Exploring Sydney’s Old Waterfall Sanitorium
Located only an hour south of Sydney, lies an abandoned building surrounded by acres of natural bushland and serene silence.
It’s the old Waterfall Sanitorium which opened in April 1909 as New South Wales’ first purpose- built Hospital for tuberculosis patients. It closed it’s doors in the 1950s and has since laid in disarray, abandoned and left to be taken back by Mother Nature.
It was purposely built next to Royal National Park, which is acres of natural landscape, as it was believed fresh air and sunshine were the best cure for TB, before antibiotics came about. Though many patients went willingly to the hospital for treatment, there were many who also went against their will.
When the hospital first opened in 1909 it housed around 180 bed, but by 1912 a new female ward for patients was build which housed an additional 120 beds.
With very little knowledge on TB in the early 1900s, many patients were shunned by society and even my their loved ones, considered to be fair to infectious for anyone to visit or be close to, those who were unable to naturally fight off the infection of TB, sadly passed away in the quite of the bush, surrounded only by doctors and nurses – no family.
As TB spread amongst the populous of Sydney and surrounding suburbs, there was massive overcrowding at the hospital, which meant many patients were moved outside to large purpose built verandas outside. Though these verandas were enclosed, it was isolating for many patients to be left outside with the elements – according to the national archives.
For the patients who had very little family, or were poor, there is also a cemetery with many unmarked graves where many family members were never claimed by loved ones.
With the success of antibiotics to treat TB and other infectious contagions, the hospital eventually ceased to operate with many staff being relocated to other hospitals across the Sydney region. All that remained were the echoing sounds of those who had passed, leaving the ghosts of the pass too forever remain hidden away in the quiet serenity of The Australian Bush.
Though the hospital is still standing, most of it is in disarray. With different stages of development from when the hospital was first built to when it closed it’s doors, the older parts of the building made from sandstone are fairly good condition and are currently being restored. Whilst the newer parts of the hospital built in the later stages of it’s life (and made from asbestos) are slowly crumbling to be taken back by the tress, grass and shrubs growing around its walls.
Due to the Asbestos factor, the entire building has been closed to the public, with high fences and security cameras monitoring the building. Which was disappointing to find when we arrived. It would have been great to walk through the halls to explore the past. But, unfortunately there was no access. Though many have been successful in the past accessing the property for some incredible photos, which I do so envy.
If you’re looking to explore this incredible abandoned location, it’s easily found in Waterfall. It’s located right next door to the current Garrawarra Centre, which is a retirement centre.
There are cameras everywhere though, so enter at your own risk. We drove through the main gates to explore and I suspect as we weren’t;t causing trouble, only walking around and taking photos, we haven’t been contacted ted by anyway for trespassing. But I need to let you know, as I don’t want to take responsibility if you decide to go and you get in trouble.
Thank you for sharing your photos brings back so many memories
My grandfather was there as a patient with TB we all had to have a needle which left a scar ( I still carry to this day )
My dad used to drill holes around different shapes of Masonite & soak cane to take on our visits to my grandfather who made some beautiful cane baskets & there was a man just inside the door who played the piano he used to let me join him so many fond memories
It was about 1953 /1954 I was about 8 or 9 years old
Thank you again
Marion Lorraine Chinn
My grandfather Eric Robert Black died there on 13th June 1922, he was only 30 at the time and he left leaving 4 Children. His wife Harriet Rosetta (Ellis) died on 25th November 1918 she was only 28 at the time I haven’t been able to find out what Harriet died of and if she was a patient there at Waterfall. If you have any information I would be gratefully if you could pass it on to me.
Hi Lorraine, I only just saw your message. What a fascinating and also very sad story. Some great information there. I did do some research on the place before I went there. It was a while ago, I will track down what I had and send across to you and hopefully it will help you track down some information.
Both my Grandparents are buried in the same plot at Woronora Cemetery, I have since placed a small memorial on the grave site. Any information on my grandparents or even photos would be appreciated.
I worked as a nurse for 10 years in the 60’s Back then it was a beautiful place. I live in Griffith NSW now but last week came back to Wollongong for few days. So I made a visit to Garrawarra Hospital. It has change so much Brought back so many memories. Wasn’t allowed to look around. Wanted to see the nurses home where I lived. Boy did we have fun living there. I knew abt the old cemetery way back in the 60’s, group of us nurses use to go for walks around reading the head stones. Have look at some photos on line and can recognise some of the buildings. I still have my photos taken back in those days mostly staff and patients on the wards.
Thanks for showing your photos
Hi, thanks for taking these shots. My grandmother was a patient there around 1939, 1940 when she had TB. I beieve she was there for about 12 months. I took my mum there to have a look last year but we only went to the beautiful sandstone gates. I took some similar photos of those gates. Wish I’d risked going in to get more photos so really appreciate finding these on you site. Many thanks.
Thank you so much for your response. How wonderful I was able to share my experience with you when I visited, and how amazing that you could share you real life story of your family history about the place also. If you’d like to shoot me your email at email@example.com I wold be more than happy to send across a variety of photos I took there, which aren’t published on my site.