Uplands Village Celebrates 100 Years of Service and Care

Dr. May Cravath Wharton at the groundbreaking of the Cumberland Medical Center in Crossville, Tenn., in 1950.

This story originally appeared on the Uplands’ website Aug. 15, 2021. It is reprinted here with permission. The last section is by Uplands resident Jean Nelson.

On August 4, 1921, Elizabeth Fletcher and Dr. May Cravath Wharton rented a small two-story building that formerly served as a store to a local farmer. On the top floor, they created a two-bed hospital. They called the house Sanex, and it was meant to provide medical and health care to the small mountain town of Pleasant Hill, Tenn. 

One hundred years later, Uplands Village is a thriving retirement living community that offers a full continuum of care services that extend beyond simply medical. While the Uplands community has evolved and grown over time,  it continues to remain true to its founder’s dream of being an affordable retirement and health care choice. 

The History of Uplands Village

Dr. May Cravath Wharton and her husband, the Rev. Edwin Wharton, originally arrived in Pleasant Hill, Tenn., in 1917 to become the doctor and principal at Pleasant Hill Academy. After her husband’s untimely death in 1920, Dr. May knew there was a larger purpose for her, and she decided to stay and continue to serve the people in the area. One year later, she and Elizabeth Fletcher opened Sanex. 

A year after that, Uplands Cumberland Mountain Sanatorium opened as an 8-bed hospital. The name “Uplands” came from a poem that Dr. May had seen, the line “up from the lowlands” inspiring her. Shortly after, a farm, farmhouse, cannery, laundry, storage building, and water treatment facility covered the 200 acres surrounding Uplands Cumberland Mountain Sanatorium. 

In 1937, a 30-bed TB facility was built, called the Van Dyck Tuberculosis Sanatorium. Uplands’ comprehensive medical campus was truly beginning to grow, even including houses built for workers in Pleasant Hill. 

Expanding Care Options  

After the death of Elizabeth Fletcher, Dr. Wharton realized that there was a new need that the growing Uplands campus could fill. There were many lovely sites on their land that she realized would make ideal homes for older adults. 

The climate was gentle and appealing, and costs were low so that the area would be attractive for people to retire. Considering that these adults might eventually need medical care, she conceived a plan for both assisted living and nursing homes.

Uplands Village Today

Over time, the community grew and evolved to cater to changing needs and times. In 2010, a new Wharton Homes opened, allowing the old space to be converted into what is now the wellness and aquatic center, which contain rooms for rehab patients as well as multiple pools for rehab and recreation.  

Today, Uplands Village is located on a 500-acre campus that offers a home and a life for all individuals regardless of background, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, or religious preference. Uplands has matured from a simple medical hospital to a retirement living and Life Plan Community, offering a full spectrum of care and lifestyle options, including: 

Independent Retirement Living: Dr. May was right — the area of Pleasant Hill, Tenn., is an ideal place to retire. The mild winters, temperate summers, and breathtaking springs and falls allow individuals to enjoy their retirement and explore the areas around them. Uplands’ independent living residents enjoy the ideal combination of owning a home and a welcoming community lifestyle. 

Assisted Living: The Elizabeth Fletcher House for Assisted Living is located in the center of the campus, so its residents can enjoy the comforts and amenities of the community while receiving daily support and assistance

Memory Care: Uplands’ memory care neighborhood is designed to offer support and engagement to those living with Alzheimer’s disease, something that wasn’t always openly talked about in Dr. May’s day but something that she surely would have been passionate about. 

Long-Term Care: Staying true to Dr. May’s vision, Wharton Homes long-term care offers skilled nursing and medical services to those who need them. 

Short-Term Rehab: Uplands’ state-of-the-art wellness center creates a safe space to regain confidence and independence for those following an injury or a hospital stay. We also have a large aquatic center, featuring a lap pool, a therapy pool, and a hot tub that can be used by rehab patients and other residents alike.

“A Dream Has No Dimensions” 

By Jean Nelson, Uplands resident

Starting from just one building with two beds, Uplands Village has expanded to become a sprawling retirement village complete with tree-lined neighborhoods, a fitness center, a pottery house, a tennis court, a cafe, and much more. Here, we encourage our residents to live with purpose and intention, using the Eden Alternative® approach to care and living. Some of our more active independent living residents even volunteer at Fletcher House and Wharton Homes, contributing their talents and time to their Uplands Village family. Our community is designed to help older adults find their place and purpose and simply make the world a better place. 

This year, 2021, marks 100 years since Dr. May Cravath Wharton and Elizabeth Fletcher began their health care services in that two-bed hospital, and we are proud of everything that Uplands Village has become since then. Ten decades ago, Dr. May said, “We are not even touching the hem of the garment – we must go on and continue what we set out to do because a dream has no dimensions …” We truly hope that we have maintained Dr. May’s dream and will continue to do so for another 100 years.

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