Barlow Respiratory Hospital | Los Angeles Conservancy
Photo by Adrian Scott Fine/L.A. Conservancy

Barlow Respiratory Hospital

Barlow Respiratory Hospital was established in 1902 as a tuberculosis sanatorium, and its bucolic setting with fresh air and open space was a key element of treatment.

The twenty-five-acre hillside campus contained administrative and medical offices; patient bungalows with sleeping porches; dining, laundry, and recreational facilities; and workshops for occupational therapy.

The picturesque campus reflected early twentieth century attitudes toward public health and the American West, including the belief that the environment played an important role in patient welfare. 

Philanthropy was a central tenant of Barlow Hospital's operations. Through the generous support of individuals and foundations, the hospital provided equal care to all patients, regardless of financial circumstances. Because tuberculosis was widespread in the first half of the century, it elicited heightened fear and prejudice among the broader population, leaving patients particularly vulnerable. 

Located in the Elysian Valley, the site has thirty-two separate “contributing” (historic) buildings dating from 1902 to 1952, mostly in the Craftsman and Spanish Colonial Revival styles. It has been recognized as Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument #504, and a historic resources evaluation in 1992 found the site eligible for listing as a National Register historic district.

One of those historic buildings, Birge Hall, found new life in the midst of the HIV/AIDS crisis as the Charlie Brownlie AIDS Hospice. A haven for patients with no other alternatives, the hospice opened in the former nurses' dormitory. 

When the twenty-five bed facility opened in December of 1988, it doubled the number of beds available to uninsured AIDS patients in Los Angeles County.

Much like its early history as a refuge for those with tuberculosis, Barlow Hospital's AIDS-era operations gave dignity to patients with a stigmatized disease.

The clinic's founders, the AIDS Hospice Foundation, began as an advocacy organization fighting California's Proposition 64 (1986). The ballot measure would have listed AIDS as a communicable disease, which AIDS activists argued opened the door for mandatory screenings and even quarantine. 

Photo by Larry Underhill

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Photo from L.A. Conservancy archives

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