By Dan Shine
West Haven VA Hospital
The year was 1909: Theodore Roosevelt’s term as president was ending and William Howard Taft’s term was just beginning. The population of our 46 states stood at 90 million. A new six room house could be bought for $735 from Sears and Roebuck and a new Model T Ford cost even more at $850. Gasoline cost 20 cents per gallon.
Meanwhile, the U.S. military had purchased its very first aeroplane; America was withdrawing its occupation troops from Cuba; Japan was beginning a 38-year occupation of Korea, and the U.S. Navy was founding a naval base at a little known place called Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
On a hill at the corner of Campbell Avenue and Spring Street was a piece of ground known as Lion Park. To satisfy the need for treating the many and rampant tuberculosis cases, and to create an overflow facility for New Haven Hospital (today called Yale-New Haven Hospital), construction of a 100-bed hospital was begun on that tract of land; initial funding was provided by a gift of $1,325,000 from Mr. Eli Whitney, President of the General Hospital Society of Connecticut.
At that time, the Visiting Nurse Association of New Haven used a part of Lion Park for a Day and Night Camp for children who were afflicted with tuberculosis in its early stages.
As time passed, additional monetary gifts were forthcoming from Sarah Winchester, in memory of her husband William Wirt Winchester: Thus, the hospital building was named for him. Before the building was completed, the US Government in 1918 leased it for the purpose of establishing a hospital for soldiers afflicted with tuberculosis. That hospital became known as United States Army General Hospital No. 16, and bed capacity was increased to 650.
The hospital was designated by the War Department as the parent hospital for all Army tuberculosis institutions throughout the country, and a school was established and opened in May 1918 for the instruction of medical officers who were to be sent as examiners on various tuberculosis boards or were eventually part of the personnel of other Army hospitals for the treatment of other lung diseases.
The hospital continued on, performing a variety of functions under a number of different agencies during the ensuing years. At the close of World War II, it was determined that there was a need for additional hospital facilities in the state of Connecticut to care for veterans: And so, it was that in 1948 the Winchester Hospital and grounds were purchased by the United States Government for the purpose of erecting a hospital on that site.
The new hospital was intended to provide treatment to veterans in need of hospital care of general and surgical tuberculosis and neuro psychiatric conditions. Ground breaking took place in 1950, and in 1953 the hospital opened up as a new facility that offered a great many services to those who had served in the U.S. military and needed medical care.
Today, decades later, the West Haven V.A. Hospital continues its mission, providing a comprehensive A to Z listing of medical and related services, made available to those who did and do stand for our flag and protect its people. Well done!