Cresson TB Sanatorium Remembered
Newspaper 21

The following article, written by Kathy Mellott,  was published in the Johnstown Tribune Democrat on Saturday, October 2, 2010.    Click the following link to go to the newspaper website:


Reunion for Cresson patients moved up

CRESSON — As their hair grows grayer and joints stiffer, former patients and employees of the Cresson Sanitorium have decided to accelerate plans to hold a reunion.

Chuck Felton, a retired aerospace engineer now living in Texas, spent 16 months at what was fondly referred to as “The San.”

He is leading the initiative to hold a reunion and rather than wait for three years, until 2013, to celebrate the 100th year since the sanitorium was opened, it will be held next year.

The facility was operated for more than 50 years by the state Department of Health to treat tuberculosis. It was located on the Summit outside Cresson.

“This is an older group, so we decided the sooner the better,” Felton said.

Plans are under way to hold the reunion Aug. 6 and 7, in Cresson.

The San was one of three state-owned facilities to operate for many decades to treat and attempt to cure TB, which was a significant health concern in the United States for many years.

The San was closed in the mid-1960s after the illness, once called “consumption,” was all but eradicated in this country with the breakthrough of antibiotics strong enough to attack the organism.

Located in Cresson Township, the sprawling facility was converted by the state to the Cresson State School and Hospital.

The name was later changed to the Cresson Center, said Etta Albright, a retired registered nurse who worked at the facility and initiated the idea of a reunion.

“This is about closure and recognition of the people and how they responded to the challenge of the illness,” Albright of Cresson said last week.

“It’s wonderful how some of them thrived and never lost sight, never lost hope.”

“They are an inspiration to others.”

While records from the San, stored in Harrisburg, were destroyed by a flood in 1972, estimates are that tens of thousands of people were treated at the facility.

About three decades ago the facility was converted into the State Correctional Institute-Cresson, a move that has created a glitch for the former San people who hoped to go back to the site.

“We wanted to visit the chapel. We know that’s still there, but the request was turned down,” Felton said.

He understands the state Department of Corrections’ concerns about security and is developing alternatives.

Plans still in the works are to hold a dinner Aug. 6 at the Cresson American Legion with a service of remembrance on Aug. 7 at the Union Cemetery.

Located off Admiral Peary Highway, the cemetery was where many of those who died at the sanitorium, and whose remains were not claimed by family, were buried in unmarked graves.

A monument remembering the unknown numbers is located at one end of the cemetery.

Felton said the interest in a reunion is growing, prompting former residents and employees of the Mont Alto and Hamburg sanitoriums seeking to be part of the Cresson remembrance.

The invitation is being opened to anyone from those facilities who want to attend in Cresson, Felton said.

“They asked if they could attend the San reunion and of course I said yes,” Felton said. “As with the military, it doesn’t matter which branch you served in, you’re still a vet.”

Felton can be reached at (830) 751-2312 or through his website at: www.felton design- sanatoriumremembered/id125.html.