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 Hills Golf Course,
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.