A HISTORY OF TOGUS 1866-PRESENT (From VA Website, History of Togus)
In 1865 near end of the Civil War, President Lincoln signed an act creating the National Asylum (later changed to Home) for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. The Eastern Branch at Togus, Maine was the first of the new homes to open in November 1866. The name “Togus” comes from the Native American name Worromongtogus, which means “mineral water”.
The Togus property was originally a summer resort known as Togus Springs. It was owned and operated by Horace Beals, a wealthy granite merchant from Rockland, Maine who hoped to establish a second “Saratoga Springs” type resort. He spent more than $250,000 on a hotel, stables, bowling alley, farmhouse, bathing house, race track and driveways. The resort opened in 1859 but failed during the Civil War and closed in 1863. Beals died shortly after this business failure and the government bought the land and buildings for $50,000.
The first veteran was admitted to Togus on November 10, 1866. The veteran population of the home remained under 400 until a building program began in 1868 which provided housing 3,000 veterans. The home was organized much like a military camp with the men living in barracks and wearing modified Army uniforms. Although a 100 bed hospital was completed in 1870, medical care at the home was limited, even by the standards of the day.
In 1890, a narrow gauge railroad from the Kennebec River in Randolph and an electric trolley line from Augusta were completed and Togus became a popular excursion spot for Sunday picnics. There were frequent band concerts, a zoo, a hotel and a theater which brought shows directly from Broadway.
Togus became a Veterans Administration facility following the Consolidation Act of July 1930 which joined all agencies providing benefits to veterans and their dependents. Most buildings which make up our present facility were constructed in the following decade. Togus’ role gradually changed from a domiciliary or home to a full-service medical center with the greatest change occurring after World War II due to the large number of returning veterans requiring medical care.
In 1989, VA was designated a cabinet-level agency and became the Department of Veterans Affairs. Today, onboard Togus VA campus is a Medical Center, a Regional Office and a National Cemetery. The Medical Center, has a staff of over 1,050 personnel representing various disciplines. It has 67 in-patient beds and 100 beds in the Nursing Home Care Units which provide for long-term care as well as Alzheimer’s/ dementia. Currently there are six community based outpatient clinics (CBOC) located throughout Maine and provide local services to veterans. These CBOCs include Bangor, Calais, Caribou, Lincoln, Rumford and Saco and there are also VA Mental Health Clinics in Bangor and Portland. Togus VA Medical Center’s current structure shows the VA’s focus on increased outpatient health care while also raising overall quality indicators.
Togus VA staff have a strong commitment to provide the highest quality care in the most economical manner possible. To do this, they have a quality assurance program where managers are responsible for reviewing the quality of care provided, potential risks and cost effectiveness. The purpose of this review is to identify opportunities for continued improvement. The medical center is fully accredited by the Joint Commission.
The Regional Office, serving the entire state of Maine, is located on the Togus VA campus and provides services for veterans and their families in compensation and pension and other non-medical benefits.
The National Cemetery, the only national cemetery in Maine, is now inactive but well-kept and is the final resting place for 5,373 veterans from the War of 1812 through the Korean War. It was first opened in 1867 and was closed to new burials in 1961. Togus National Cemetery
In 2000, the Beals House opened to provide temporary no-cost accommodations for families of in-patient Togus veterans. A former on-campus home for senior VA staff, it was donated to the non-profit agency which now operates it. It has served more than 1,800 families since it was renovated for family members and placed in operation.
This is the building where my father will most likely spend the remainder of his life. I went to visit him today on the 150th Anniversary of the founding of this hospital. It was a beautiful day to be in Maine, 72 degrees, sunny with a slight breeze, and I brought him outside for the festivities. There was a parade, a BBQ and hundreds of veterans, their family’s and staff. I think he really enjoyed the parade, and he saluted every veteran that went by.
There were antique cars and trucks, restored Army Jeeps and even solderers on horseback.
I think his favorite parts were the Harley’s and the service dogs.
After the parade we went to have lunch. No problem with his appetite! 1/4 of a chicken, baked potato and 2 hot dogs! Even I couldn’t eat that much and I outweigh him by 100 lbs!
I think he had a good time, but he’s fading fast. The drugs he needs to stay calm due to his dementia and PTSD have a sad effect. His mental acuity and concentration are very low and he gets distracted very easy. He may not remember much a few hours later, but I got to spend some time with him and at least for a little while, he was smiling. I’m sorry this happened to you Dad, but I’m trying my best to make your last time on this earth as comfortable as possible. I hope you know we all love you.