Demolition of former Byron Health Center underway

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) A light fixture on the North Side of Allen County for over 100 years is being demolished. Crews began dismantling the former Byron Health Center facility just north of Carroll Road near Lima Road on Tuesday evening.

Last July, Allen County commissioners approved the installation of a fence around the facility in anticipation of demolition.

According to Byron Wellness Community website, the land on which the structure being demolished stood housed the Allen County Poor House from 1916. A tent tuberculosis hospital was built on the site which later became known as of Irene Byron Hospital. Byron worked with the Anti-Tuberculosis League and died while serving in World War I.

In 1966 the facility was licensed as a nursing home known as the Allen County Health Center, and in 1974 it was merged with Irene Byron Hospital to become the Health Center Byron which boasted a capacity of 500 beds. In the 1990s, Allen County commissioners signed an agreement allowing Recovery Health Systems to operate the facility.

Karen Lothamer was formerly a nursing assistant at Byron Health Center

Although she is now a psychiatric nurse practitioner, she will not soon forget her time there which began with her family.

“I had several family members working there myself, so it was like a family unit for us growing up,” Lothamer said. “It was hard to leave.”

And Lothamer said it was a family affair for many, as the doctors lived in houses on site.

She says she has many fond memories of the place that launched her medical career.

“Many of the nurses there made me want to become a nurse myself,” Lothamer said.

One of those fond memories was of a young nurse cleaning residents’ dentures.

Lothamer came across the young nurse cleaning a large number of dentures in a basin.

“I looked at her and said ‘how do you know who the dentures belong to’,” Lothamer said as she told the story. “She looked at me with a questioning face and said, ‘I don’t know. no, I didn’t think of that.”

She also recalled how some of the new dentures had the names of those who owned them printed inside, but others had to be determined by trial and error.

“So I had to leave a note for the day shift to see if they could figure out who the dentures belonged to,” Lothamer said. “It’s just one of those things that you think would never happen.”

In 2020, operations moved to a brand new facility on Beacon Street near Parkview Randallia Hospital. The building also served as a placement center for the Allen County Sheriff’s Department for a time.

Once the demolition is complete, the land will be sold.

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