In 1928 a Milton, West Virginia farmer named Walter T. Morris had his first contact with a crippled child. His nephew was the victim of infantile paralysis due to osteomyelitis (inflammation of bone marrow) and for a while his condition seemed hopeless. After receiving treatment from Dr. Arthur Shade Jones (founding director, Huntington Orthopedic Hospital) his condition improved and he could soon walk again. Mr. Morris was so impressed and thankful for his nephew’s recovery that in 1930 he deeded his entire 200 acre farm to the Huntington Orthopedic Hospital for the care and treatment of crippled children. The hospital then formed a corporation under the name Morris Memorial Hospital for Crippled Children in honor of Mr. Morris.
For a few years the Morris home was used to house patients and in August of 1935 it was deeded to the town of Milton. Almost a year later in July of 1936 the Works Progress Administration began construction on a modern hospital building. The surrounding working farm made the Morris Hospital mostly self-sustaining. A large dairy barn housed up to 30 cows while a large garden included a variety of vegetables in addition to a 25-acre orchard with apple, cherry, and pear trees. The remaining farmland that wasn’t used for livestock pasture was used for food production that provided income for the hospital through the sale of surplus.
Since at the time water therapy was a recommended treatment to help polio victims, the hospital maintained three (two large, one small) salt water pools that were fed from a well on the grounds. Additional features of the modern building included weight rooms, whirlpools, a blood bank with lab, operating rooms, eight iron lungs, and an x-ray department. An on-site school was located in the rear section of the building to help continue children’s education. Only two classes were held in the school wing, one for grades 1-3, and the other for grades 4-8. High school courses began at Morris Memorial in 1950 and diplomas could be received through nearby Milton High School.
In 1955 a polio vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk came into use after successful field tests and Morris Memorial started to treat less patients. From it’s open in 1935 until it’s close in 1960, the hospital treated thousands of children, most of which being affected by polio. A year after closing it was leased and used as an elderly nursing home until 2009 when the doors closed for good. In May 2013 Morris Memorial was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
For a while the future of the old Morris Hospital seemed dim. Long abandoned and sadly often vandalized there were talks of demolition. Luckily in the fall of 2017 it’s fate received a much needed boost. Local businessman Jeff Hoops announced a plan to renovate the 81 year old building into a 100 room hotel. The proposed site will include indoor/outdoor pools, a conference center, wedding chapel, medical clinic, sports facilities, and a nine-hole golf course. Hoops is the founder and president of Revelation Energy LLC, a mining company based in Milton.
The following photos were taken between Fall 2015 and Summer 2017.