Sunland Hospital

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W. T. Edwards Hospital in Tallahassee, FL; 1960 WTEdwards2.jpg
W. T. Edwards Hospital in Tallahassee, FL; 1960

Sunland Hospital refers to a chain of defunct mental health facilities located throughout the state of Florida.

Psychiatric hospital hospitals or wards specializing in the treatment of serious mental disorders

Psychiatric hospitals, also known as mental hospitals, mental health units, mental asylums or simply asylums, are hospitals or wards specializing in the treatment of serious mental disorders, such as major depressive disorder, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Psychiatric hospitals vary widely in their size and grading. Some hospitals may specialize only in short term or outpatient therapy for low-risk patients. Others may specialize in the temporary or permanent care of residents who, as a result of a psychological disorder, require routine assistance, treatment, or a specialized and controlled environment. Patients are often admitted on a voluntary basis, but people whom psychiatrists believe may pose a significant danger to themselves or others may be subject to involuntary commitment. Psychiatric hospitals may also be referred to as psychiatric wards or units when they are a subunit of a regular hospital.

Florida State of the United States of America

Florida is the southernmost contiguous state in the United States. The state is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the northwest by Alabama, to the north by Georgia, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, and to the south by the Straits of Florida. Florida is the 22nd-most extensive, the 3rd-most populous, and the 8th-most densely populated of the U.S. states. Jacksonville is the most populous municipality in the state and the largest city by area in the contiguous United States. The Miami metropolitan area is Florida's most populous urban area. Tallahassee is the state's capital.


Originally named the W. T. Edwards Tuberculosis Hospitals, the facilities were later remodeled into "Sunland Centers" with services for the mentally and physically disabled, specializing mostly in children. A large majority of the centers were shut down by 1983 for various health and safety reasons.

W. T. Edwards Tuberculosis Hospital

W.T. Edwards was the first chairman of the State Tuberculosis Board. [1] When a new series of state-of-the-art tuberculosis hospitals opened in roughly 1952, they were named in honor of him. The hospitals were located all over the state of Florida, including Tampa, Lantana, Marianna, Tallahassee, Miami and several other cities in south Florida.

Tuberculosis Infectious disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis

Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease usually caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) bacteria. Tuberculosis generally affects the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body. Most infections do not have symptoms, in which case it is known as latent tuberculosis. About 10% of latent infections progress to active disease which, if left untreated, kills about half of those affected. The classic symptoms of active TB are a chronic cough with blood-containing sputum, fever, night sweats, and weight loss. It was historically called "consumption" due to the weight loss. Infection of other organs can cause a wide range of symptoms.

Tampa, Florida City in Central Florida

Tampa is a major city in, and the county seat of, Hillsborough County, Florida, United States. It is on the west coast of Florida on Tampa Bay, near the Gulf of Mexico, and is the largest city in the Tampa Bay Area. The bay's port is the largest in the state, near downtown's Channel District. Bayshore Boulevard runs along the bay, and is east of the historic Hyde Park neighborhood.

Lantana, Florida City in Florida, United States

Lantana is a town in Palm Beach County, Florida, United States. The population was 10,423 at the 2010 United States Census.

All of the hospital buildings were constructed in the same basic way. The main buildings were all very long and thin, consisting of 5 floors with a few smaller wings branching off from the main building. At the time, it was thought that fresh air was the best treatment for TB, so the buildings were riddled with multi-pane windows which could be opened by cranks. The back side of each building was a wall of windows, while the front windows were more evenly spaced apart, especially in sections that did not house patients.

When antibiotics effective against TB were developed, there was no longer a need for tuberculosis hospitals and the W. T. Edwards Hospitals were all closed by the start of the 1960s. The facilities fell under the jurisdiction of the Florida Department of Health and it wouldn't take long for the hospitals to reopen as Sunlands across the state. [2]

Sunland Training Centers

In 1961 the Division of Sunland Training Centers was established on the Board of Commissioners for Institutions and replaced the Division of Farm Colonies in Florida. [3] Many former W. T. Edwards Hospitals were remodeled and reopened as Sunland Mental Hospitals. The main Sunland building, located in Orlando, was the only one not housed in a former Edwards hospital.

W. T. Edwards Hospital in Tampa, FL; November 2006 Asunlandtampa 023b.jpg
W. T. Edwards Hospital in Tampa, FL; November 2006

At first the Centers did well, but soon they were plagued with problems, mostly due to understaffing and underfunding. The most infamous facility for patient neglect was the Sunland located in Tallahassee, which not only suffered from severe staff shortages, but also significant deterioration of the physical plant itself. [4]

Physical plant necessary infrastructure used in operation and maintenance of a given facility

Physical plant, mechanical plant or industrial plant refers to the necessary infrastructure used in operation and maintenance of a given facility. The operation of these facilities, or the department of an organization which does so, is called "plant operations" or facility management. Industrial plant should not be confused with "manufacturing plant" in the sense of "a factory".

Many Sunlands had various activities for the patients, who were mostly children, to engage in. There were swimming pools with rails and plastic wheelchairs, hopscotch, shuffleboard and frequent appearances by figures like Woodsy Owl and even the state governor himself. Many of the patients were also official Boy Scouts and often held meetings on the hospital grounds with Scoutmasters. Pictures still exist in the Florida archives of children in full uniform posing in their wheelchairs and hospital beds.


Shuffleboard, more precisely deck shuffleboard, and also known as floor shuffleboard, is a game in which players use cues to push weighted discs, sending them gliding down a narrow court, with the purpose of having them come to rest within a marked scoring area. As a more generic term, it refers to the family of shuffleboard-variant games as a whole.

Woodsy Owl owl character of the U.S. Forest Service used in public awareness campaigns

Woodsy Owl is an owl icon for the United States Forest Service most famous for the motto "Give a hoot—don't pollute!" His current motto is "Lend a hand—care for the land!" Woodsy's target audience is children five to eight years of age, and he was designed to be seen as a mentor to children, providing them with information and advice to help them appreciate nature. Harold Bell of Western Publishing, along with Glen Kovar and Chuck Williams, originally created the mascot in 1970 as part of a United States Forest Service campaign to raise awareness of protecting the environment.

Scouting in Florida is composed of Boy Scout and Girl Scout local councils in Florida. Scouting in Florida has a long history, from the 1910s to the present day, serving thousands of youth in programs that suit the environment in which they live.

As the state of the hospitals declined, they fell under the Florida Department of Children and Families and underwent several name changes. Eventually, groups like the Association for Retarded Citizens stepped in and began speaking out against institutions like Sunland, which often treated its patients as "sub-human", subjecting them to a variety of treatments that were considered cruel.

As the 1970s came to an end, it soon became obvious that Sunland would not survive. Most of the centers closed down by 1980 and dispersed their patients to foster homes.

Sunland Center at Tallahassee

Sunland at Tallahassee as it stood in June 2006 Sunaldo 062.jpg
Sunland at Tallahassee as it stood in June 2006

30°27′37″N84°14′41″W / 30.46022°N 84.24467°W / 30.46022; -84.24467 (Sunland Hospital)

The Sunland Center at Tallahassee received its first 10 residents from the Orlando Sunland in March 1967. [2] The Sunland Center at Tallahassee was considered a hospital because it cared for both mentally and physically disabled patients while all other centers cared for mentally disabled patients only.

Within a year of the Center opening, it started to suffer from a shortage of funds and overcrowding conditions. These forces caused a variety of problems to form within the hospital from poor and inadequately prepared food, overcrowding of the cottages, inactivity of the children, unsanitary conditions, inadequacy of dental services, to unacceptable and torturous hygienic practices. [4] Conditions within the hospital continued to worsen causing various psychologists to call for the closing of the center. [5]

Over time, to help cover costs of various vocation and rehab programs within the state, funds were shifted away from the Sunland Centers to other programs. [6] After various scandals, lack of funds, and the move towards community care, the Sunland Center closed in 1983. [7]

The property was almost purchased in 2004 by a Winter Park businessman, but that deal fell through. [8] Over a year later, the property was finally sold for use in a housing and commercial district project, which later became the Victoria Grand Luxury Apartments.

Demolition of the hospital building and all the surrounding buildings and wooded areas started in early 2006 and was completed in November of the same year. Months later, construction began on the Victoria Grand Apartments. [9] Today, there is no sign of Sunland at Tallahassee remaining on Phillips road. However, relics from the old hospital were said to be collected and used to create part of the Sunland Asylum wing at the Terror of Tallahassee (a local haunted attraction).

A. G. Holley Hospital

A. G. Holley State Hospital (AGH) was opened in 1950 as the Southeast Florida Tuberculosis Hospital. It was originally built to serve 500 patients, with living accommodations for the physicians, nurses and administrative staff. It was the second of four state tuberculosis hospitals built in Florida between 1938 and 1952. The other hospitals have since closed. A. G. Holley was the last of the original American sanatoriums that continued to be dedicated to tuberculosis.

With the discovery of drugs to treat tuberculosis patients outside of the hospital setting, the daily census at the hospital by 1971 dropped to less than half of the original 500. By 1976 the beds and staff at A. G. Holley were reduced to serve a maximum of 150 patients. As space became available, other agencies were invited to move onto the complex to utilize the unique environment.

Tuberculosis in the United States and especially in Florida began to increase in the mid '80s. This was due to the emergence of HIV, an increase in homelessness, drug addiction, immigration from areas of high tuberculosis, the spread in institutional settings, and the spread of drug-resistant tuberculosis. [10]

As the incidence of TB declined, so did the number of beds. Although the hospital is currently licensed for 100 beds, it is only funded for 50. As the rate of tuberculosis continued to decline, the Florida Legislature felt it was no longer cost effective to run the hospital at a deficit of $10 million per year. Similar outcomes are expected by treating patients at home or in local acute care settings. The Florida legislature mandated in the 2012 session that the hospital close its doors by January 1, 2013. The Department of Health accelerated the closure by six months and the hospital closed July 2, 2012.

Demolition of the main building began on November 18, 2014.

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  1. About Sunland Center at Marianna, Agency for Persons with Disabilities
  2. 1 2 "tuberculosis Hospital Named Mental Center", St. Petersburg Times , December 7, 1966
  3. ""Tallahassee Sunland Hospital scrapbooks, 1967-1980"". State Library and Archives of Florida.
  4. 1 2 "Sunland Center Sanitation, Food Protested", St. Petersburg Times, March 11, 1967. Page 2-B.
  5. "Psychologists Urge Closing Sunland Center", St. Petersburg Times, October 8, 1968
  6. "Rehab Program Ok To July 1", The Evening Independent, March 6, 1971
  7. Cornwell, Bill. "State moving Toward More Community Care For The Retarded", St. Petersburg Times, May 10, 1983
  8. Ensley, Gerald. "Buyer backs out of $4.5 million Tallahassee, Fla., hospital deal", Tallahassee Democrat , December 9, 2004
  9. [ dead link ]
  10. ""A.G. Holley Hospital History"" (PDF). Florida Department of Health.