Arkansas Tuberculosis Sanatorium

City/Town: Booneville
Location Class: SchoolResidentialChurchHospital
Year Built: 1863
Year Abandoned: 1973
Status: AbandonedEndangered
Photographer: Michael SchwarzEddy SissonJames KirkendallLuke Gramlich


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Floors 1-4

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5th Floor

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cover_story1-13Located on the hill just a few miles outside of Booneville Arkansas stands the imposing campus that was once known as the Arkansas Tuberculosis Sanatorium. The entire campus is approximately 800 acres and was constructed in 1909 by Haralson & Mott, Erhart & Eichenbaum. The main hospital building was named after Senator Leo Nyberg who was a tuberculosis patient himself. At it’s peak the campus was at a larger population then the city of Booneville with over 1,000 patients and 300 staff members.

It has been discovered that Tuberculosis has been around for thousands of years from evidence of a mummified corpse dating back to approximately 2000 B.C.. One of the first Sanitariums to be built in the United States was the Adirondack Cottage Sanitarium. It was ordered to be built by doctor Edward Livingston Trudeau. Edward took care of his brother James who was infected with Tuberculosis and died within three months. Edward Trudeau had the idea to construct the Sanitarium where there was access to cold air to help treat Tuberculosis. The Adirondack Cottage Sanitarium (Little Red) was constructed in 1885 and was a one room facility. The Adirondack Cottage Sanitarium was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1995.

ahc_1019_fThe National Tuberculosis Association’s mission was to set a network of Tuberculosis treatment facilities throughout the United States. Tuberclosis infection was specifically high in young people and those who lived in areas of poverty. Doctors and nurses were sent out to diagnose both the well and sick to determine Tuberculosis infection. Pneumothorax was performed under local anesthesia to collapse the lungs in order to treat tuberlosis patients. Rest, sunshine, and a milk and egg diet was also believed to be a remedy for the disease. Sanitoriums were constructed in locations to catch a breeze during all hours. Most notibly the Waverly Hills Sanitorium was constructed at an angle to catch the draft. The sanitorium still stands today and is under renovations.

In 1935 the city of Fort Smith donated land for the Wildcat Mountain Sanitorium to be constructed just a few miles outside of town. This was a sub branch to the Arkansas State Sanatorium. In 1937 the first patients arrived and soon the facility reached its full capacity. The Sanitorium was close on December 1st 1958 and is now demolished.

The city of Booneville donated more then 800 acres to construct the Arkansas Sanitorium which was 76 buildings. The price of patient admission was $10.00 a week. At the time it was its own city and was equipped with its own indpendent telephone system,  masonic lodge, chapel, water treatment plant, dairy farm, dormitory, and even a fire department. As more Tuberclosis  vaccines were invented the decline of patients caused the closure of The Arkansas Tuberculosis Sanatorium in 1973. Today the campus is owned by the state and the patients of Booneville Human Development are housed in some of the buildings. The Nyberg buildings first floor is completly renovated however the remaining four floors and basement are vacant. The Arkansas State Sanitorium was added to U.S. National Register of Historic Places on October 5, 2006.

See also the McRae Sanatorium/Alexander Human Development Center


  1. I was born there in 1964, and then put up for adoption. I was told that very few babies were born there. Is there any way to access those old records?

  2. Is there anyway to get old files of patients that were there and when exactly they died. My grandfather and his brother were there in the early 1930s

  3. Joan Hilliard Keaton on

    My grandfather was there sometime in the 1930's. His name was Luther Beam.

  4. Shelley Blanton on

    There is a book entitled "History of the Booneville Sanitorium". It may be available at the Fort Smith Public Library or possibly in Booneville somewhere. There IS a copy at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith in the Pebley Center, this I know.

  5. Jennifer Cruts on

    What happened to the bodies of the patients who died? My aunt would like to know where her aunt is buried.

    • Jennifer, im sorry about the passing of your aunt. There is a website you can go to to locate Graves by town, state, name. It is I live in booneville area I was raised here then moved back after living in texas. I have always been interested in the history.
      The facility is still open. It now houses patients for the state who are incapacitated in some way. Unfortunately mostly mental development. I have relatives and friends that work at the facility.
      Yes, some buildings are not in the newest renovated state, but they are still beautiful. The grounds are beautiful. Some of the caretakers live on the grounds and some drive to the location.
      My husband plays in a band and they held a concert for the residents a couple of years ago.
      The auditorium could use a fresh coat of paint, but upstairs in the cafeteria and restrooms, yes it looked old (because it is) but it looked good and it was clean.
      I'm not sure if more of the buildings/rooms are being used, but i do understand that they are or have opened a museum in the NY berg building.
      No, it's not the grand facility it was in the beginning, but it is still serving the needs of people in the community that need a facility such as this. It is called the Booneville Human Development Center now, and as it is a state ran facility it shouldn't be a problem either finding information online or a phone number and address if you so wish. I feel like I could continue to write about it, but mostly just know that it is still beautiful and the grounds are beautiful. Hopefully one day it will be restored in full to its former glory. I hope this information has helped you in some small way. God Bless you and your family.

  6. Virginia Oliver on

    I am searching for information on my great grandmother Delilah Holmes. Someone has said that she died in a tuberculosis sanitarium in Arkansas just outside of Fort Smith. I do not know iif there was one closer than Boonville. Someone said she died in 1920, others have said she died in 1923. Are there medical records available that could be accessed to learn if indeed she lived and died there? Help

    • Penny Oliver Almond on

      I’m penny jo Oliver. Is this my aunt Virginia ? My grandfather Miles Duncan was in this hospital as well.

    • Brittany E Losoria on

      There was a TB sanitarium outside of Fort Smith. It is not the same as Booneville. It was demolished in 1958, I believe.

  7. Casper Green, Jr. on

    I grew up outside Booneville in Earl Prairie. I've been to the San many times during the late 1930s and 40s. My sisters and I sang for the patients on a couple of occasions. We sang inside one of the buildings but I don't remember which one and we didn't wear masks – obviously – if we were to sing. The San played a major role in helping stamp out the dreaded disease of TB in the US and the people of Arkansas should be proud of the role they played. Everyone dreaded to enter the TB hospital but the place saved many lives.

    • Vincent Pittman on

      My MOM BILLIE DAVIS-PITTMAN was there in the 1940s. She ran around with HATTIE DAVIS. And she lived until 1996!

  8. wow what history that they are letting ruin…they should get some of the things out of there for a display. .so many neat things…so many people lost thier lives there and was treated.they need to get those things out before it is totally destroyed

  9. What this article doesn't tell you though is the basement is used for a haunted house every year and some of the stuff pictured are props like the blood smears and creepy jars…it's still a cool and creepy place…when I worked at bhdc my class got a tour of the top floors

  10. My aunt Ethel Herbert died there in 1957 or 1958 . Does any one know or remember her ?

  11. Margie Pate Riney on

    My Aunt Ethel Herbert died there in 1957 or 1958. Does anyone remember her or know her ?

  12. This place should be buried

    Sorry that family members died of TB. They could have survived There were many people
    that did. Authority of hazardous buildings need to bulldoze and put it to rest Dangerous now.

  13. Karla King Terry on

    My grandmother was there for a while in the '30s, Delma King. My mother and her brother, Dorothy and Bill King, were residents there for a while. My Mother exclaimed how scary it was and seeing folks pass in their own body fluid. To the day she went on to glory, she had an intense fear of institutions and when I accompanied her to the county health department in our area for a skin test, she was scared they would keep her.

  14. My mom entered this facility in 1952. In January 1953, my brother just older than I, my baby brother, baby sister and myself entered the facility. We all left in October 1953 and moved to Arizona on order of my mother's physician. My mom had surgery in 1952 for TB and passed away in 2003. Her mother died of TB in 1925 or 1926 from TB leaving nine children including a newborn. Would like to see post from others who were there.

    • robbie guereca on

      My father was in the Nyburg Hospital and my sister,brother and I were at the Masonic children’s hospital in 1951 . Our mother was at the nurse facility. I would like to see photographs of the children s Masonic physillity at that period of time
      My email

    • I was here about three or four weeks ago and I made contact with what I believe was a little boys spirit named Joshua, age 7. I have researched to find anything to further verify this but haven’t found anything yet.

  15. barbara shepard on

    is there anyway to get a listing of names of who were there I have family members which went thru would like to know if there were more of them

    • Did you ever get an answer to your question? I also would love to find out if there are any records during 1924-1927. My dad was born in 1924 and his mom died of TB in 1927 at age 21.

      • The only way to do that would be to contact the facility directors. I am sure they deal with these kinds of questions and would be happy to oblige. The facility is now called BHDC and you can google it for the phone number and even address.

    • The walking tour we took this past Saturday, they said that you could go to the library in Booneville to find that information.

  16. My name is Brooke Ballew and I would love to speak with those who were patients at Booneville. I would just like to get some history on the hospital. I would like to know when you were there, how long you stayed, we're there kids housed at Nyberg, what did the patients do for leisure time, we're family allowed to visit, what happened when a patient passed, were you allowed to listen to radio, we're you able to have outside foods, do you have both lungs? If not why? How were you tested positive for TB?
    If interested please email me at
    THIS RESEARCH IS FOR ME TO HAVE AND NOBODY ELSE. just interested in the "goings-on" of this sanatorium.
    Thank you in advance.

    • there is a video on youtube about some of the history and interviews with real patients, that may answer some of your questions.

  17. thank you for not telling people where the location of this hospital is,although many ghost hunters that have trashed the place and stole thing know where it is and I suggest not even trying to go ,because they wont even answer the door for you ,because you need to just go away

    • Was just there in the Nyberg building last night and gave a large donation of money from the ghost hunting tour we was really surreal to be in the rooms there and to see all the old items in the basement.

    • Actually, it's not the "ghost hunters" that cause problems. The state used to operate a haunted house in the Nyberg building basement, and they extensively transformed the property every October just for that purpose. The location is open to the public as it is a publicly owned facility, but one must check in with their human resources department and be escorted, you cannot just wander around the grounds.

  18. this is all cleaned up.there was so much Bad then good ,in the beginning years yes it was good,but as the money dwindled and patients died, they did not use any money to keep the place up ,only the first floor was seen as to been kept up as it was or is the place where al the medicle records iand intake was .not sure what the first floor is used for now

  19. This place is NOT abandoned. It is a working facility and houses 131 mentally handicapped patients plus staff. There are people all over the place, lights on, and cars parked everywhere. It's far from abandoned

    • Chris is right I have friends that still work there on the first floor, no you can not tour it any more due to Ghost Hunting groups taken things an not giving donations to the place for the other people who live there i could go on ,

      • We do give donations. Im.a member of a ghost group and we give at least 100 bucks everytime to ……who in turn gives it to the historical society. we also bring trash bags in and clean up as much as we can on the floors, and the basement.

    • They do not offer "tours" but as long as you check in at human resources in the administration building, they will allow you on the grounds, but the buildings are basically off limits.

  20. Richard Jones. My father went in in or about 63. I became a resident I 64 or 65 and was classified a sminnimum active TB. Dad had part of a lung removed I went to work in the new surgical building ( jude Hill) Dads gone of heart Disease I'm still around.

  21. Both of my parents were patients in the early 40's and went to work there after being released. They were married there and worked until 1970s. I was a Sanatorium kid and have many memories of every facility there. It truly was it's on community and an amazing place. I just don't go up there anymore it's too sad to see all the decay and destruction. Just wonder what will finally become of those large dorms, Commons and Nyberg. So much waste………

  22. Buddy G.

    I lived the dream from 1954 to 1973. It breaks my heart to see how the state of Ark. has allowed this property to decay so far that the buildings are falling down. This is truly history lost.

  23. I grew up in Booneville and worked in the basement file room of the the Nyburg bldg in the summer of 1965.

    • hey buddy me and my team are going to investagate this building and was wanting too know if u ever seen anything that u couldnt explain

      • My grandfather worked there in the basement too. He would tell me horror stories of needles breaking off into arms of patients. He did not like it there and as a result is a carrier of tb.

    • my dad went and saw stuff in the basement….it was the morgue back in the day….my friend todd did a ghost hunt and said there was activity all through out the building

  24. Brenda Murphy Linton on

    I was there in the late 50 s my dad an baby sister went in first then me my sister an brother went in ..I had to stay several months more than they did an got out about the same time as daddy. Then my mom had to go in for about 7 months …We went to school did crafts our teacher was Mrs. Word we had a real nice nurse Mrs. Roddy .

  25. My father was there in the mid 60's and spent almost if not a year there. I remember once he was released us kids had to have chest X-rays every year and take medication. He had medical issues the rest of his life and succumbed to a return of this disease in 1988.

  26. nancy c davis on

    My uncle was there. They discovered his TB when he went fpr a physical for the draft. I think he was 24 years old when he died.

  27. My grandmother (35ish)and aunt (17) died from TB in the 30's. The family had to bury them themselves because everyone was so scared of it and local funeral homes would not take their bodies into their funeral home. My dad picked up the germ from them and developed TB in the 60's. Daddy spent 6 months to a year in the facility at Booneville. We drove there every weekend to visit him. I never remember entering the building. He always came outside and wore a mask as everyone else I saw there did. When my Daddy came home he came home with gallons of pills that he took for probably a year. I have 5 brothers and sisters and we were all tested for TB. I was the only one tested positive and the Dr. said that I carried the germ and had to taken preventive medicine for about 6 months. I am now nearly 60 and still have chest x-rays every year.

  28. My parents both worked there and my grandmother. My neighbors met there when he was a patient and she was a Xray tech. I had another neighbor that was a patient there and had lung stripping surgery.

  29. My father in law WilliamGraves and his sister Dorthy were patients there at the same time. William is still alive to this day missing one lung but doing great. Dorthy passed away a home. William had done CPR on her but had no luck. He has told us many stories of his days in there.

    • It's not fully abandoned, south wing is still used as offices. The north and upper levels, are falling apart.

    • There are people living on the grounds. It is currently being used as a facility that houses adults with physical and mental disabilities. I was there today as a nursing student doing a rotation.

      • Gina ,mostly I remember the people there .I was only 17 when I went to work at the sanatorium . Many people work there for short period ,went on to better opportunities . However some of the employees had spent most of their working years on the Hill as its was called by those that work there. .Many former patients remain there to work also after they were discharged al There were two cafeteria . Nyberg and commons that provide food for the employees and patients . The food was wonderful .Cooked fresh three times daily . Many employees lived in dormitory or houses on the ground . There was laundry ,small store and church services provide for patients and employees . So it was kinda of a town within itself . Plus the grounds were kept beautiful . I could go on ,many memories some sad ,but most positive as my husband who I met and married while working there We made many friends in the five years we were there . Perhaps Gina these are not the kind of things you were interested in . But they are fond memories for me .

  30. Many thousands of people ,Patients and employees at one time spent time on the beautiful grounds that were the TB San.of Arkansas . Most of the Patients were able to return to jobs and families because this place was there for them when they were ill. People were able to find employment at the Sanatorium when there were no jobs for them anywhere else . So yes I believe Arkansas should be proud of the part this Sanatorium played in our history .

  31. My grandmother was there from the late 1930s to the mid 40s. She was brought home by my grandfather and died at home at age 34. It makes me angry to see the graffiti on the walls there. So many people-good, decent, kind people-had their lives shortened and ultimately taken by this disease. It is hurtful to the former patient's memories and to their families to make this out to be some kind of "boogey man" place.

    • It has been used as a haunted house over the years, I wonder if the graffiti is left from decorations for that. My grandmother was a patient and employee there also.

    • Was so pretty up there when it was Tuberculosis sanatorium . Everything building and grounds were kept in tip top shape . It was safe place to be day or night . Remember the Christmas Holidays . There was large star set a top Nyberg Bldg . Which shone brightly . And could be observed from some distance away .

    • The pictures that my grandmother had in her photo albums looked to be of a nice place. The building/buildings should never have been leased out as a haunted house/Halloween attraction.

      • Kara it has interesting history . And how Arkansas came to have one of ,if not best faculties in America for the treatment of Tuberculosis during the years the sanitorium was in operation

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