How Asheville Literally Saved Hundreds of Lives
Posted On Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Every town has it's dirty little secrets - the kind that only the locals know. Some are so obvious, they've left scars on the buildings that hold them, prompting anyone who sees it to ask for it's story. But sometimes there are more subtle marks left behind by the past. In a place like Asheville there are plenty of both, the trick is to find them an uncover their stories.
Once Upon a Time...
There was a doctor named William Banks Meacham who was a visionary in his time. Osteopathy is a treatment for various diseases that uses noninvasive techniques to strengthen the skeletal system. Dr. Meacham was one of the few doctors of his time to view the method at valid, let alone practice it. Dr Meacham especially thought it had a lot of potential in relation to treatment for tuberculosis. In 1912 he built Ottari Sanitarium (a residential treatment facility), specializing in treating tb. Asheville already had a reputation as a resort destination for the ailing. Eleven years later (in 1923) Otari was so popular, 23 rooms were added. This brought the facility up to 40 bedrooms, 35 baths and 30 porches. Along with an expansion came an external renovation. The porches were enclosed, the entire exterior was stuccoed and the roof was converted to a missionary style. However, six years later (in 1929) when the stock market crashed, Dr. Meacham lost everything, including Ottari.
Where is it Now?
By 1937 Ottari was given to the city of Asheville and converted into 33 apartments. It was purchased by Harry Culter Coburn and the name was consequently changed to Coburn Apartments. Though Harry died in 1948, the property remained in the family until 2002, when it was bought by Denise and Bill Palas who continue to own and operate it as a private apartment complex to this day.
And that is the honest truth of how Asheville saved hundreds of lives and contributed to making one of the most tragic diseases of it's time all but obsolete.
Image of Coburn Appartments courtesy of cardcow.com