The Infirmary was one of the eight buildings from the Nelles-era to remain on the Nelles School site after the campus was modernized by the California Youth Authority in the 1950s. It was one of the several buildings added to the complex during or just following Fred C. Nelles’ tenure as superintendent, intended to fulfill the progressive ideals of reform for the school and to focus more on the needs of each individual ward. The hospital’s human scale and single-story profile reflected Nelles’ desire for the school facilities to create a campus environment that inspired a sense of community, which it was believed would in turn help the wards rehabilitate their lives. The Infirmary was a small hospital that provided vital healthcare services, and was a hub of activity for the wards at the school during its use.
The Infirmary was a Tudor Revival-style building with a steeply pitched gable roof covered in red terra cotta barrel-tile. A false central chimney served as a vent. The building was finished with cement plaster siding. A steeply pitched cross gable emphasized the entrances on the broad east and west elevations. The building was originally situated on a circular drive, oriented to the west. However, the east elevation became the primary elevation when a parking lot was added to the east side of the building in around 1950. In 1936 a sun-porch was added to the south facade of the building.
The entrance door (original) was made of large wooden planks and rivets. The west façade was further embellished with a bay window providing natural light to the reception room, and twelve (12) circular tile vents in the center of the upper portion of the gable. The east entrance, which became the main entrance in the 1950s, had a plain gable with a door case mirroring the one on the west façade, however the door was made of glass panes rather than solid wood. The east gable also had twelve (12) circular vents in the center of the upper portion of the gable.
On the interior, an asbestos tile floor was added to replace the original tile floor, as well as metal doors, radiators for heat, a dropped ceiling in the hallway, and fluorescent lighting.
The interior of the building retained its original layout with a central hallway, the primary north-south axis, slightly bent at an angle, and patient care rooms on either side. There was also a dentistry room, operating room, pharmacy, and offices. In the shorter, southern arm of the building were thirteen (13) single-patient rooms and one full-bathroom with separate washing tub and shower. Each patient room had two casement windows with square glass lights, a toilet, and sink. In the longer, northern arm was the reception area with a beamed ceiling, bordered on the southeast by a drug storage room and a clothing storage room, and on the northwest by three more single-patient rooms and a doctor’s locker room with lockers, shower, and toilet. On the northern side of the corridor, opposite the reception room was the waiting room, which connected to the southeast to the dispensary, physician’s room, nurse’s room and diet kitchen. To the northwest, the waiting room led to the dentist’s room and lab. Beyond the lab there were two additional single-patient rooms and a half-bathroom with small marble hall. At the very end of the north corridor was the small operating room with large plate glass bay window to provide natural light in the space. The operating room connected to the sterilizing room with sink and a large closet. The sterilizing room connected to a hall, which led back to the north corridor.
Historical Landscape Design
Historical photographs of the Infirmary showed the landscape around the hospital was modest and small trees and shrubs were sparsely planted around the perimeter of the elevations. A wide parking area half the width of the east elevation was improved in front of the primary entrance on the west elevation. From the west elevation, a curved footpath led from the primary entrance on the west elevation to the former road that bisected the open space between the Infirmary and Kitchen and Commissary (Chapels and Training Center). As described in the overall site record, the Infirmary and Kitchen and Commissary (Chapels and Training Center) shared views provided by the open space between the buildings.
For more historical information, including more building specifics, floor plans, and photos, download the HABS Report and reference page 249.
Date of Erection
Constructed between 1923 and 1928
Deputy Chief W.K Daniels
Builder, Supplier, & Contractors
The Division of Architecture at the State of California Department of Public Works
The Infirmary Building was a primarily rectangular building, with a slight bend in the center, creating an obtuse angle. The overall dimensions were approximately 165’ long by 35’ wide.
The Infirmary’s foundation included concrete piers, and a subterranean heater room, as well as a crawl space with drainage trenches beneath the building.
The Infirmary’s exterior walls were covered with cement plaster.
Structural System & Framing
The Infirmary’s structural system consisted of exterior reinforced concrete-framed bearing walls.
Porches, Stoops, Balconies & Bulkheads
There were no porches, balconies, or bulkheads. There was a small brick stoop laid in a basket-weave pattern in front of the west entrance door.
Asbestos tiles were added to replace the original linoleum floor found throughout the corridors and rooms. The original flooring in the operating room, sterilizing room, doctor’s room, and bath were tile.
Walls & Ceiling Finish
Interior partitions were solid plaster over metal lath with cement base. The ceiling was altered with new ceiling tiles.
Decorative Features & Trim
Multiple built-in cabinets were found throughout the infirmary, including one in the former kitchen. Other than the cabinets, there did not appear to be many decorative features in the Building.
Many of the original doors that remained retained their original hardware including hinges, door pulls, and door knobs. Many of the original bathroom fixtures remained, including the sink and toilet in the doctors’ room, next to the operating room.