Morris Memorial Hospital for Crippled Children
Along a winding country road atop a hillside in Cabell County, you will find a large, colonial revival style building. It looks a little worse for wear right now having been abandoned since 2009 when Rose Greene closed the doors of the Morris Memorial Nursing Home. This building started as the Morris Memorial Hospital for Crippled Children and opened its doors for the first patients in 1936.
In the early 1930’s a boy named John Walter developed polio and his uncle Walter Morris was desperate to help him. He told his nephew’s orthopedist, Dr. Arthur Shade Jones, that if he helped his nephew, he would give 200 acres for a hospital. And so it began. The modified “U” shaped limestone building with a two-story central section, flanked by 11/2 story “Y” shaped wings began to take shape. The central section boasted a domed and louvered cupola and two-story portico. It housed patient rooms, surgery suites, indoor pool, and spas as well as exercise and therapy rooms. It also housed a school for the children confined there. It contained the newest treatment available at that time, the iron lung.
The 200-acre farm helped the hospital become self-sufficient, with vegetable gardens, dairy cows, cattle, and orchards. The hospital also became known for the sorghum it would sell there.
People brought their children there from far and wide for treatment. In its time it had an outstanding reputation for providing the best care available at the time.
Jonas Salk and his polio vaccine in the 1950’s thankfully stopped the polio epidemics, and a polio hospital was no longer needed. It eventually became a nursing home operated by John and Rose Greene. I worked there for the Greens when I was an LPN for 11 years, and I got to know that beautiful building very well.
As I mentioned earlier, it is built in a modified “U” shape. Inside the U is a courtyard where the patients could sit outside and smoke. Under the courtyard ran a tunnel that connected the front part of the building to the boiler room. The boiler still operated when I worked there and that it how the building was heated.
When you entered the front doors, you came into a foyer, and beyond that, the area called the front hall. Directly in front of you was a nurses station, when this was a polio hospital it used to be a surgical suite. In this section, there was also the administrative offices, the beauty shop and the “Greene Room” where patients could visit with their families. There was also an elevator and stairs to the second floor. The front hall extended out on both sides in a “Y” shape, and these were the wings with the patient beds for that floor. If you turned left when you came out of the foyer and walked down the East Hall, you could turn left and enter the South Wing. The South Wing also housed patients, and there was a significant dining room. Underneath that dining room was the pool; the dining room was merely built over it. On this wing, there was also an elevator leading to the section of the basement housing the kitchen, laundry and the boiler room as well as access to the garage. You could also access the stairs to the attic on the South Wing.
Photo Courtesy of the National Park Service
Back to the front and there you went to the second floor, this was a smaller unit and also housed patients. Going back to the front you could go down into the basement. The basement was always creepy with its sandstone walls and the dark, creepy tunnel. Lots of equipment was stored there from days gone past, even an old iron lung.
This beautiful old building was rich with history, and my son spent many hours there talking with the veterans for different history projects. Many people including myself believe that the building is haunted; I experienced many things there that could not be explained, and paranormal investigators believe that limestone causes a perfect environment for residual hauntings. I will be happy to provide you with my spooky tales by request.
In 2014 it was announced that the building would be renovated and recently it was announced that it would once again house the elderly. I am delighted to hear this; I feel like it was always a very home-like environment for senior citizens.