The complex of buildings that comprise the Battle Creek Federal Center were built between 1886 and 1945. These buildings are associated with several different periods of significance.
The Seventh-day Adventist church founded the institution in 1886 as the Western Health Reform Institute. In 1876, John Harvey Kellogg, M.D., was made the physician in chief of the institute, a post he would hold for the rest of his life. In 1878, Kellogg changed the name of the institute to the medical and surgical sanitarium. Sanitarium was a word he made up to represent his philosophy of preventative medicine, or biological living.
The Sanitarium prospered under Dr. Kellogg's direction. The original building was expanded in 1876 and a new structure, "Old Main," was completed and dedicated on April 10, 1878. Major structural expansions were made to the south end of Old Main in 1884 and to the north end in 1891. In 1897, the Sanitarium became independent from the Seventh-day Adventist church. It was thus free from certain philosophic restrictions as well as the financial protection of the larger body. A series of disastrous fires burned many of the buildings including Old Main on February 1902.
Dr. Kellogg, with the help of his brother W.K. Kellogg, immediately started a new structure, which was completed at the same location and dedicated on May 31, 1903. The six-story building was built for approximately $1 million. In its day, prominent architects considered the building to be an "ideal hospital design."
Following a period of growth in the late 1920's, the Sanitarium board of directors, headed by Charles Stewart, M.D., decided to build a 14-story addition, known as the "towers addition", to accommodate an increasing clientele. Construction was started in 1927 and completed in 1928. Various factors, not the least of which was the Great Depression, turned the new addition into a milestone. Debt forced the Sanitarium into receivership in 1933. They came out of receivership in 1938 with a reorganized management, which is said to have had little sympathy for Kellogg's philosophy.
By May 1942, the Sanitarium's board of directors decided to sell the main buildings of the Sanitarium to the United States Army. $2,250,00 was agreed upon as the price, more than enough money for the Sanitarium to retire its debt. The Army assumed ownership of the former Sanitarium buildings on August 1, 1942. The Army immediately set about "to adjust the main buildings to the Army's needs." The renovation was completed and the facility was activated as a 1,500-bed hospital on January 15, 1943. The hospital was named from Col. Percy Lancelot Jones who had been an Army surgeon in the Spanish-American War, the Mexican Campaign and World War I. Jones organized what was called the first mobile medical treatment in military history. Percy Jones General Hospital was dedicated at a formal ceremony on February 22, 1943. The first patients were transferred from the Fort Custer Hospital. Within a month, the first actual combat casualties began arriving by hospital trains.
The hospital grew as the flow of casualties continued to increase. Not only was there new construction on site, but a convalescent center was added at Gull lake and the Fort Custer Reception Center for use by patients on "casual duty." By 1945 Percy Jones General Hospital had become the largest U.S. Army medical installation. Following V-J Day in 1945, the hospital population peaked with 11,427 patients assigned to its three sites.
V-J Day did not mark the end of Percy Jones General Hospital, although the number of patients did begin to decrease. In 1948 there were still about 50 patients hospitalized with war wounds, as well as 1,00 with peacetime injuries.
Percy Jones General Hospital was one of 18 medical facilities closed in an economy move by the Department of Defense on June 30, 1950. Ironically, this was only a few days after hostilities broke out in Korea. Percy Jones Hospital was reactivated on December 4, 1950 as the Percy Jones Army Hospital, with 1,600 beds. Percy Jones Army Hospital closed its doors for the last time in November 1953. Over 78,000 patients had been treated during World War II and 16,5000 more during the Korean War. Over the years, the hospital had a major influence on the local community. Battle Creek became the first city in American to install wheel chair ramps in its sidewalks because of the number of patients who wanted to go downtown. Many citizens became volunteers at the hospital and numerous patients settled in the community after the convalescence.
The loss of the hospital created a void in the City of Battle Creek, a void which was filled when the decision was made to move the national offices of the Federal Civil Defense Agency from Washington, D.C. and the Staff College of the National Civil Defense Training Agency at Olney, Maryland, to Battle Creek. The former hospital was again remodeled, this time to prepare America for the possibility of an atomic attack. It planned and coordinated volunteer technical services, public education, health and welfare services, shelters, attack warning and communications. Also in 1954 the General Services Administration (GSA) began managing buildings for the U.S. government.
The Percy Jones Hospital and Civil Defense agencies were each sole occupants of the buildings. In 1959, GSA began utilizing all the space of the facility by opening it to other federal organizations. To mark this new era, the name of the facility was changed to The Battle Creek Federal Center. By 1962, 28 different organizations were housed here, ranging in size from one to hundreds of employees.
Despite the numerous tenants, the departure of OCDM, the successor agency of the FCDA, in 1962 left a gap in Battle Creek. Two organizations, the Sixth Corps of the U.S. Fifth Army and the Defense Logistics Services Center (DLSC), were transferred to the Battle Creek Federal Center in 1962. Although the Sixth Corps eventually left in 1968, the DLSC remains as a principal tenant of the facility along the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service (DRMS) and the Air Force's Cataloging and Standardization Center (CASC).
Building 6 was constructed in 1886 as the pump station for the original Sanitarium building complex. It remains as the oldest building on the grounds today, however, the installation of aluminum siding disguises its historic character. The structure also served the Army's Percy Jones General Hospital complex in the 1940's and 1950's, and later became part of the Battle Creek Federal Center complex. The building still functions as the pumping station and water purification facility.
The historical significance of the Federal Center has been officially recognized. In 1974, Buildings 2, 2A, 2B, and 2C, the main sanitarium structures, were listed in the National Register of Historic Places. In 1989, Buildings 1 and 1A, the "towers addition" were placed on the City of Battle Creek and the State of Michigan Registers of historic Places. A historic marker was installed at the corner of Champion and Washington Streets in May 1990.