Looking Back

Memories of historic Cedar Creek Hospital

Larry Bowers
Posted 12/6/17

I was reading through an online article from the Greeneville Sun recently, a developing story which brought back many memories of my family.The news article was written by one of my …

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Looking Back

Memories of historic Cedar Creek Hospital


I was reading through an online article from the Greeneville Sun recently, a developing story which brought back many memories of my family.

The news article was written by one of my favorite Western authors — Cameron Judd — who remains a Greeneville resident and a reporter for the newspaper.

The story was about a change of ownership for the historic Cedar Creek Hospital, originally built in the late 1910s or early 1920s as a dormitory for a nearby women's college.

The two-story, 20-room building then became the Learline Reaves Sanitorium for tuberculosis patients, and was deeded to the East Tennessee Tuberculosis Association.

Later it was a standard general hospital, until it closed. It was sold to George and Eleanor Collins, my uncle and aunt, in the middle of the 20th century. It was ideal for their large family.

The hospital was located on a hill directly to the south of the old Cedar Creek Grocery, owned and operated by the same uncle.

It was a typical country store and gathering place for the community. There were games of mumblelty-peg and horseshoes, as well as penny-pitching competitions. I lost more than a few coins tossing pennies at a line in the dirt.

The old store also served as a meeting place for the community's oldtimers, who would perch on the front porch, whittle, and share stories of local politics, families, grandchildren, and getting old.

The hospital on the hill offered a panoramic view of the foothills to the east toward Asheville, N.C., though the hills were often shrouded by clouds.

To the west was Cedar Creek Elementary School, with a ballfield between the school and the hospital. I watched several of my uncles play baseball on that field, and they often came out the hero, a matter of pride for me.

In my teenage years, I played fastpitch softball on the same field.

In a cabin along a branch about a half a mile away, one of my cousins who grew up in the old hospital lived  for a period of time with his girlfriend.

Her name was Park Overall. She went on to acclaim as an actress, having been a regular on the TV series "Empty Nest" and appearing a number of times on the Reba MacIntire show "Reba."

She was also a Democratic candidate for a seat in the U.S. Congress in recent years.

Several years ago I caught her in an appearance on "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson Show, where she talked about living in Cedar Creek with my cousin, and explained what led to their break-up.

She was out of town, and had left her pet monkey in the care of my cousin.

While she was gone, the monkey got out of the house, climbed a tree, and would not come down.

My cousin had a solution for the problem. He shot the monkey out of the tree! He resolved the issue of the stubborn monkey, but it was not a contribution to a lasting relationship.

Later, Overall was recognized by Greene County and the City of Greeneville for all her accomplishments in the entertainment industry. As far as I know, my cousin was not invited to the celebration.

Back to the hospital, although hospitals are not a subject I prefer in my older years.

It was built in  the early part of the last century as a women's dormitory by the Presbyterian Church for Cedar Creek College, located nearby.  It has two floors and 20 rooms, with an expansive cellar area.

The white frame building has a strong stone foundation, and a wide porch across the front. The porch resembles those found on old homeplaces throughout the community, including the porch around my grandparents home a few miles away.

My relatives purchased the old hospital in the 1960s, and it has remained with the family through most of the years since. It was sold once, but returned to their ownership.

This summer is was sold to a California couple, and I wonder if they realize the history of the property. The real estate agent who sold the building said more than 300 people expressed an interest.

There are relics  of its rich history in that hospital. Above bedroom doorways are lights which patients could activate to call a nurse.

On the doors of several rooms are plaques noting the rooms were furnished by the Greene County Court, an earlier form of the county government.

A laundry chute still exists at the end of one hallway, and a rope-and-pulley operated dumb waiter going from the basement kitchen to the floors above is still in place. 

What was once the school and hospital kitchen area in the basement is now empty, as is the old school dining hall onto which it opened. 

A few old sinks, bathtubs and other such fixtures are present throughout the building, but are not functional.

Most of these things are fond memories for me, as is the old hospital and the surrounding neighborhood.


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