VA Medical Center was renamed the Alvin C. York VA Medical Center in honor of Sgt. Alvin C. York, Tennessee’s World War I hero. The facility was renovated and a new surgical and ambulatory care wing was added.

1989: To meet increasing needs of an aging veteran population, a 120-bed nursing home was added.

1999-2000: Murfreesboro’s veterans hospital became a part of the Tennessee Valley Healthcare System.

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