Boehne Camp

This creepy structure was home to many during it's years of operation. Years of neglect has caused this to become desolate and has become a local attraction where people claim to see ghosts of those who never recovered. Haunted or not, this was the most signifigant hospital in Indiana in the battle against Tuberculosis. However historically important this structure might have been, one of the two remaining buildings is no more.

The camp as it looked when it first opened.
Courtesy of the Willard Library Archives

The hospital itself opened around 1910 back when Tuberculosis was an epidemic. Before the buildings were built, it was a tent colony where patients would basically stay outside and breathe fresh air. In 1909, the former mayor John Boehne, who was a crusader against TB, practically paid for the structure to be made. He contributed the most funding for it and even gave $1500 a year to help with maintenance. He was also a major factor in stopping the spread of Typhoid in Evansville by the creation of the waterworks station which still stands today. Before that was built, people were getting their water directly from the Ohio. I can only speculate how bad it was then because I wouldn't even swim in it now. He elected two terms but served only term (1905-1908) but he left to become a Congressman who served two terms. He died in 1946 at the age of 90. He was born in 1856.

This was entrance to the now razed Children's Hospital.
Courtesy of the Willard Library Archives
A side view of the same building.
Courtesy of the Willard Library Archives


I'm not going to get too much into it, but at this time there was no simple cure of the bacterial disease (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) and it was contagious. In fact, some states tried to pass legislation to make it illegal to spit because tuberculosis was carried in the sputum. Some women stopped wearing dresses because they were afraid that they would pick up spit and carry tuberculosis to their home. You could actually have tuberculosis in a latent form and carry the disease without any symptoms. In this case it was not contagious, but you could eventually develop the infection. When people got infected, many people were moved out to these special hospitals all over the country. These places offered restful havens for infected patients to recover. Despite what many people think, many people did actually recover from tuberculosis. Most people tend to think that these hospitals were just places to hold people until they died, but that was not always the case . If you were lucky enough to fight off the infection, you could end up staying many years.
CDC Information
History of Treatment

The most notable person, Dr. Paul Crimm, joined and became superintendent of the hospital in 1929. He is the reason that this institution became known across the midwest as one of the best TB hospitals. He actually had TB in his youth and supposedly he changed his career because of it. The main way these hospitals helped to cure people was to let them relax and breathe fresh country air. The thought behind this was that the fresh air would help cleanse the lungs of the disease. This is why the Boehne Camp was originally a tent colony. Also implemented, for those with TB infections that were not in the lungs (skin, bone, etc.) was sun bathing. Prolonged exposure to sunlight and heat was supposed to help kill off the bacteria. There were no antibiotics for tuberculosis at this time so this was how they dealt with it. If you had a strong immune system and were otherwise healthy, your body could possible fight off the infection, but that was a long process that had no guarantees. However, Dr. Crimm thought there was a faster, more effective way. In 1932, he brought a procedure called Thoracroplasty to the hospital. He was the first doctor in Indiana to use this procedure, but it was not uncommon. This procedure is basically the removal of certain ribs to collapse the parts of the lungs which are infected to stop the spread of the disease to the rest of the lungs. The amount of ribs removed would depend on how bad the infection, and it would only be performed if only a single lung was infected. This procedure worked really well. In fact, almost all patients Dr. Crimm performed this on responded to the treatment. Some of them would would be able to leave 6 months to 2 years later. However, they did not simply perform this on every patient as it was generally reserved for the more at risk people. If you were recovering on your own there was no need to rip out your ribs. Doesn't sound too bad. You loose a few ribs, but you live. Hey, we have people these days that still get ribs removed like Maryln Manson though his were removed for more recreational purposes. It was later replaced with a different procedure, Lobectomy, which is the actually removal of the infected parts of the lung. He was also the first Doctor in Indiana to use this procedure. Years later, in the 1950's, he got a mobile X-ray machine and would go around the community to test people. Many people were critical of Doctor Crimm because they thought he was just trying to fatten up his wallet, but in fact, he used all the profits to buy more equipment for the hospital. He resigned his post in 1954 to pursue his own practice but was brought back two years later. He eventually retired in 1968 after 39 years working at Boehne Camp.

This was the old doctors house and nurses residents. Presumeably Dr. Crimm lived here. It is fairly large and aesthetically pleasing. Surprisingly, the building looks almost identical today as in this picture from the early 1930's with the exception of the blurry nurses not being there, an addition on the left side, and a fire escape was added to the right side later.
Courtesy of the Willard Library Archives


In the 1940's they started to find adequate medication to help prevent or even cure this disease. This eventually lead to steady decline in the number of TB patients and by the 1960's the Boehne Camp and others had become very obsolete and unnecessary. The decision was made in 1967 to close this facility. I'm not certain, but tuberculosis responsibilities were supposed to be carried out at Deaconess Hospital. They were given 2-3 years to add a communical disease unit to their hospital. The Boehne Camp actually lost it's hospital license around 1966 and then became known as the Boehne Convalescent Center where they would treat recovering patients from other things. From 1970 until it's purchase in 1977, it was leased to Alcohol Help. One of the buildings, The Mills building, was remolded in 1972 and became Gilliam Hall, which was a resident hall for Alcohol Help. It had 30 beds. Then in 1977, a physician from the area purchased the land in hopes in turn it into a dormitory for the nearby university. That, unfortunately, fell through and he then tried to turn it into an assisted living home. One of the buildings, most likely the Mills Building/Gilliam Hall, was supposedly renovated at this time for this purpose. However, it never re-opened as the owner died in 1981. Unfortunately, nothing serious was done with the property and one of the buildings (Children's Hospital) has been razed. Fortunately I got some pictures before it's untimely demise. Click below to see it.

Enter the Children's Hospital