U S Naval Convalescent Hospitals Glenwood Springs, Colorado and Asheville, North Carolina Asbury Park, NJ

Following the precedent of earlier conflicts, the Navy Medical Department leased resort hotels during World War II. They were commissioned to operate for the benefit of sailors and Marines recovering from the physical and psychic wounds of war. Today I highlight two of them.

These are not definitive histories, but are notes taken from material in the “USNCH Glenwood Springs Colorado” and “USNCH Asheville, NC” files at the Historical Library of the Navy’s Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. Both hospitals were commissioned in 1943

U S Naval Convalescent Hospital Glenwood Springs, Colo.

In  “Know Your Hospital” mimeographed newsletters from March and April 1944, LT (jg) William X Heelan, (HC)*, USN, described the facility thus: “[It] was formerly the Hotel Colorado and was built by a British syndicate of investors in 1893. It is a six-story edifice constructed of native matched red sandstone and pressed brick, with a slate roof, and contains 250 guest rooms.

Complements of Waymarking.com

 “[It] has several unique features which are extremely valuable for its function as a rehabilitation center. It has three natural hot water springs which have served as a spa to health seekers for over fifty years… The world’s largest warm mineral water swimming pool is in conjunction with the hospital. … The water is supplied by Yampah, the largest of the hot mineral water springs, flowing 3600 gallons per minute at a temperature of 127 degrees Fahrenheit.”

In describing the location, LT (jg) Heelan noted “In spite of its convenient location [by rail and automobile from Denver and Salt Lake City], Glenwood Springs is well isolated from the standpoint of military objectives. No military operations are conducted within a radius of well over 700 miles all line distance. It is off the route of all the flying lanes and the locality is well protected on all sides by the high and rugged Rocky Mountains of the Eastern Slope. Persons subjected to the shock of combat may here find relaxation and recuperation in the absence of nerve racking elements.”

It appears that the facilities once encompassed by the Hospital are now operated as two separate facilities, the Hotel Colorado and  Glenwood Hot Springs.

U S Naval Convalescent Hospital Asheville North Carolina

Medical Officer in Command W. A. Angwin wrote in his  November 1945 Historical Supplement to Fourth Quarterly Sanitary Report, Cumulative Report for the period of World War II: “At the time of the [lease], this property was under lease by the Asheville Holding Company to Appalachian Hall, Inc., operated by Doctors William Ray and Mark A. Griffin, as a mental and nervous sanitarium. The name ‘Appalachian Hall’ is proprietary to the Doctors Griffin.” He went on “The site is splendidly adapted for the particular purpose for which it is now used. … Being in a sparsely settled region, it is quiet and secluded, yet only two miles from the very center of the city [of Asheville]…

Historical Library, U S Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery

“The local situation provided, and has continued to provide, physical surroundings for patients entirely different from the usual naval environment. This difference was capitalized. The hotel or club idea was made prominent. The patient entering this hospital receives the benefit of a complete change in his naval routine in much the same way that a person in civil life is benefited by a vacation that takes him away from his usual business or vocation.”

The Hospital building is now listed in the National Register of Historic Structures, and is operated as the Kenilworth Inn Apartments.

It is notable, I think, that such a premium was placed on quiet, sequestered and “peaceful” environs which would promote the healing of war injuries. Both facilities live on today, serving as retreats and domiciles.

* Congress established the Hospital Corps of the Navy in 1898, to consist of Pharmacists (with rank equivalent to Warrant Officer), hospital stewards and hospital apprentices. With war time expansion in sight, new regulations permitted members of the hospital corps to receive commissions as officers (not Warrant…) wearing the hospital corps caduceus. These officers were offered conversion to the Medical Service Corps when it was established in 1947. See http://www.history.navy.mil/library/online/uniform_insignia.htm, accessed 2012Mar09.

©2012 Thomas L Snyder

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