History of the Hart-Dole-Inouye Federal Center

The Hart-Dole-Inouye Federal Center has a rich history in the city of Battle Creek, Michigan. In the 135 years since its first opening, the building has been utilized not only as a Government building, but a Sanitarium for wellness, and an Army Hospital.

The Sanitarium Era

Battle Creek Sanitarium, circa 1878-1902

Dr. John Harvey Kellogg built his first Battle Creek Sanitarium on this site in 1878. He came up with word "sanitarium" to reflect his ideas of a sanitary retreat "where people learn to stay well". The "San" made Battle Creek the biggest small city in the world for health reform. Dr. Kellogg combined "wellness" cornerstones - nutrition, hydrotherapy, exercise and fresh air - into a fashionable and successful spa. His brother Will Keith (W.K.), joined as his bookkeeper and business manager in 1880, and according to various reports, their collaboration in the basement of the San created the first flaked wheat and corn cereal products for guests at the world famous health establishment, making Battle Creek, MI home to the modern cereal industry.

Dr. Kellogg's medical treatment embraced all branches of medicine, including surgery, but with emphasis on fresh air, sunshine, exercise, rest and diet. Seventh Day Adventist based dietary practices at the San eliminated meats, condiments, spices, alcohol, chocolate, coffee and tea. Nutritious substitutes were created for "harmful" foods. Dr. Kellogg invented some 80 grain and nut products. Among them, he is said to have originated peanut butter in 1893 by grinding cooked peanuts in the kitchens at the San and creating the first Battle Creek health food, granola, in 1878.

The famous doctor was absorbed with running his "spa". He spent his time editing magazines, authoring and publishing books, traveling, inventing medical equipment, creating health foods, lecturing, administering his Battle Creek College, operating his numerous business enterprises and performing as a highly skilled physician and surgeon.

Fire destroyed the original wooden buildings on February 18, 1902. Undaunted, Dr. Kellogg drew up new plans for a six story Italian Renaissance style structure. Little more than a year later, the new edifice was dedicated. A further addition was made with the construction of the $3million "Towers" in 1928, becoming Battle Creek's first skyscraper at 15 stories. This new addition helped the San take its place among the world's most opulent buildings.

Inside, beauty prevailed and elegance was apparent. Some of the most noticeable features included a spacious central Grand Lobby with an ornamental ceiling and several large, leaded-glass windows. It also had a solarium; a large chapel; parlor; J.H. Kellogg designed posture chairs throughout; up to 60 staff doctor's offices on the first floor; patients rooms on the second, third, fourth and fifth floors. On the top floor were modern kitchens and a grand banquet hall dubbed the Dining Room in the Trees, with hand-painted ceiling murals and beautiful views of the countryside or downtown Battle Creek from every window

.Battle Creek Sanitarium, Washington Street Lobby

Directly through the central grand lobby, to the rear of the main building, was the glass-domed, 60 by 40 foot, semi-circular Palm Garden Room, displaying a rockery, fountain waterfall, fish pond, exotic tropical plants, palm trees, a 20-foot fruit bearing banana tree, citrus trees and a spectacular rubber tree that reached to the ceiling.

The Venetian dining room was topped by a 15,000 square foot, red-tiled, outdoor "Sun Garden" promenade deck for exercise formations and social gatherings. In addition there were indoor and outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts; a separate Union Building with a large recreation center and gymnasium used for exercises, square dancing and games, with bowling alley and a billiard room; a creamery building for processing milk products; a huge laundry - the largest in Michigan at that time; a modernized power and heating plant; and its own private water wells with a pumping and water softening plant. Not far away, the San operated its own farms, greenhouses, vegetable gardens, orchards and dairy barns.

The originally ascetic San became quite plush. Operating at the height of its fame, it accommodated more than 1,250 patients with a staff of 1,800 at any one time in both buildings. More than 400,000 guests from all parts of the world visited the San. Many guests were famous. President William Howard Taft was the 100,000 guest to be registered. Although he had visited the San many times before , Henry Ford was the first guest to be registered in the Towers building. Other guests included Eleanor Roosevelt, J.C. Penney, and Amelia Earhart.

In 1929, the stock market crashed, and the Great Depression spread across the nation. The obvious happened: a heavy debt and high operating costs, minus the wealthy patients who could afford treatment, plus new cheap drugs like insulin, equaled bankruptcy. By 1933, the San went into receivership and Dr. Kellogg's role was diminished.

Yet, Dr. Kellogg and his continued to be recognized around the world. In February 1942, the governor declared February 26th "John Harvey Kellogg Day" in Michigan. The buildings were sold to the US Army later that year and Dr. Kellogg died December 14, 1943 at the age of 91.


The Percy Jones Era

Soldiers receive letters from home while patients at Percy Jones Hospital

The "plush foxhole" became the largest regional medical center in the U.S. In 1942, the Army renamed the building Percy Jones General Hospital.

By 1945, it had become a 1,500 bed center for amputations, neurosurgery, plastic surgery, deep X-Ray therapy, fitting of artificial eyes and limbs, and rehabilitation for service members wounded during World War II.

Following V-J Day (victory over Japan) in 1945, the hospital population peaked with 11,427 patients assigned to its three area sites. In one month alone, 729 operations were performed in the facility.

Military Wedding. It wasn't uncommon for soldiers to marry the nurses who cared for them.

The hospital complex functioned like a city within itself. It had its own water supply, electrical facility, bank, post office, radio station "KPJ" and Percy Jones Institute, and accredited high school with more than 20 schools for various subjects ranging from photography to business to agriculture. The recuperating service members got lots of attention; celebrity and entertainer visits were common, a single day bringing more than 2,000 visitors, and patients sometimes married their nurses. In November 1953, Percy Jones Hospital closed for the last time and the buildings remained unoccupied for several months. It had treated more than 78,000 patients during World War II and 16,500 during the Korean War.


The Logistics Era

In 1959, the building was opened to federal organizations and became the Battle Creek Federal Center. Just three short years later, 28 different organizations had offices here like the U.S. Postal Service, IRS, FBI, Social Security Administration and Department of Agriculture.

Today the building houses tenants of the Defense Logistics Agency and General Services Administration.

In 2003, the building was renamed the Hart-Dole-Inouye Federal Center, and was named for three Senators who had also been served as patients during the Percy Jones era - the late U.S. Senator Philip Hart (D-Michigan), retired U.S. Senator Robert Dole (R-Kansas), and the late U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii).

The Battle Creek Sanitarium was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.