Oak Knoll Naval Base hospital imploded


It was one of those "you had to be there moments" that Capt. Joanne Fritch would not miss this. She was at the Oak Knoll Naval Hospital on and off from 1972 to 1996, when it closed.

"My insides were shaking. Like watching something you love go away permanently. I feel teary now. It meant so many things to so many people," he said.

Lynn Oakleaf is a Vietnam vet. His son was born at the hospital.

"He was born here in 1985. It was cold as hell winter; let me tell you, November. It was even cold in the hospital to stay there," she said.

The hospital opened in 1968 and it served medical personnel throughout different conflicts. It was a huge training facility and when the base closed, the empty building began to attract the homeless who started moving in. Then in 2005, SunCal Developments bought the property.

The plan was to have 960 homes, commercial space and several parks. But in 2008 SunCal's main partner Lehman Brothers went bankrupt.

SunCal is still looking for a partner. In the meantime, the demolition plans had to be carried out and they placed 800 pounds of dynamite on five levels.

Steve Luehe started out as a patient and later worked at the hospital.

"We built good organizations here and trained a lot of good people. You hate to see it go. A lot of good memories," he said.

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