With the opening of Chestnut Hall in January, current UNT students will have a new state-of-the-art student health and wellness center. But health services on campus weren’t always so advanced.
According to information from the university archives, the first sanitarium on campus was opened in October 1918 by the federal government as an emergency hospital for student soldiers training for World War I during the influenza outbreak. The facility closed the following month at the conclusion of the war, but North Texas purchased the buildings, located on West Mulberry, for future use.
William H. Bruce, the North Texas president at the time, requested financing for health service from the state’s board of regents for normal schools but was turned down. He turned to faculty and students in January 1919, asking if they would volunteer to pay a $1 fee to establish a college hospital. They agreed, and the hospital had five patients within two hours of its opening.
A 1930 issue of the Campus Chat newspaper reported that the sanitarium “has become one of the most useful institutions on the campus.” Nurse Adolphine Grabbe’s May 1930 report noted 1,165 first aid cases and 17 bed patients thus far that year. The bed patients were treated for ailments ranging from acute indigestion and acute appendicitis, to colic, malaria and tonsillitis. Also, there was one case of hysteria and one nervous breakdown.
Grabbe, who was employed by the government at the original sanitarium, had been quickly employed by North Texas to remain on duty. She was promoted to superintendent of the hospital in 1922 and served in that position until her retirement in 1930. L.O. Hayes replaced her that year, making him the first physician employed full time at North Texas. Until then, education faculty member F.V. Garrison determined whether to admit an allegedly ailing student or faculty member.
In 1919, the hospital moved to a larger building at Sycamore Street and Avenue B, and in 1933 it relocated to a one-story brick veneer building on the southeast corner of campus. In 1957, the North Texas Board of Regents approved the construction of a new hospital. The building at Avenue C and Chestnut, which opened in 1958, served ailing North Texans for 48 years. But serving 23,000 visitors annually pushed it to its limits.
Ground was broken for the more than 70,000-square-foot Chestnut Hall, which will also house other student services, in November 2005.