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  • Writer's pictureHeather Comeault

Tranquille Sanatorium: Hospital turned haunted

Located in the southern-central part of British Columbia sits the vibrant city of Kamloops; the second largest city in BC's interior. This four-season playground is home to some of the best sports facilities, parks, and agriculture in all the province, so it's no wonder visitors come from all over to experience Kamloops for themselves.

Aside from all the mainstream tourism that draws people into the city, another type of tourism lives underground. Commonly known as urban exploring, Kamloops, BC draws explorers from all over the province and country hoping to experience this abandoned wonder for themselves. West of Kamloops on the outskirts of the city, lives a collection of abandoned buildings famously known as the Tranquille Sanatorium.

Main Building at the Tranquille Sanatorium in Kamloops, BC
Tranquille Sanatorium Main Building

While this massive piece of land currently sits in limbo with possible plans to re-develop the area into a resort or housing development, the grounds itself are private property and remain cordoned off to the public. However, tours in the past have given explorers an up close in-person opportunity to see this magnificent wonder for themselves. To truly appreciate the history and beauty of these decaying buildings, we need to go back to the beginning of where it all started.

After the colonization of British Columbia in 1866, tuberculosis began to ravage its way across the country. At the time tuberculosis was the leading cause of death among Canadians, and was rapidly spreading with no end in sight. Needless to say, many people recognized that something needed to be done to contain this growing epidemic.

In the 1890's, a group of ranches owned by William Fortune and Charles Cooney, had allowed those suffering with tuberculosis to live among the cabins and tents on the property and provide for themselves as long as possible. However, it wasn't long until the government stepped in to try and mediate this growing problem. In January of 1904, the British Columbia Anti-Tuberculosis Society held its first meeting to discuss plans to build an isolated tuberculosis hospital.

Sage Hospital Building at the Tranquille Sanatorium in Kamloops, BC
Tranquille Sanatorium Sage Hospital Building

After extensive planning and raising funds for the facility, in 1905, the organization was able to acquire 600 acres, plus buildings from Mr. William Fortune, along with a lease for an additional 2,000 acres from the Dominion Government. Shortly after, plans were in place to begin relocating infected patients to the newly designated area.

On November 28, 1907 the tuberculosis hospital opened and was officially named The King Edward Memorial Sanatorium. Patients and staff were housed in the pre-existing buildings, but an almost constant demand for expansion meant the need for more space, and quickly. By 1910, the hospital was able to accommodate almost 50 patients, 4 nurses, and 12 attendants.

The hospital remained under operations by the British Columbia Anti-Tuberculosis Society until 1921 when the provincial government formally took over management. The hospital was renamed Tranquille Sanatorium. In 1922, the government had also acquired the neighboring 700 acre property of Mr. Charles Cooney to begin expansion on the sanatorium.

Tranquille Sanatorium Administration Building
Tranquille Sanatorium Administration Building

By 1932, the Tranquille Sanatorium was able to house over 600 patients and staff, and was operating as a fully-functioning and self-sustaining community. Equipped with its own gardens, orchards, and animals, the farm was able to produce a surplus of materials, allowing for trades and sales with local producers.

Over 40 buildings covered this vast area of land including 5 hospitals which were referred to as the Main Building, the Greaves Building, the Infirmary, and the East and West Pavilion. In addition to the hospitals, other buildings included housing for staff and nurses, an industrial sized kitchen, laundry, fire hall, and several cottages.

Greaves building at the Tranquille Sanatorium in Kamloops, BC
Tranquille Sanatorium Greaves Building Front

Underground, a sophisticated tunnel system connected each building together. These tunnels were used for transporting food and laundry between buildings, as well as allowing for staff and patients to travel between. Specific areas of the tunnel system also became used as a temporary morgue to house dead bodies as well.

With its structure and size, the Tranquille Sanatorium was able to care for hundreds of patients over the years with a specialized focus on self-care. While most hospitals focused on housing the sick and dying, the Tranquille Sanatorium took a different approach. By trying to provide a well-rounded wellness regimen that included a strict diet, plenty of rest, and fresh air, patients and staff were seeing an increase in the overall quality of life.

Tranquille Sanatorium Greaves Building Rear
Tranquille Sanatorium Greaves Building Rear

Despite the rumors, the Tranquille Sanatorium became a thriving community for so many people and provided a level of care that was rarely seen anywhere else. By 1957 however, a cure for tuberculosis had been introduced to the public and the spread of this deadly disease drastically decreased, leaving the Tranquille Sanatorium to no longer be needed. In 1958, the Tranquille Sanatorium officially closed its doors.

For some time, the Sanatorium sat empty and abandoned, but that didn't last long. In 1959, the hospital re-opened under the Tranquille Institution as a psychiatric facility to house mentally ill patients. Helping the relieve the overcrowding at Woodlands and Essondale (formally known as Riverview Hospital), the Tranquille Institution operated until 1983, when it abruptly shut down after a 3 week long protest, citing concerns over the overall patient care.

After its closure, the Tranquille Institution was briefly used as a detention center for juvenile offenders until the early 1990's when it closed one final time. In the years to follow, the Tranquille Sanatorium and Institution remained unoccupied and closed off to the outside world until it was ultimately bought out by an investor hoping to turn the area into a theme park known as "Padova City". These dreams however, were short lived when the owner was unable to make the mortgage payments and defaulted on the property.

Art commissioned in 1993 for "Padova City"
Art commissioned in 1993 for "Padova City"

Today, the Tranquille Sanatorium and its surrounding land is owned by Tim McLeod with his business Ignition Tranquille Developments. Over the last few years, the land has been allowed for use by Tranquille Farm Fresh to operates as a farm and tourist destination, offering tours to visitors in the past. Currently, the land and buildings remain untouched and continue to degrade over time adding to the spooky and haunted look of the yard. Plans to redevelop the site are in the works, and this magnificent piece of history may not be standing for much longer.

The Tranquille Sanatorium is considered to be one of Canada's most haunted places, and its not hard to imagine why. With a history as deep as this, its no wonder you might suspect some ghosts to still be roaming the halls and trapped in the tunnels. Stories passed down, rumors shared, and interests piqued continue to make this place one of BC's greatest abandoned wonders.

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