William Johnston, a prosperous Louisville farmer built what is considered to the areas first rural brick house in 1788, on what he called Cave Hill Farm. This name came from the nearby cave and strong stream that emanated from it. Upon Johnston’s death in 1797 the property was divided into smaller parcels, one of which contained the old brick house. Another parcel of land would also be purchased by the city of Louisville and become the location of Cave Hill Cemetery. City officials had purchased the land in the 1830’s with anticipation of railroad construction due to the close proximity of stone quarries.
Around the mid 1840’s Johnston’s house began use as the city “Pest House” for people with communicable diseases. The house with several additions continued to serve this function for several decades until the city tore it down in 1872. On the site a three-story modern “Hospital for Eruptive Diseases” was planned to replace the Pest house. This was located near what is now the Grinstead Drive entrance for Cave Hill. However, before construction was completed Louisville experienced an outbreak of yellow fever and the city quickly established a temporary hospital on the U of L Belknap Campus.
In late 1878, Louisville mayor John G, Baxter ordered the hospital converted into a maternity facility called the Forest Hill Lying-In Hospital. Six years later in 1884 the hospital was converted into an inebriate home and sanitarium and in 1886 it became a school for boys. In 1899, noted psychiatrist Dr. Barton L. Stone, former Superintendent at the Western Kentucky Asylum for the Insane, purchased the building and established a private sanatarium he named Beechurst for the treatment of patients with mental and nervous conditions. Opening in 1900 with a capacity for 40 patients, Beechurst was for those that could afford it, a more private alternative to treatment at the nearby Central Kentucky Asylum for the Insane.
Around 1906, Dr. Malcolm H. Yeaman while serving as Superintendent at Central purchased an interest in Beechurst and upon Dr. Stones retirement in 1907 resigned his position at Central and took over at Beechurst.
Yeaman served in this position until resigning 1918. In 1913, a welcoming lodge was constructed near the main entrance and is still standing today. However, with the onset of the Great Depression in the 1930s, paying patients became scarce and the Sanitarium soon closed its doors in 1935. It was demolished the following year to make way for a new road through Cave Hill.
Contributed by Jay Gravatte
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