By Jean Clark
Most people associate the name Uplands with the Uplands Village in Pleasant Hill as a place of retirement. In the early years of the 20th Century, Uplands was the place where the only hospital in Cumberland County was situated. That hospital became known as Cumberland General or old General after a separate building was constructed to treat only tuberculosis patients and named Van Dyck Annex. Uplands, at that time, included the hospital, the new annex, the Homestead, Yon-side (Dr. May Wharton’s home), the farmhouse, and farm. The annex building was called Van Dyck after its donor, Mr. Edwin Morgan Van Dyck of Brooklyn, NY given in memory of his wife, Adeline, who had been a friend of Uplands for many years. It was built entirely by local labor with Howard Victry in charge and veneered with the beautiful Crab Orchard stone.
Nearly 400 enthusiastic friends took part in the ceremony of dedication in May of 1937. The audience sat in the open on improvised benches in a semi-circle around the porch until a sudden shower sent everyone inside. The program continued inside with everyone sitting on beds and floor while the speakers stood in the doorway between wards. The Rev. White of the Congregational Church directed the dedication service followed by Alice Adshead conducting a memorial service for Mrs. Van Dyck. Mr. Van Dyck and his sister were present. Representatives of TVA and the TN Tuberculosis Association spoke with concluding remarks by Dr. May Cravath Wharton. A long porch facing the woods was often occupied by TB patients in chairs or beds enjoying the fresh air of the Plateau.
Old General and Van Dyck continued their service in Pleasant Hill doing specialty work in arthritis, cardiac care, and tuberculosis after the Cumberland Medical Center was built in Crossville in 1950. All three facilities operated under the same board of directors for awhile. With the advent of new drugs, TB was on the decline in the late 1950s. In 1960, due to empty beds in the large city hospitals, Uplands was ordered to transfer their TB patients to Nashville and Knoxville. Van Dyck was not closed for long. It was completely painted and refurbished with a new dining room added. In the spring of 1961, it reopened as a “Home for the Aged,” a companion to Wharton Nursing Home where those who were more ambulatory and independent lived. Today we would call it an assisted living facility.
In 1964 Cumberland General was razed to its foundation, which was made into a sunken garden for the enjoyment of the Van Dyck residents and the rest of the retirement village. A plaque on the retaining wall honors the three women founders of the hospital; Dr. May Wharton, Alice Adshead, and Elizabeth Fletcher. In 1969 Van Dyck was converted to three efficiency apartments and 8 guest rooms, which were always filled as more and more visitors became interested in considering the retirement village. It became known as the Van Dyck House. It was a home-like building designed to serve persons who no longer desired to maintain a large apartment or house, but did not need nursing care. A game room on the lower floor attracted other Uplands residents who also often joined in for picnic suppers in the “sunken garden” that was the foundation of Cumberland General hospital. The Van Dyck residents tended vegetable and flower gardens on the grounds.
As the retirement community grew, apartments were constructed in what became known as Van Dyck Village in 1972 adjacent to Van Dyck House. Also, 12 two-bedroom apartments and 8 efficiency apartments were completed in 1979 in Heritage Village. Finally when the Fletcher House of Assisted Living was dedicated in 1984, the Van Dyck House was no longer needed. It has been boarded up to discourage vandals and stands as a monument to the dedicated medical personnel who served those on our mountain who needed specialized care not that very long ago.