Demolition of former Byron Health Center underway

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) A fixture on Allen County’s north side for more than 100 years is in the process of being demolished. Crews began the tear down of the former Byron Health Center facility located just north of Carroll Road off of Lima Road Tuesday evening.

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

According to the Byron Wellness Community website, the land the structure being demolished sits on was home to the Allen County Poor House beginning in 1916. An anti-tuberculosis tent hospital was constructed on the site which later became known as Irene Byron Hospital. Byron worked with the Anti-Tuberculosis League and died while serving in World War I.

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

Karen Lothamer was once a nurse’s assistant at the Byron Health Center

While now she’s a psychiatric nurse practitioner, she won’t soon forget her time there that started with her family. 

“I myself had several family members that worked there so it felt 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 doctors lived in homes that were located on-site.

She says she has a lot of fond memories of the place that jump-started her medical career.

“Several of the nurses there made me interested in becoming a nurse myself,” Lothamer said.

One of those fond memories involved a younger nurse who was cleaning the dentures of the residents.

Lothamer walked in on the younger nurse cleaning a large number of dentures in one basin.

“I looked at her and said ‘how do you know whose dentures are whose,’” Lothamer said recounting the story. “She looked at me with questioning face and said ‘I don’t know, I didn’t think about that.’”

She also recalled how some of the newer dentures had the names of those who owned them printed inside of them, but the others would have to be figured out by trial and error.

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

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

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