By Denise Hight
Healthcare has always been a top priority of Fruita’s residents. Fruita’s first hospital was opened on South Mesa Street by Dr. James M.G. Beard after he arrived in Fruita in 1895. The hospital was located approximately where the Fruita Thrift Shop stands today. It was for men only, however, and closed when Dr. Beard died in 1912. In 1914 a practical nurse, Hattie Sayles, opened a new hospital, Cloverlawn Sanitarium, at the southeast corner of North Coulson Street and West Pabor Avenue, but it was for women only. There is no visible reminder today that it ever served as a hospital, and the building is a private residence.
It wasn’t until 1922 when Dr. James S. Orr bought the Graidene Hotel on South Elm Street that Fruita got a full-service hospital. Dr. Orr closed the hotel, formed the Fruita Community Hospital Association to raise funds, and re-opened the former hotel as the Fruita Community Hospital. The new hospital served Fruita well for more than twenty years, but by the mid-1940s the Lower Valley needed a modern, state-of-the art hospital to serve the existing population and attract new residents to the area.
In July 1946 the Lower Valley Hospital Association was incorporated. The LVHA Board of Directors took over operation of the existing hospital and started planning and raising funds for a new hospital. Construction of the hospital began in October 1950, and the twenty-five-bed, twenty-eight-room Lower Valley Hospital opened in 1951 on West Pabor Avenue. The former Fruita Community Hospital was closed, and is currently a private residence.
In the 1980s the Lower Valley Hospital Association became known as Family Health West and expanded its health care services to include long-term care for the elderly. Family Health West’s elder care facilities today include Independence Village, the Oaks, and the Willows. In 2009, Family Health West opened Colorado Canyons Hospital and Medical Center, a 40,000-square-foot, sixteen-bed hospital, on Ottley Street, and in 2017 and 2018, they expanded the hospital to twenty-five beds.
As Fruita’s population continues to increase, so does Fruita’s patient care needs. Colorado Canyons Hospital is currently undergoing a 20,000 square foot expansion through the addition of a second story that will include an outpatient adult rehabilitation center and a pain management specialist center. The expansion will be completed in 2019. For more information, go to fhw.org.
Photos provided by the Lower Valley Heritage Chapter.