Alexander Human Development Center

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City/Town: Alexander
Location Class: SchoolResidentialChurchDisappearing TownGovernmentHospital
Year Built: 1930 | Year Abandoned: 2011
Status: AbandonedEndangered
Photojournalist: Michael SchwarzGinger BeckGrant King

Pictures of the facility in 2014.




McRae Sanatorium History

300px-Mcrae-sanator-postcardIf you go to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture and look up the Alexander Human Development Center you won’t find the facility’s full history. This official history of Arkansas simply lists the facility as coming into existence as a Human Development Center in the late 1960’s. The facility’s true origin and largely forgotten history, however, actually dates all the way back into the early 1930’s.

In 1879, the Arkansas Medical Society began trying to convince the legislature to create a State Board of Health. In 1881, the legislature finally saw the wisdom of creating a state board to monitor disease, uphold sanitary conditions and gather vital statistics.  Senator Kie Oldham of Pulaski County—a sufferer of tuberculosis— initiated the Arkansas Tuberculosis Sanatorium in 1910. Though Oldham succumbed to tuberculosis in 1911, his efforts in founding the Sanatorium in Booneville ensured its continuous operation for the next sixty-two years. In its first 40 years of operation, there was always a waiting list at the tuberculosis sanatorium. In time, The Arkansas Tuberculosis Sanatorium literally became the largest such facility throughout the entire United States as its dedicated staff tirelessly pioneered medical research, treatment, and techniques that would benefit tuberculosis sufferers the world over and eventually play key roles in the elimination of the disease’s threat all together. But this isn’t the story of that tuberculosis sanatorium…

Exterior_view_of_the_AC_Shipp_Building_at_McRae_SanatoriumThe first director of the black sanatorium was African-American physician Hugh A. Browne of Wheatley-Provident Hospital in Kansas City. In the later 1930’s the Works Progress Administration constructed a new Chambers Building for performing surgeries and to also function as a dining and craft hall. In 1940, the The McRae Sanatorium’s operations expanded again as it began providing a nurses’ training program. Then, in 1960, the sanatorium added a children’s building and auxiliary nurses’ home building. Dr. Browne himself finally retired in 1962, three years after suffering a stroke. The patient population at that time had grown to 390. At its height, the sanatorium held 411 beds.

In 1967, and after thirty-seven years of racial segregation, the McRae Sanatorium was finally allowed to merge with the Booneville State Sanatorium. The much larger Booneville facility itself then closed in 1972, just five years later, as tuberculosis treatment regimens made the residential facility obsolete.

As for the McRae Memorial Tuberculosis Sanatorium for African Americans, it was converted into the Alexander Human Development Center. It is at this point that the facility’s history begins in the Arkansas Encyclopedia of History and Culture.

Alexander Human Development Center History

McRae Sanatorium historical 3Prior to the creation of human development centers (HDCs)—the Arkansas State Hospital provided long-term care to individuals with intellectual disabilities as well as to individuals with severe mental illness. And, as a state, Arkansas lagged well behind other states in development of facilities specializing in the care of the intellectually disabled. The Arkansas Children’s Colony – which would later be renamed as the Conway Human Development Center – was finally opened in the late 1950s. Within its first year of operation alone the facility received numerous accolades for its physical construction as well as for its progressive curriculum for residents. Soon after, several other Southern states were following in the footsteps of Arkansas by making preparations for their own children’s colonies. This was the launch of what would become the human development centers.

Toward these ends, the McRae Memorial Tuberculosis Sanatorium for African Americans was converted into The Alexander Human Development Center in 1968, thus becoming a part of the Arkansas Department of Human Services for individuals with developmental disabilities. The center offered occupational, physical and speech therapies and provided psychological assessment, medical care and rehabilitative services. The Alexander Human Development Center also offered community development and outreach services. Throughout the state, the Arkansas Department of Human Services provided (and still provides) Medicaid-funded services to more than 7,500 adults and children with developmental disabilities. The department also offers crisis intervention, emotional support and temporary housing services. Furthermore, it works in assistance with certified nurses, social workers and medical secretaries. So, suffice it to say, facility that housed The McRae Memorial Tuberculosis Sanatorium for African Americans continued to be used in constructively beneficial ways well after the sanatorium itself was merged with the Booneville facility. And, while the Booneville facility was almost completely closed in 1972, the facility in Alexander continued to be actively used for nearly 40 years thereafter.

McRae Sanatorium historical 4But this phase of the facility’s existence would also came to an end, and not necessarily a good one. Amidst a series of failed safety inspections, the loss of its Medicaid certification, and patient rape allegations and investigations on the part of the staff, what had become the Alexander Human Development Center was finally closed in 2011. This actually caused a most unpleasant stir within the community and region surrounding the facility and especially amongst families who had come to depend upon the facility to assist them with the care of loved ones in need of its various services. Complaints were made, objections were registered, and petitions were circulated, but in the end the state followed through with its plan to close the facility, thus ending its eighty years of public service. The patients that were still being served by the center were placed in a wide range of alternative care placements and community-based care facilities with those most in need being transferred to one of the state’s four other remaining Human Treatment Centers. All of the center’s employees where transferred to other working assignments with a number of them being allowed to follow after the patients who had been in their care at Alexander. And the State of Arkansas, having acknowledged that the care being provided in Alexander was substandard and inadequate and that the employee actions and practices there were immoral and unacceptable, planned on redirecting funding from the closed facility to the remaining four open ones in the hopes of making certain that higher levels of care and practices might be maintained within them.

Today the facility in Alexander sits empty. The institution born as a diminutive symbol of racial prejudice and segregation, thus grew to denote one of the darker chapters of our nation’s history. Eventually rising up to become a source of hope and service for the hurting, suffering, and disadvantaged Arkansans in most need of its services, and ultimately crumbled amidst a cloud of safety code violations and immoral employee misconduct charges. It now quietly waits in an air of hollow expectation for whatever turn fate has next in store for it. Numerous quiet symbols and knowing markers remain throughout the facility’s now abandoned compound, hauntingly attesting to the many uses that it has seen and the various phases that it went through over the course of its 80 years. The facility’s architecture dating back to its sanatorium years. A plague in a lobby denoting Dr. Hugh Browne’s thirty-plus years of service as superintendent. The many and varied tools and implements denoting the compound’s later care of and service to the needy, suffering, and disadvantaged and it’s all still there. Little has been moved and even less has been changed.

In our society an eighty-year-old person would automatically be granted the highest levels of respect, interest, and care. But what about an eighty-year-old facility? Especially an eighty-year-old facility with all of the historical and cultural significance of the one in Alexander? What level of care, concern, and respect will it receive?

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39 Comments
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Rob
Rob
1 year ago

Is it still abandoned, or did they restore it?

A.W.
A.W.
2 years ago

The encyclopedia indeed has the full history of the place. http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedi

SweetShinies
SweetShinies
2 years ago

Why can't it be turned into small apartments for homeless. Those trying to get out of their situations and into better. Give them somewhere to live while receiving food and help in getting their GED and or job counseling. Or apartments for disabled vets. So many good and needed uses for such a large complex.

Pat Goff
Pat Goff
Reply to  SweetShinies
29 days ago

Usually the homeless and disabled vets do not have their own transportation and without transportation this place is hard to get to.

John E. Thomas
John E. Thomas
2 years ago

Mr. John Thomas Dr. Hugh A. Brown was my Great, Great Uncle. I lived at the sanatorium for a number of years until they decided to change the facility from a tuberculosis hospital to a mental health institution in 1961. Mr. Oliver K. Thomas was appointed Administrator to over see the transition of the sanatorium which was completed in 1962.

Linda Grover
Linda Grover
2 years ago

I worked there for several years in the 1980's. I loved it there, my child worked there also. the place was definitely haunted. It was common knowledge that Dr Browne haunted the place. no body seemed to think much of him being there, we were used to it.

Unknown
Unknown
3 years ago

Checked this place out not too long ago. Was told by someone who had been there earlier that they heard noises upstairs from the kitchen at night. Also shadows in the windows from outside. The place is indeed spooky because it has soo many rooms. You never know what you'll find. Lots of graffiti and debris all over the place. Now that I think about it, when I was near the back entrance I heard a loud scrape almost like a shoe striking concrete. Didn't see anybody around. No wind either. Didn't think of anything then but it's kicking in… Read more »

Private
Private
3 years ago

Today I noticed it is now getting spray painted. It is sad, it needs to be tore down or repurposed. It is starting to look really rough and it is really upsetting to see abandoned.

privatkredit test 2014
3 years ago

Wow, what an amazing article! It all makes sense now. The only thing I didn't agree with is where he mentioned Conservatives. It's not necessarily Conservatives, but Republicans who are too stupid to realize they are not Conservatives.But great article none the less, it should be republished everywhere possible.

Lefts need to die, the end
Lefts need to die, the end
Reply to  privatkredit test 2014
25 days ago

Wanna see real stupidity? Check the mirror or read your comment.

Devin
Devin
4 years ago

I grew up in Alexander I've always wondered if it was haunted thanks for the stories if there are anymore please share. My friend and I have considered investigating at night but want to do it legally with running into situations with the law. I could use any info on that topic if anyone has any.

Kitchen Cook
Kitchen Cook
4 years ago

xI use to work here in the kitchen from 2003-2010 and it was spooky in the kitchen. While doing dishes you could hear someone calling your name.you look at your other co-workers and ask them if they were hollering ur name and they would say no. Over by the bakery part you see a lttle black lady with a longg dress or coat on and a child was following her holding on to her dress. The place we kept our cold stuff used to be the morgue.

Melissa
Melissa
Reply to  Kitchen Cook
4 years ago

Would you know how one might go about doing a tour of the place? And maybe a little ghost hunting? Which I call spirits, by the way.

Emma barns
Emma barns
4 years ago

Its Bensplayhouse. You think these pics are creepy, search bensplayhouse on youtube. Ben is psychotic! Idk if he was living in there or what but theres a youtuber named colin & he lived close to this place & decided to make a video of it. So he went in. It was the last video colin made himself. As colin was exploring with his camera, ben was following behind colin. The things ben did to colin are horrifying! & its on film. Colin to this day never heard from again. The last video uploaded to bens was of some one with… Read more »

Onyx Brantley
Onyx Brantley
Reply to  Emma barns
4 years ago

It's a series of stories. Nothing more. He's not going to hurt anyone, his videos are just to scare.

Lefts need to die, the end
Lefts need to die, the end
Reply to  Emma barns
25 days ago

That last video was uploaded a couple days after that teen girl Ebby Stepach went missing. Also that Kroger is about 5miles down the same road from the park the found Ebbys abandoned car. I did a little research & sent it to a YouTuber friend of mine & he passed it on to police after making a video on it. Turned out to be a very sick & twisted hoax it’s all been taken down now people were pissed they did that. However this was 3yrs after her disappearance that I came across the video, because of the stir… Read more »

Vera
Vera
4 years ago

Just walked thru there. Cool and creepy. Swear I kept hearing someone crying. I wouldn't advise walking thru at night. You could get hurt.

Shania
Shania
Reply to  Vera
4 years ago

That prolly was collin

Victor Clonts
Victor Clonts
Reply to  Vera
2 years ago

Is it legal to walk through it? I'd love to see inside it!

Anna
Anna
4 years ago

Just got back from Arkansas. Made a wrong turn and ended up in the ghost town. Railing is falling off the building and the windows are destroyed. Nothing left of the center now.

Documentaries Mafia
5 years ago

Thanks a lot.
for sharing this information

Rwoodley
Rwoodley
5 years ago

Seeing worked here for three years and some of the staff really cared for the people who lived there. I have sat across my own dinner table with some of the individuals to give them a homemade Thanksgiving. The campus was fun at one time and enriching for some.

Alex johnson
Alex johnson
Reply to  Rwoodley
1 year ago

Me and my dad when and looked around in it

David cruz
David cruz
5 years ago

i just went to film their to film for a scary movie and for 2 weeks my camera kept shutting off every 5 minutes even when it was fully charged. Never acted like that anywhere else but here. It also got cold and you can feel a brief chill in certain spots for like 2 seconds.

Cheyenna
Cheyenna
Reply to  David cruz
5 years ago

Oh my god! Lol I'd love to go inside here and investigate! How did you go about this?!

debra smith
debra smith
6 years ago

I would love to walk through it, I like places like these anyone know how to make this happen. I keep saying I want this place__

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
Reply to  debra smith
3 years ago

Me too, I love urban exploration. I went here once but I was alone & couldn't make it passed the front gate lol too creepy to do alone lol It's right ouside of little rock

Cristen
Cristen
6 years ago

Reminds me of a scene from the Walking Dead! Creeepy!

Thomas
Thomas
6 years ago

Was the "Colored TB Hospital back in the day"

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