HISTORY OF TOGUS, 1866 TO THE PRESENT
In 1865, as the Civil War was drawing to a close, President Lincoln signed an act establishing the National Asylum (later changed to Home) for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. The Eastern Branch at Togus was the first of the homes to open in November 1866.
The name Togus comes from the Indian name Worromontogus, 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. He invested over $250,000 in a hotel, stables, a bowling alley, a farmhouse, a bathing house, driveways, and a race track. The resort opened in 1859 but failed to generate business during the Civil War years, closing in 1863. The resort was known locally as "Beals' Folly". Beals died shortly after this business failure and the government was able to obtain the land and buildings for $50,000. The spot was selected because of its isolation from large cities, its well-know spring, and because it was a bargain.
The first Veteran was admitted to Togus on November 10, 1866. The Veteran population of the home remained at under 400 until a building program began in 1868 which eventually provided accommodation for nearly 3000 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. The relative isolation of Togus was ended, and it became a popular excursion spot for Sunday picnics. There were 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 administering benefits to Veterans and their Dependents. Most of the buildings which make up our present facility were constructed in the decade which followed. The role of Togus changed gradually from a domiciliary or home to a full-service medical center with the greatest change occurring following World War II with the large number of returning Veterans needing 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, with a staff of approximately 975 personnel representing various disciplines, consists of 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. There are currently five community based outpatient clinics (CBOC) located throughout the state of Maine which provide needed services to Veterans in their communities. These CBOCs include Bangor, Calais, Caribou, Rumford and Saco and there are also VA Mental Health Clinics located in Bangor and Portland. Togus VA Medical Center's current structure is indicative of the VA's focus on increased out-patient health care while simultaneously 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 an organized quality assurance program where all managers are responsible for reviewing the quality of care provided, potential risks involved and overall cost effectiveness of the operation. The purpose of this review is to identify opportunities for continued improvement. The medical center is fully accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care organizations (JCAHO).
The Regional Office, serving the entire state of Maine, is located on the Togus VA campus. A staff of 180 employees provides services for Veterans and their families in compensation and pension, education and other related matters. A modern computer system provides ready access to records so that most questions from Veterans, either in person or by telephone call, can be answered quickly and accurately.
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. Of historical interest, a Medal of Honor recipient from the "Boxer Rebellion" and three "Buffalo Soldiers" rest there. Additionally, a member of the Army detachment that located and killed John Wilkes Booth is buried there.
The 1991 dedication of the clinical addition to Building 200, the medical surgical hospital, marked the completion of the largest building project undertaken at Togus since the 1930s. This four story addition provided critically needed space for outpatient treatment, clinics and support function to enable Togus to continue to serve the needs of an aging Veteran population.
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 1,300 families since it was renovated for family members and placed in operation.