The Molly Stark Sanatorium, a former tuberculosis sanatorium, stands as a historical beacon in Stark County, Ohio. Named in honor of General John Stark’s wife, the sanatorium was built to accommodate the increasing number of tuberculosis patients in the region.
History of Molly Stark Sanatorium
Stark County embarked on the journey to establish a tuberculosis sanatorium after divesting its stake in the Springfield Lake Tuberculosis Sanatorium in Summit County, Ohio. The local voters approved a $750,000 bond for the construction in 1927, leading to the creation of a 150-bed sanatorium, which received the green light from the state commission on April 27th, 1927.
Albert Thayer, a renowned architect hailing from New Castle, Pennsylvania, was commissioned to design and construct the facility. The sanatorium, costing $600,000 upon completion, offered a much-needed sanctuary for those battling tuberculosis.
A New Chapter Begins
On August 23rd, 1929, amidst the sweltering summer of the Midwest, the Molly Stark Sanatorium welcomed its first patients. The sanatorium, designed in the Spanish Revival style, featured large windows, balconies, and verandas, ensuring ample sunlight and fresh air for its residents.
The sprawling campus housed a children’s hospital, a nurses’ residence, a superintendent’s residence, and a power plant. A network of 1,200-foot tunnels beneath the property facilitated the provision of buried infrastructure, though some speculate it served a grimmer purpose – the discreet transportation of the deceased away from the hospital to maintain patient morale.
Patients requiring intensive care were accommodated on the upper floor. As their health improved, they were moved one floor lower until they reached the ground level. Patients on the lowest floor enjoyed the privilege of wandering the grounds. The second floor housed a spacious assembly room equipped with a library, radios, and a game room, fostering a sense of community among the patients.
The hospital underwent expansion, with the addition of east and west wings to house more patients, increasing its capacity from 128 to 230. Governor Frank Lausche, who had lost a brother to tuberculosis, lauded the expansion. The sanatorium’s administrator presented compelling statistics, highlighting the drop in tuberculosis deaths from 153 in 1946 to 43 in 1951, underscoring the facility’s efficiency.
As the 1950s dawned, the advent of antibiotics revolutionized the treatment of tuberculosis, reducing the demand for specialized institutions like the Molly Stark Sanatorium. In response to these changing times, the sanatorium was rechristened as Molly Stark Hospital in 1956 and began to welcome non-tuberculosis patients.
Molly Stark started offering services for individuals requiring physical rehabilitation, individuals grappling with substance abuse issues, and elderly adults in need of assistance and care. However, escalating staff resignations and a burgeoning fiscal deficit led to the hospital’s eventual closure in 1995.
Numerous proposals were considered for repurposing the sanatorium’s shell, including transforming it into apartments, an assisted living facility, or even a retail space. However, the hefty cost of over two million dollars for asbestos removal deterred most potential developers. In 2003, the county engaged a contractor to estimate the cost of refurbishing the facility, which came to a staggering ten million dollars. The fate of Molly Stark hung in the balance.
After nearly 15 years of being neglected and left to decay, October 2nd 2009, the Stark county park board made an offer of a single dollar for the hospital and its surrounding land. Now designated as a county park, $200,000 was allocated to remove harmful asbestos and resolve other environmental issues.
Hauntings and Paranormal Activity
Since its closure, the Molly Stark Sanatorium has become a hotspot for paranormal enthusiasts. Ghost hunters and thrill-seekers alike are drawn to its decaying halls, fueled by tales of spectral sightings and eerie phenomena. Stories abound of strange noises, unexplained movements, and chilling encounters, adding to the sanatorium’s haunted reputation.
Due to its history and current dilapidated state, the most recent paranormal reports come from security guards or urban explorers. We’re sure there are former hospital staff, and patients that have encountered the spirits that haunt this formidable building.
A series of eerie experiences have been reported by current and former law enforcement officers at the Molly Stark Hospital in Ohio. One man recalls a chill running down his spine when he heard the sound of a steel-frame bed being dragged across the floor of the vacant building.
Another officer was alone in the former tuberculosis clinic when he heard his name being called out by an unseen entity, freezing him in place with curiosity and fear.
Adding to the chilling atmosphere are tales of a brown-suited apparition darting across the corridors of the building, long after it had ceased operations. A local resident, also a member of law enforcement, speaks of a time when his dog howled uncontrollably at an invisible presence in a darkened hallway.
The haunting reputation of the hospital includes sounds of chains, bodiless elevators operating, and ghostly figures peering out windows.
One former sheriff’s inspector recalls working late one night when he heard his name called out. The voice was unfamiliar, and he was alone in the building. The experience sent chills up his spine, prompting him to quickly gather his belongings and leave.
Another officer reported hearing furniture moving on the floor above him while he was alone in the building. Even a police dog seemed aware of a strange presence, standing up and howling in a way it only did in that hospital.
Perhaps the most intriguing account comes from an officer who spent two nights inside the fortress to protect guns and evidence. He recalls hearing a scraping noise upstairs in the middle of the night and found a solitary bed had been moved.
During a SWAT training exercise, another officer reported seeing a man in a brown suit dart across the hallway, a sighting that coincided with rumors of a brown-suited man peering out a window.
The Sanatorium Today
Today, the Molly Stark Sanatorium stands at the center of a public park, its once bustling grounds now silent. The Stark County Park District, which owns the property, offers public tours of the exterior to satisfy public interest.
Visitors are treated to the sight of the sanatorium’s exquisite architecture, now overgrown with vines and weathered by time. Yet, the building’s haunting beauty and the lingering tales of its spectral inhabitants continue to captivate the public imagination.
Future of the Sanatorium
At the time of writing this article, the future of the Molly Stark Sanatorium remains uncertain. While development plans have been proposed, none have materialized.
The financial and logistical challenges of renovating the historic building are significant. However, the hope remains that this architectural gem can be preserved, serving as a poignant reminder of our medical history and a testament to the enduring human spirit.