Establishment of the former Army-Navy Hospital
The Army-Navy Hospital was an economic and social boon for the state of Arkansas when it was founded. It was the first hospital to have combined facilities for both U.S. Army and Navy patients. It was created due to the high demand for the use of the therapeutic mineral waters of Hot Springs, Arkansas and was ahead of the Navy Hospital Corp and the now-infamous Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
The foundation for the hospital was proposed at a dinner party hosted by former Confederate Army surgeon Dr. A. S. Garnett on the second floor of the Palace Bathhouse in Hot Springs in 1882. It was given in honor of U.S. Senator John A. Logan, a former Yankee general who had served with distinction on General Ulysses S. Grant’s staff.
The senator, who was impressed by the town’s mineral waters, vowed to introduce legislation upon his return to Washington D.C. to appropriate the land due to its “ideal location for an institution of this character”. A $100,000 funding was approved for the construction of a thirty-bed joint military hospital facility, which was the first of its kind in U.S. history. The bill was signed in 1882 by then-President Chester A. Arthur and the hospital opened its door to patients in January 1887 under the direct jurisdiction of the secretary of war. By 1957, the control of the facility was transferred to the U.S. Army.
The 1880s building was made using red brick, slate, and wood and was replaced by the early 1930s with fireproof brick and steel, which was built at an approximate cost of $1.5 million, paid for by the U.S. government. It was recognized as the leading center for dealing with arthritis for the army and became the largest center for the treatment of adults afflicted with infantile paralysis due to the therapeutic baths provided for the patients. By World War II, the hospital had treated more than 100,000 patients.
Hydro-therapy treatments provided by the hospital to its patients proved to be invaluable. Many who suffered severe wounds or loss of limbs were sent to Hot Springs for treatment after World War II. However, the high influx of patients proved too great for the then thirty-bed facility. In effect, the federal government bought the Eastman Hotel across and down the street from the main hospital and was linked to the main building via connecting ramps. This added almost triple the capacity overnight and gave the hospital badly needed space for recreational and reconditioning projects while also providing overnight family visitors a place to rest. The Arlington and the Majestic hotels happily provided accommodations for overflow soldiers that could not be accommodated by the hospital.
The Birth of the Hot Springs Rehabilitation Center
The end of World War II also signaled the end of the military era for the hospital. On April 1, 1960, the Army-Navy Hospital facility was turned over to the state and became a rehabilitation hospital. The Hot Springs Rehabilitation Hospital was born. It was a state-run, full-scale rehabilitation facility that was run by Arkansas Rehabilitation Services, one of only nine in the nation and the only one of its kind west of the Mississippi River.
People from all over the country would flock to the center for the treatment of life-long and newly-acquired disabilities and help them cope. At the time, there was a stigma for the term patient. To remove the stigma, patients were designated as students.
Students of the rehabilitation center were able to obtain rehabilitation as well as independent living skills to live independently in society. Since 1960, approximately 25,000 Arkansans with disabilities have been given treatment and were able to learn a trade that suited them. They were able to become ready to become productive members of society within six to nine months through the efforts of the 250 staff members that taught 29 various vocational disciplines.
As part of the Army and Navy General Hospital District, the Hot Springs Rehabilitation Center was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.
Conversion to the Arkansas Career Training Institute
Through the years, demand for the medical services dwindled while demand for its vocational training continued to rise. Due to the shift in demand for its services, the Hot Springs Rehabilitation Center was renamed to the Arkansas Career Training Institute to focus on vocational training. The State of Arkansas then announced the closing of the medical wing of the facility in November 2011.