Hometown Haunt - The History

See the old smoke rising 'round the bend,
I reckon that she knows she's gonna meet a friend,
Folks around these parts get the time o' day
From the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe.

In 1900 a piece of property covering nearly four acres on the east side of Hollenbeck Park was purchased by the The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway Company, to construct a full service hospital for their employees or anyone suffering an injury due to their railroad.

Boyle Heights was one of Los Angeles’ first suburbs, first being developed in the late 1870s, populated mainly by Russian, Jewish and Japanese immigrants. With the construction of a horse car line, a cable car line, and finally, electric street car lines, it became a desirable place to build large mansions, with fresh air and a great view of Los Angeles from the heights above the east bank of the Los Angeles River. The development of picturesque Hollenbeck Park with its lake made that area especially attractive.

In December of 1905 the beautiful new hospital was completed - built and equipped at an expense of $147,000.

"So complete and unique are the automatic features of the new hospital that it will not be strange if all who enter therein for treatment are healed automatically," announced a 1904 newspaper article.

From a newspaper article that appeared in 1916 - I suggest you read it carefully:

Making a most beautiful home for those who are sick and injured while in the service, with the privilege of a fine park to be enjoyed by convalescents. Amid such delightful surroundings, and with every care and attention by skilled hands, no wonder the occupants of the various wards cheerfully battle back to health and strength. In February, 1914, an annex to the hospital was completed. This contains a laundry in the basement, beautiful recreation rooms on the first floor and a dormitory on the second floor for the help. An exceptionally well appointed operating room, complete in every detail, is a feature of the Los Angeles Hospital, and the layout of the building, as to the location of the Wards, nurses' quarters, dining-room, etc. is excellent. One section of the building is devoted to Mexicans, who receive the same tender care as do their English speaking co-laborers. They have attractive quarters with a pleasing outlook, and there usually is a full quota around the table in their private dining-room.

Unbelieveable..and yet, not.

Near the hospital one spies a number of tents, heated, lighted and furnished for the comfort of those suffering from tuberculosis. And then we notice that the hospital has its own Jersey cows, a nice flock of chickens and a well cultivated gardens, so that patients may be assured of the freshest milk, butter, eggs, poultry and vegetables. Attached to the staff of the hospital association is a full corps of specialists in every line, which enables members to secure the very best medical and surgical skill without extra expense. This staff is selected from the most prominent physicians and surgeons in the City of Los Angeles

The hospital remained quite unchanged, save for a complete remodeling in 1937, until the advent of the postwar freeway building frenzy. The Santa Ana Freeway cut through the Heights above the Los Angeles River, while the Golden State Freeway cut right through Boyle Heights. Hollenbeck Park was no longer picturesque or peaceful and its lake was a place to dump corpses. It was, however, a great place for gangs to hang out and for people to shoot up drugs. Santa Fe Hospital Association members began to complain about having to go to the hospital on St. Louis Street. 1969, the Santa Fe Memorial Hospital Corporation was formed as a non-profit entity and purchased the hospital from the Santa Fe Coast Lines Hospital Association. It was about this time that the hospital got a name change - to Linda Vista Community Hospital.

An account from an employee who worked as a nurse in the mid to late 70’s stated that much of the main hospital was unused and had restricted access by this time. She said sometimes when it was slow she would coax a security guard to take her into these areas of the hospital and described them as resembling something out of a mad scientist, Boris Karloff movie. Filthy, aged and falling to ruins with tons of apothecary type jars containing bizarre samples and preserved body parts. She also said that during this era and into the 80’s the Mental Health Services building had been converted into temporary housing for families of long term stay patients.

Early on in the 80's the emergency room was shut down - contrary to rumors, mostly propagated by a popular TV show, Linda Vista did not get a lot of gang victims dying here for this reason, they were taken to another hospital. It is much more likely the most frequently seen patients here were from the massive nursing home facility, Hollenbeck Palms.

I found another unverified account from a gentleman who claimed to be the Associate Administrator of Linda Vista in the late 80's just prior to its closing. He said that, "...many of the deaths were caused by ineptness of the staff. I recall one instance when an elderly patient died between shifts and was just placed in a dirty linen closet until she turned very ripe and the smell made them take her out." Of course this is all heresay...for now. We have keys to the records room and will be looking for verification of this person's employment in the coming weeks.

Next up - The "Ghosts" Of Linda Vista


Please note - If you are researching this location I have a great deal of information that would be quite relevant, including photographs, that I have omitted from this entry. I have also made a documentary on the subject that regularly screens at Linda Vista. Feel free to contact me if you are interested. If you use any of my research, please, PLEASE credit - I am the Official Historian for Linda Vista - thank you.

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