Dr. James J. Terrill founded the Timberlawn Sanitarium in 1917 outside of the Dallas city limits on “eleven acres of orchard, garden and grove land” as described at the time by The Dallas Morning News. The spacious grounds were thought to facilitate patient improvement from psychiatric conditions. Included on the site was a large two-story neo-classical style house with an attic which was converted into the sanitarium according to the newspaper.
At first, Timberlawn operated completely out of the former house, with Dr. Terrill and his family living on the first floor and rooms for up to fifteen patients on the upper two floors. By 1925, the facility had expanded to fifty beds with the conversion of the original building into the Women’s Building, and new structures erected for a physician’s residence, a Men’s Building, and a cottage for patients. The 1960s marked the beginning of another expansion period with the 1959 formation of the Timberlawn Foundation for Education and Research in Psychiatry. An activities building and a new patient wing were added in 1962, followed by a research building in 1967 with a library, biochemical and behavioral laboratories, and administrative offices. By 1986, the facility’s capacity expanded to over 220 with more housing added.
For many years, Timberlawn was a highly regarded facility for care and research, and added locations outside its Dallas facility. The system came under scrutiny in the late 2000s with allegations of inadequate staffing and poor care. With the escalating problems and pending regulation compliance the facility was closed in February of 2018. The fate of the site is unclear as it could be sold and the buildings torn down for new development erasing the history of the site and its role in caring for psychiatric patients since the early 1900s.
UPDATE: The buildings on the Timberlawn site were demolished in 2019.