Local History
1:29 pm
Thu March 20, 2014

Federal Center Housed Famous Americans as Army Hospital, Sanitarium

The Hart-Dole-Inouye Federal Center in Battle Creek
Credit Nancy Camden

The Hart-Dole-Inouye Federal Center building in Battle Creek is mainly serves as offices for the Defense Logistics Agency which provides supplies and services to U.S. military forces. 

The building has a colorful history and is on the National and State Register of Historic Places.

In 1928, an impressive 15 story building was added to the Battle Creek Sanitarium, a hotel-like health spa run by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg. 

The Champion Street lobby of the Federal Center
Credit Nancy Camden

The building has big, fluted pillars with Corinthian capitals on the top of them. The chandeliers and all of the interior decorations are original.

Ken MacNevin is the spokesperson in the Office of Public Affairs for the Defense Logistics Agency.

“You think of any major person in the business world and industrial world, they were people that were guests at the sanitarium--Henry Ford. Kresge. J.C. Penney," says MacNevin.

"Some of the richest men in the country and the most influential men in the business world.”

The depression hurt the sanitarium. When the army made an offer to buy the buildings, Kellogg sold, moving to a smaller building across the street.

In World War II the facility became the Percy Jones Army Hospital, housing about a thousand or more patients. Additional ambulatory patients were housed at Fort Custer.

Will Keith Kellogg and the Kellogg Foundation provide the mansion on Gull Lake as a place for soldiers to recreate but as the war went on, it also was a barracks for recovering soldiers. When the Fort Custer Hospital is added to the count, the facility was the largest U.S. Army hospital in the world.

The building is named after three wounded patients who became U.S. Senators: Philip Hart of Michigan, Robert Dole of Kansas and Daniel Inouye of Hawaii.

Dole who had lost the use of his arm and Inouye whose arm was amputated became close friends. It was at the hospital that they had decided to seek public office when recovered.

The Battle Creek Sanitarium had been a destination for the elite wealthy. When the building was a hospital during WWII, the Army was segregated but the hospitals were not. All ethnicities recuperated together.

“It was Dole that called this ‘the velvet foxhole’ because it looks very fancy,” says MacNevin. “It was velvet, maybe, but it was a foxhole because then, they went to the physical therapy room or the occupational therapy room and learned how to overcome their injuries and go back to civilian life.”