February 16, 1917: State Legislature Establishes 'Colored' Tuberculosis Hospital

Feb 16, 2018

On February 16, 1917, the West Virginia Legislature established what was then known as the West Virginia State Colored Tuberculosis Sanitarium at Denmar. It opened at a time when the state’s public institutions were segregated by race. The Pocahontas County facility treated African American patients who suffered from TB. It was part of a movement by black legislators to build more facilities for African Americans. Prior to that, African Americans with TB had to be sent to a facility in Virginia.

Denmar’s high elevation was chosen specifically to help patients with breathing problems. Previously, Denmar had been a lumber town. The town’s old boarding house was adapted into the main hospital and administration building. Company houses became living quarters for the patients and employees. And the former mill and railroad shop were used by the hospital’s farm and dairy.

A modern facility was opened on the site in 1939. By the 1950s, tuberculosis was beginning to disappear. So, in 1957, Denmar was converted into a state hospital for the chronically ill. In 1990, it was closed and then reopened again in 1993 as the Denmar Correctional Center.