Walla Walla Sanitarium is dedicated on June 3, 1907.

  • By Michael J. Paulus Jr.
  • Posted 5/13/2009
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 9024

On Monday, June 3, 1907, some 600 people gather in College Place to participate in the dedication of the new Walla Walla Sanitarium building. Serving as master of ceremonies is Medical Superintendent Dr. Isaac A. Dunlap. In 1899, Dunlap and his wife Maggie, a trained nurse, had set up medical treatment rooms in the basement of the Walla Walla College (now University) building.  In 1905, the Seventh-day Adventist Church closed its Mountain View Sanitarium in Spokane and opened the Walla Walla Sanitarium.  Dunlap became its director and the sanitarium quickly grew. The new sanitarium building is an old College Place public school building, which has been converted into an inviting medical facility. The sanitarium will continue to grow and expand throughout the twentieth century, moving to a new hospital building in the City of Walla Walla in 1931 and, as Walla Walla General Hospital, to a modern hospital facility in 1977.

A Healthy Advent 

In 1866, the small, three-year-old Seventh-day Adventist Church established the Western Health Reform Institute in Battle Creek, Michigan. The Seventh-day Adventist Church, which had emerged out of a mid-nineteenth century apocalyptic movement, linked its theology with health reform and, as Adventism spread throughout the United States and beyond, Adventists began setting up a network of sanitariums. These sanitariums, which soon became the largest operation of the church, provided physical examinations, therapeutic water and electric treatments, surgical treatments, a vegetarian diet, moderate outdoor exercise, and a restful place for recuperation.  

In the 1870s, a number of Adventist groups organized churches in the Pacific Northwest. Between 1893 and 1907, several of these Adventist communities started sanitariums, the first of which opened in Portland, Oregon. Adventists were also establishing schools in the Northwest, and in the 1880s academies were established in Portland and Milton, Oregon. These schools were closed and in 1892 Adventists opened one large, central school, Walla Walla College, in College Place, a few miles west of the City of Walla Walla. The college’s first business manager, Isaac A. Dunlap, left the college in 1893 to obtain medical training at the Battle Creek Sanitarium. 

Walla Walla Sanitarium and Hospital 

Dunlap and his wife, Maggie, a trained nurse, returned to College Place in 1899 and opened treatment rooms in the basement of the Walla Walla College building. The Dunlaps’ practice grew and in 1903 they erected a new building that functioned both as a house and as a private sanitarium connected with the college. After a fire destroyed Mountain View Sanitarium in Spokane in 1904, the regional governing body of the Seventh-day Adventist Church relocated their sanitarium to College Place in 1905 and renamed it the Walla Walla Sanitarium.  Under the direction of Dunlap, the sanitarium began operating on two floors of a dormitory section of the college building. 

It quickly became apparent that the sanitarium would require separate facilities, and in 1906 the church purchased the College Place public school building. The one-story building was moved next to the college building and a floor was constructed beneath it. The new building was dedicated on June 3, 1907. Some 600 were present to tour the renovated building and drink lemonade on the lawn. 

The sanitarium continued to expand and its facility was enlarged three times over the next 20 years. In 1931, the Upper Columbia Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church purchased a hospital building in the City of Walla Walla, which the city and a group of physicians had built five years earlier as part of an unsuccessful attempt to establish a hospital for the city. The Adventist hospital continued to grow and, after nearly a decade of planning, in 1977 the Walla Walla General Hospital moved into a new, modern facility.  Today, the hospital operates a 72-bed facility with a medical staff of 100 physicians.

Sources: Terrie Dopp Aamodt, Bold Venture: A History of Walla Walla College (College Place, Washington: Walla Walla College, 1992); Doug R. Johnson, Adventism on the Northwestern Frontier (Berrien Springs, Michigan: Oronoko Books, 1996); HistoryLink.org, The Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, “Walla Walla University” (by Michael J. Paulus Jr.), http://www.historylink.org/ (accessed May 2009); Claude Thurston, 60 Years of Progress: The Anniversary History of Walla Walla College (College Place, Washington: Printed by The College Press, 1952[?]); "Our History," Walla Walla General Hospital website accessed April 1, 2009 (http://www.wwgh.com/our_history.php).

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