Re: North Park Village/Tuberculosis Sanitarium
Date: September 14, 2011 06:24AM
Oh the TB Sanitarium. Where do I begin. I grew up across the street, the 6000 block of Central PK, in the 80s. I'm much much younger than many of you, but hold the history of my youth and city quite dear to my heart, and am glad to have a forum to share my memories.
My parents were holding out on buying the house we'd eventually occupy until they knew that Peterson Park wouldn't be converted to a commercial and residential buildings as was the original plan. So in '79, they bought the house after it was finally decided it would be turned into a park.
Some of my earliest memories are that of my mom bringing me there to the cement laden playgrounds, there's two. The one just south of the tennis courts, and the one just south of Peterson on the western side of the park. Many an injury I accrued there, these days its all woodchips. How times have changed, along with bicycle helmets and saftey belts being the norm.
That guard house on the corner of Central Pk and Peterson was actually turned into a hot dog stand in about '87 or '88. Anybody remember that? It was a short lived venture, maybe lasted a summer or two, but was quite nice to walk with my dad and grab a hotdog right there on our corner.
In about '84 my parents got my older brother and I in the day camp at Peterson Park. It was called "Play Camp," as I still remember. We had the t-shirts and everything, they were white, with green logos of the Y-Device on the front.
I used to ride my bike through the trails, the ones that start at the tennis courts, and would try and jump that first dirt ramp, it was tough. It's were I got my first concussion. I used to ride there by myself all the time on my BMX, and apparently one day, I still to this day do no know what exactly transpired, but I guess I hit my head pretty bad. And I ended up back at my house, surreal and distraught. My bike was badly damaged, with the brakes locked up, my brother told me that I said to him that I carried the bike home. I have no recollection of any of that.
The diamonds there, as much as a ball player as I was (played seriously at River Park for years) all went largely unused, as anybody else can attest to. We'd actually play ball in front of the tennis courts, so that the fence could be a home run. They since have planted trees there, so I guess no kids can play ball there.
The main basketball court was always a great place to get a pick up game, but now they took the hoops away, and you have to play on the west one. We'd also do a roundup every morning there when I went to day camp.
The Haunted Trails, which these days seem a shadow of themselves, used to be real scary, because they'd take you to the back part, behind the fence, behind the fieldhouse. I remember waiting in line with my parents to enter, and it was terrifying. At the end there were huge circus tents in which we'd drink hot cider at picnic tables.
When they reconstructed the main playground and put up the pirate ship, it was a favorite place for my friends and I to hang out and smoke pot.
Now on to the actual sanitarium. Growing up, it was all still there. The buildings were boarded up. If you walk south outbound, by the fieldhouse, and make a left, down that path, there used to be a cottage house. And we'd go there and rummage around. I remember seeing devil warship stuff, dead chickens, and pools of blood. I even stuck my thumb in one of the pools of blood once. It was quite scary.
The other buildings, including the church, to the west, were still in tact. We used to pull the rope, which was still attached, on the church bell and make it ring.
As far as the hospital buildings, we'd sneak in there, pull out the plywood. Let me tell you, it was the most scariest thing you could ever imagine. Imagine being in a real life horror movie, that was it.
Walking down those corridors, it was as if they left over night. Stacks upon stacks of old chest x-rays were just scattered everywhere. Equipment was left, barren and collecting dust. As a ten year old kid, I can tell you I had nightmares of my experiences walking in there. All those buildings, just left as was, as if the staff literally left overnight, leaving everything. We were left to wander the dark hallways. My friend even stepped on a rusty nail, and had to get a tetnus shot after we told him how bad that was.
Going around that initial curve going east of the fieldhouse, you'd hit that brick paved road somebody mentioned, after the devil warshipper cottage. And you'd see a rusty set of old gates and the beginning of the stone cobbled path. We used to call that the gates to hell. Walking further, you'd see the concrete bench, then you take the path further along, curving west along bryn mawr along the prarie, and it'd take you to our old hang out spot. We called it the "Reservation." It's a sunken in sinkhole, filled with bolders, where we'd sit and smoke and drink and be crazy teenagers. Walking further you'll see a old foundation of a building, where we'd also hang out.
As far as the North Park Nature Center, we'd sneak in there all the time too. They were open until 5pm, and sometimes after school we'd go there and see the animals and hang out. I actually adopted a rabbit there, and gave them money. His name was Pier. I still remember that. I think he was named after Pier Peterson, I'm guessing. But we'd go back there by the pond, and run around playing capture the flag. There definitely is tunnels, you can see them when you walk around. There are sunken in staircases leading to them scattered throughout.
They wrecked most of the hospital buildings since then, and it's a lot of condos. But I'm glad I got to grow up across the street from such an adventurous playland.