Submission: Sunny Acres Sanitarium (multiple)

10/4/2012 by Alice:
Some of the people posting about Sunny Acres Hospital need to talk to someone who grew up there, as my brothers and I did.  We lived at Sunny Acres from 1959 until 1977 when my mother, a registered nurse there, retired.

It’s very sad to look at the Google satellite maps and see that all of the buildings are gone, the old Administration Building, the older Spanish-style hospital wings with the fresh-air patios, the newer(!) 1955 building, the Nurses’ Residence (1930s vintage), and of course all the residences for former patients and the staff and families who lived on the grounds of the campus. 
Yes, it was great fun to walk through the tunnels or sub-basement that connected Sunny Acres to Highland View, the rehab hospital on the other side of Harvard Road.  I see from the maps that it is gone as well.
Any skeletons seen in the old buildings were probably the remains of raccoons or foxes or opossums, which were in abundance in the wooded areas surrounding the hospital buildings.  On the back road leading to the houses lived in by staff and families, one often saw deer, foxes and opossums crossing from one side of the woods to the other.  The raccoons also liked to hang out on the hospital’s loading dock to see what food trash they could steal.  
Sunny Acres was always a model hospital, whether treating tuberculosis patients, or those needing long-term skilled nursing care.

Orig. Published 8/21/04: Dirt Lawyer shares his experiences exploring Sunny Acres, and provides some fascinating historical information and anecdotes regarding the Cooley Farm site:

Although I moved to Chicago 3 years ago where I’m continuing my lifelong hobby of exploring cemeteries and abandoned sites, I am a Clevelander through and through.  I grew up in Warrensville, and would often walk from Green Road through the woods to Sunny Acres. We’d sled ride on the hill that slopes down to Richmond Road. We’d also poke around the buildings you described which, 32 years ago, were sill in use.

I just read your webmistress note on the Sunny Acres hospital. Let me fill you in a little. I played in the area you described for my entire early childhood and know it intimately. The Mayor’s aid was correct in telling you that the city hospital was torn down years ago. Sunny Acres was a county hospital. The Mayor’s aid was referring to the old Infirmary North of Harvard which was torn down in 1997. I used to play in the building as a kid. It was a beautiful building but creepy too. As an attorney I was deeply involved in the litigation over the development of the so-called Chagrin Highlands, as well as the demolition of that old hospital.

The Cooley Farm was granted to the City of Cleveland just over a century ago. It was a huge tract in excess of 1,000 acres that stretched from what is now the Van Aken intersection out to Richmond Road and took up the entire area between Harvard Road and Chagrin Blvd. The part east of Green Road also extended south of Havard. The city sold off the Beachwood portions of the tract in the late 1940’s but kept the rest. That section was along Chagrin east of Green. The Cooley site was used for a number of public projects:

Highland Cemetery,

Highland Hills Golf Course,

A reservoir,

Potter’s Field – a pauper’s cemetery on Green just north of Harvard across from the reservoir. It’s still very much in use for burying unidentified/unclaimed bodies. It has a large tan boulder in the center and you enter off Green Road via a narrow tree-lined drive. As in a prison graveyard, the gravestones are marked only by numbers. The city has records on the inhabitants of each grave.

The House of Corrections a/k/a the old men’s workhouse (now the Office Max Campus) which was a huge prison farm. As a kid we’d walk through the woods from Randallwood school and talk through the fence to the prisoners working in the fields. We’d toss over candy and cigarettes until the guards chased us away.

The women’s workhouse,a tree nursery to grow the trees that line city streets,the city infirmary (on the north side of Harvard and since torn down)

Camp Hope a/k/a Camp Forbes – where the driving range is it used to be a camp for underprivileged kids. Cuyahoga County owns most of the land east of Green and south of Harvard where Tri-C is located, also the Juvenile Detention Facility, Board of Mental Retardation, and National Guard. It’s also the site of a tubercular Sanitarium for children called Sunny Acres. Despite its Dickensian appearance, it was a model facility in its day and attracted national attention. You can see all sorts of info and photos at the county archives on Franklin Avenue. In the 1990’s the newer hospital building was still being used to treat (or warehouse) adult victims of the newer treatment-resistant TB that emerged in the 1980’s. By then it was the end of the road for these patients and far from a model facility. I think that’s finally closed now too.

Orig. Published 7/14/03:  Hallie explores the ruins of an abandoned hospital near Highland Hills, and makes a gruesome discovery…

Three years ago, I went to this hospital that I first heard about from my fiancee’s uncle.  His uncle was working in Highland Hills as a carpenter. On his lunch break he saw a old hospital.  So, he walked over and looked inside. He then decided that this would be a good place to go look around.

So the following weekend, we got our backpacks, flashlights, batteries, camcorders and cell phones and went up there.  There were 5 of us. I only know that it was across the street from a church camp that resembled a park and the eastern campus of Tri-c was right there by it too. We parked across the street (they said we could) and walked over the double lane road. There was an old police station that was very over grown.

Despite the no trespassing signs, we continued. This hospital had roofing tile that resembled adobe-style clay tiles.  The front part had maybe 5 floors of what looked like apartments.  We found dishes and clothes everywhere.  The earliest date on anything we could find was  on an electrical box inspection stamp dated 1924.

We moved on to the big old smoke stack.  Creepy as it may sound, looking in from a window, we could see an old tricycle on the concrete slab below. We eventually found our way down to the bottom floor, where we found a tunnel.  At this point, our two of our flashlights stopped working. We walked what seemed forever and came upon a old gurney with the big wire wheels on it’s side.  As we came out of the tunnel, we realized we were now in the hospital part of the building.  There, we found a cafeteria with all the equipment still there, a gymnasium filled with  beds, tables, chairs and misc. equipment. It looked as if parts of this place was getting ready for demolition  We could still read the doctors names as you come in the door.  We also found fliers on the front desk dating from the 1980’s . 

One of the most disturbing things was the skeleton of what I and one other person believed to be a baby (I have that picture).

Of all the pictures that we took,  Out of a roll of 24 exposures, I was able to get only 10 photos.   The camera back had popped open and when I tried to see if they would develop (all blank.) and I only had 10 exposures on my other camera.

As for the pictures taken by others:   there was one other camera, 3 of his pictures came out, but we found nothing on them.

Question.  Why was all that hospital equipment not sold ? Why did it look as thought everyone left in a hurry? What went on there!

Just recently, in October of last year, I tried to contact Highland Hills to see if I could legal get permission to go inside, after being told to contact numerous people who were all willing to help and even gave possible names ( “Booth Memorial” or “Sunset something or other”).   I contacted the assistant to the mayor, who said that hospital did not exist.   I firmly disagreed with him, telling him I just drove by it!   He said I was talking about the wrong place because it had been destroyed years ago.

Webmistress note:  Based on the location, the building is most likely part of what used to be the Sunny Acres Sanitarium, built in 1913.    There was also a prison farm built nearby called Cooley Farm. Part of this area is within Beachwood’s boundaries, and part of it is owned by the City of Cleveland, including an infirmary later called Highland View Hospital.  There were also smaller buildings/old farmhouses that used to serve as doctors’ residences (one of the houses was converted into a “haunted house” during Halloween in the ’80’s).  Most of the structures are gone now, with any remaining buildings on the old hospital campus slated for demolition as part of the Chagrin Highlands project.  Some political bickering resulted in the eviction of the Highland Hills police department from one of the buildings that Hallie discovered on her exploration. 

21 thoughts on “Submission: Sunny Acres Sanitarium (multiple)

  1. I’m really inspired with your writing talents and also with the layout to your blog. Is that this a paid subject or did you modify it your self? Either way keep up the nice high quality writing, it is rare to see a great blog like this one nowadays..

  2. Oh my, Sunnyacres. When I was approximately ten years old (fifty years ago) my mother took me and a group of young gals to Sunnyacres for swimming lessons! We all (as children) took one look at the de-commissioned TB hospital which it was, and were totally ‘creeped’ out. The pool, however, was very interesting. Because is was round. The place for us to change our clothes and suit up were in old un-inhabited wards with rows of empty bed. I later asked my mother why did we go to that horrible place. She said she remembered it at a child and it looked very pretty. It was not. It was a total spook house! I stuck one toe in the pool. Exclaimed that the water was too cold to swim and insisted on leaving. We left. But the memory of the place is indelible. Every county in Ohio had to have a TB Sanatorium.

  3. I am a former patient of Sunny Acres, and would like any information on how I would go about getting copies of my hospital records from the 50s

  4. The builkding north of harvard was the Highland view hospital It was be hind the police station and the county radio tower.
    The building south of harvard is Sunny Acres and had staff housing on Robert bishop Drive on the west edge of the hill. All has been torn down including the green water tower. The only thing left is the New steam plant and tunnells. When camp Cleveland was built, the huge cement pool was removed Does anyone have the pictures posted?

  5. My friends and I went about 5 times and every time we ran out because something always creeped us out. My family blames me for bringing a ghost to the house but I am not sure about that. I can tell you more.

  6. If anyone has any questions about anything related to Highland hills feel free to contact me. My father was a cop for HH from 1982 until 2008. I know everything.

  7. Went there at 15 yrs. Old to experience the tunnels…And Highland View! Security caught us! But, we were enlightened!;) … My job as a Nurse!!…

  8. I lived at Highland View Hospital, 1956 to 1961, age 5 to 10. Same, my mother was a Registered Nurse and our family lived in that clock tower building. Attended John Dewey Elementary, kindergarten to third grade. Same great experiences, past the hospital was a Nike Site where we picked wild berries, and toward Sunny Acres past the summer camp was a pond in the woods where someone had brought up a cement mixing trough that made the perfect boat

  9. My Dad worked for Highland hills police. When i was a kid in the mid 80s the station used to sit right in front of that hospital, i was scared to death of that hospital. I must admit you guys had some guts going in there, i remember my Dad telling me they used to hear screams coming from there at night and even they were scared to go in there. He always told me that there were homeless and drug atics in there. After cleveland kicked Highland hills out they moved down to the shaker house. Shortly after vandals broke into the old station and completely destroyed it.

  10. Ok so what’s the big idea about this place I’ve read over a million scary stories and this one is the same as another and I’m only twelve!

  11. My twin sister and I and our mother all spent time at Sunny Acres. because of TB
    My mother was there for 6 months, my sister and I were there a year.I do believe it was around 1950-1951. We spent Christmas there and I remember a nurse we had named Miss Lucy she was very kind. We also went to school there in a 1 room school house. When we were cured my sister and I represented the Christmas Seals we had our picture in the paper and got to light the Christmas tree at Shaker Square. When we were in Jr .High School we represented the Christmas seals along with other former patients and lit the Sterling Linder Davis tree. All of this seems just like yesterday.

    • Everything has been levelled for construction of the chagrin highlands project. Little remains to this day with the exception of some trails…

  12. Oct 6, 2016
    Wow , awesome to read the stories about Sunny Acres. While reading pics started popping in my head . My mom worked as a nurse’s aide back in the early 70’s. The place was beautiful but creepy to me. No, I could not imagine me walking around the hospital grounds at nite .Across the street was a haunted house during Halloween time. So true housing for the nurses and doctors right on the premises .

  13. I was the assistant to the Superintendent of Building and Grounds, in charge of the grounds at Sunny Acres in the early ’80’s. Really a cool place to work with all the neat historical “remnants” from the early days lying around. There was even the autopsy room left with specimens in formaldehyde filled jars lining the walls. There were all kind of tunnels and “secret” rooms around that made it even more fun to work there and explore. Very cool around Halloween!!! Its a shame that it wasn’t preserved in its state and still used. Highland View was abandoned but still standing and was very cool to explore.

  14. Lived in Sunny Acres from 1967 – 1972. My father worked for the police department (not sure if it was Warrensville Township PD or Sunny Acres) and my mother was a nurse at the hospital (again not sure if it was Highland View or Sunny Acres but it was on Robert Bishop Drive across from the housing). We lived in the housing on Robert Bishop Drive. The area was an amazing place for a kid to grow up – lots of open space to play and explore. It is very weird to look at the google images of the area and not see any sign of that time!

  15. I have a relative that was buried at the facility’s cemetery grounds. Does anyone know where it was located and if it still there?

  16. My dad used to work at Sunny Acres. He said he was an orderly. His name is Eli Miller….hopefully someone remembers him….Wondered what happened to the building…glad to come across this site..

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