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Latham Hospital demolished over safety concerns

Latham Hospital demolished over safety concerns

July 10th, 2019 by Liz Morales in Local News

<p>Liz Morales/For the News Tribune</p><p>Demolition of the Finke Home and Latham Sanitarium began the morning of July 8.</p>

After 122 years of standing at 107 E. South St. in California, the Latham Hospital and Finke Home have been demolished.

Landon Worthey bought the facility with Kenny Branham in 2017 and had no plans for what to do with the structure initially. Two years after making the $11,600 purchase, Worthey said the time was now for the old hospital to come down.

"It's been needing to come down for years," Worthey said. "It was in very bad shape. When we bought it, it wasn't even salvageable and we weren't able to get into it."

Inclement weather did not help matters.

"It just got worse after the bad winters and springs we've been getting," he said. "So it just needed to come down before somebody got hurt."

The Finke Home was originally built around 1880 by Henry C. Finke, a Prussian immigrant who traveled to America in 1840. During his life, Finke became the first president of the German Evangelical Church in California, served on the first school board and helped to put through the first California public school. He was elected to the California City Council four times in three decades.

Finke lived in the home until his death in 1895. In 1918, the property was sold to William Heist, who sold it to Dr. Logan Lancaster Latham in 1926.

The Latham Sanitarium was then constructed in an L-shape from the back of the Finke Home. It was decided to build the sanitarium in California, instead of Latham, due to the proximity of the railroad and because Latham was not yet equipped with electricity.

The sanitarium housed 33 patient rooms, and the entire basement acted as a modern laundry room with its own hot water plant. Two 40-square-foot steam baths were divided for private patient use, and the reception room was 20-by-40 feet. The dining room could serve 40 patients at once. The operating room, which saw the birth of many California residents, was 16-by-28 feet.

Originally, Latham Hospital did not take contagious or infectious diseases. This made the hospital a prime site for local births. The first birth the sanitarium saw was Raymond Glenn Morrow in 1926.

During the July 8 demolition, area residents watched the bricks and wood fall.

"I'm sorry to see it come down," said Leah McNay, of Jamestown, who was born at the hospital. "I really hoped they could have turned it into a museum. It has a lot of history, though. And my kids have always gotten a lot of razzing knowing that I was born in a sanitarium."

Another California resident who was born in the Latham Sanitarium was police clerk Kathy Roll.

"I heard about it coming down today," she said. "I know a lot of people were born there, but it's been used for other things since then. Maybe now they can make a park out of it. I think that would be the perfect spot for a nice park."

Worthey said he wholly respects the opinions of the town.

"I would have loved to keep it, but the house needed way more work, and the hospital got so neglected, what with the mold and everything that got in there," he said. "There was really nothing we could do."

Worthey said some of the finer pieces of architecture such as a wooden staircase were salvaged and are "now being enjoyed somewhere else."

"So not all the wood work has gone to waste," he said.

As for the future of the half-block section of South Street, Worthey said he has no plans.

"I still own the land, yeah," he said. "I have no idea what we're going to do with it, though. If someone wants to buy it, they're more than welcome to."