Winchester Chest Clinic History
Sarah Winchester - A "Munificent Benefactor"
Sarah L. Pardee grew up in New Haven and married William Wirt Winchester, son of the founder of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. William died at age 43 in March 1881' a victim of Tuberculosis. The couple's infant daughter, Anne Pardee, had died 15 years earlier. The deaths devastated Sarah and left her the sole heir to a $20 million estate. In memory of her late husband, Sarah established the Winchester Fund for treatment of tuberculosis at New Haven Hospital and donated $1.8 million during her lifetime.
In 1892, Sarah moved to San Jose, Calif., purchased an eight room house on 150 acres and began to add on to it. By the time of her death in 1922, Sarah's Victorian house contained 160 rooms and was surrounded by six acres of gardens. Filled with unexplained features' it has come to be called the Winchester Mystery House.
According to the myth that has grown up around Sarah, she was convinced by a Boston medium that building would appease or confuse the evil spirits of those killed by the "Gun that Won the West". However, her attorney credited the house's size to Sarah's desire to accommodate visiting relatives. Sarah is buried far from the mystery house in Hew Haven's Evergreen Cemetery...next to her husband and daughter.
The Story of the Winchester Mystery House:
The Winchester Mystery House is a 160 room, $5,500,000 Victorian mansion that was owned, designed and built under the direct supervision of Sarah L. Winchester (Mrs. William Wirt Winchester). She was the daughter of Leonard and Sarah Burns Pardee of New Haven, Connecticut. The history begins at the height of the Civil War when Sarah Pardee met and married William Wirt Winchester, the son of the manufacturer of the famous Winchester Repeating Rifle. They had one child, Annie Pardee, who died of marasmas (Tuberculosis) about a month after birth. Then, about 15 years later, her husband died of pulmonary tuberculosis March 7, 1881).
Mrs. Winchester was deeply upset by the deaths of her husband and daughter and seems to have consulted a spiritualistic medium. Reportedly, the medium explained that the spirits of all those who had been killed by the rifles her family had manufactured, had sought their revenge by taking the lives of her loved ones. Further, these spirits had placed a curse on her and would haunt her forever. But the medium also stated that she could escape the curse by moving west, buying a house, and continuously building on it as the spirits directed. In this way, she could escape them and perhaps find the key to eternal life.
Whether Mrs. Winchester believed the medium or not is unclear. But she did move to what is now San Jose, California in 1884 and purchased an eight (8) room farmhouse from a Dr. Caldwell. She immediately began her never-ceasing building project. With a great deal of money and very few responsibilities, she satisfied her every whim and arrant notion by keeping a staff of 18-20 domestic servants, 10-22 carpenters and 12-18 gardeners and field hands constantly busy. She had no master plan for a house and according to her carpenters, built whenever, wherever, and how so-ever she pleased. As a result of the constant building, tearing down and remodeling her mansion spread like a cancer, engulfing several outlaying structures over the southeast section of her 161.919 acre estate. She built steadily - 24 hours a day for 38 years - until her death in 1922.
During the 38 years Mrs. Winchester worked on her mansion, local people would pass by the estate and would wonder at the goings on. Many would try to explain it to others, From one telling to the next, many strange stories would arise. Frequently, these stories would be recounted to Mrs. Winchester and, according to her niece, Mrs. Marian Marriott, would upset her very greatly. Many of these stories have been retold so many times, they have become part of the legend of the House. In reality, Mrs. Winchester was a very sane, although eccentric, person. If she had actually believed that she would have eternal life if she kept building, why did she leave a will? Those who worked for her usually stayed for 15 or 20 years. One carpenter stayed and worked for 36 years.
The Winchester Clinic Time Line
- 1857 - Oliver Winchester (shirt manufacturer) invested in New Haven Arms Co.
- 1866 - Winchester Repeating Arms Division opened
- 1871 - Winchester's son William Wirt Winchester is named Vice President of the rifle division
- 1881 - William Wirt Winchester died of tuberculosis
- 1909 - Sarah Winchester (William's widow) donated $500,000 in the name of William Wirt Winchester for the "care and treatment of Tuberculosis" to the Connecticut General Hospital Society
- 1918 - William Wirt Winchester Hospital (tuberculosis sanitarium) was completed in West Haven on the site of the present VA Hospital
- 1919 - The William Wirt Winchester Hospital was leased to the U.S. government as a treatment center for soldiers with tuberculosis.
- 1940's The William Wirt Winchester Hospital was again leased to the U.S. government during World War II as a station hospital.
- 1948 - The William Wirt Winchester Hospital was sold to the U.S. government
- 1954 - The Private Pavilion at the New Haven Hospital was renamed William Wirt Winchester Building.
- 1953 - Winchester Chest Clinic was started in the Howard Avenue Building (Contagious Disease Building)
- 1958 - Winchester Chest Clinic moved to LMP 5th floor
- 1978 - Renovation of LMP 5040 clinic relocated to Hunter for 1 1/2 years during renovation
- 1994 - New Winchester Chest Clinic opened at it's present location in Fitkin II