Cresson TB Sanatorium Remembered
1950'S HISTORY OF CRESSON SANATORIUM
following booklet entitled "History of Cresson Sanatorium" was obtained from two separate sources
First, a photocopy was obtained from the Cambria County Historical Society whose website is located
at http://www.cambriacountyhistorical.com/gallery.htm . ) My thanks to Kathy Jones
for her help and cooperation in obtaining a copy of the material.
Second, former san nurse Helen Jones sent me
an original copy of the booklet in Juy 2012. She discovered the booklet while going through some boxes she brought with
her from Pennsylvania in 1962 when she moved to Rialto, Ca. The scanned images of the pages are below. Helen has
graciously agreed to donate the booklet to the Cresson Area Historical Association.
is somewhat of a mystery as it is unsigned, so the auther is unknown. There is also no explaination as to why or for
what purpose it was written. To make the mystery complete, it is also not dated. However, there are some clues
as to the date. The latest date mentioned in the writeup itself is 1952. In addition, the name of the sanatorium
was changed to the Lawrence Flick State Hospital in December of 1956, which is not mentioned. So it very likely
was written between 1952 and 1956. The writeup is as follows:
HISTORY OF CRESSON SANATORIUM
Cresson State Tuberculosis Sanatorium occupies a tract of five hundred acres
on the summit of Cresson Mountain, a short distance east of the borough of Cresson. It is on the very crest of the Allleghanies,
on the divide which separates the waters that flow to the Gulf of Mexico by way of the Mississippi and its tributaries, and
those that flow eastward by way of the Juanita, the Susquehanna and Chesapeake Bay, that which falls on the west side to the
Mississippi. The altitude is approximately 2600 feet.
The land on which the sanatorium stands was donated to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for a
consideration of one dollar by Andrew Carnegie, who had bought it with the intention of building there a home for his mother.
The death of his mother led to the abandonment of the idea of building.
Dr. Samuel G. Dixon, Commissioner of Health in Pennsylvania from the creation of the Department
of Health in 1905, until his death in 1919, had been traveling over western Pennsylvania looking for a suitable site for a
sanatorium to serve the western part of the state. Three possible sites had been selected, one of them the land on which
the sanatorium now stands. When approached by Dr. Dixon as to his willingness to sell the land to the state, Mr. Carnegie
stated that if the Pennsylvania Department of Health would put a tuberculosis sanatorium on the land, he would gladly donate
it for that purpose. The land therefore passed to the state under an Act of Legislation at a cost of one dollar.
Dr. Dixon himself furnished the ground plan of the building, and the architect simply elaborated
the general scheme. In building the sanatorium, a departure was made from what was then considered good practice, in
that it was so planned that a majority of the beds would be in hospital wards rather than in outlying cottages. It was
at that time believed that tuberculosis could best be treated under camp conditions. The cottages build for Men's Camp
and Women's Camp were so placed as to insure a maximum of sunlight and air for every room of every cottage.
Dr. Dixon's wisdom and foresight in the early days of the sanatorium gave it a good start, and
from that day to this, it has continued to grow and increase its facilities for the care of the tuberculous, ever keeping
pace with the progress of medical science.
Since the dawn of history, the tubercle bacillus has preyed upon mankind.
References to the disease which we now know as pulmonary tuberculosis are to be found in the writings of physicians and philosophers
throughout the ages, and the treatment of the disease has changed with the years. Many years ago, when the disease was
commonly known as "consumption", it was the practice of the physician to recommend that the patient take long walks and in
some instances chop a chord or two of wood each day.
The institutional care of tuberculosis patients had its inception in this country when Dr. Edward
L. Trudeau opened "The Little Red Cabin" at Saranac Lake in 1884. This was the acorn out of which grew Adirondack Cottage
Sanatorium, the progenitor of more than seven hundred sanatoria in the United States, of which Cresson Sanatorium is one of
the largest and best known.
Before this era, tuberculosis was thought to be incurable. After the tubercle bacillus
was identified, it was possible to make earlier diagnosis and to substantiate them by finding the germ in the sputum.
Cresson Sanatorium has kept abreast of the times in the treatment of the
disease, and when a new form of treatment, or a new antibiotic has been proved safe for human use, this institution
is one of the first to institute its use.
The basis of the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis is still rest-physical and mental.
This form of treatment was discovered many years ago by Dr. Trudeau, a victim on the disease himself. However, despite
long continued periods of rest for tuberculosis patients, the tubercle bacillus continued to take a high toll of victims,
and the outlook for the moderately advanced and far advanced case remained very grave. The introduction of collapse
therapy brought new hope to the physician and patient, a hope which has grown steadily brighter during the past twenty-five
years, as this new science developed and later was reinforced by powerful auxiliaries, thoracic surgery and the new
It has been said that the introduction of collapse therapy into the treatment of tuberculosis
constitutes the greatest advance in the study of the disease since the discovery of the tubercle bacillus by Robert Koch in
The various forms of collapse therapy have been in use at Cresson Sanatorium as an adjunct
to bedrest, and patients have also had the benefit of major chest surgery.
Previous to Jan. 5, 1950, the patients were transferred to Hamburg State Sanatorium, Philadelphia,
Pittsburgh and Altoona hospitals for major chest surgery, but this is no longer necessary, and now every type of chest surgery
is performed in a new and modern surgical unit on the Sanatorium grounds by a competent thoracic surgeon.
For centuries, physicians have been dreaming of a drug which would cure tuberculosis.
A number of drugs have been used experimentally for brief periods and abandoned as useless or toxic. The development
of each new group of anti-bacterial drugs leads inevitably to its trial in tuberculosis.
Streptomycin, one of the antibiotics in use against tuberculosis, has been
prescribed for patients at Cresson Sanatorium since 1947. Its most spectacular value has been found in cases of laryngeal
tuberculosis, tracheobronchial tuberculosis and meningeal tuberculosis. Many of these cases, with a hopeless diagnosis,
have been converted into one in which there is hope for recovery. Streptomycin has also been found to be very beneficial
in the recovery of patients following major chest surgery.
One of the chief disadvantages in the use of streptomycin is that over a period of time, the
tubercle bacilli become resistant to the drug and its continued administration ceases to be effective.
Para-aminosalicylic acid, another of the antibiotics, is used with streptomycin and has been
found to keep the streptomycin more effective for a long period of time.
In the early part of 1952, the latest antibiotic, Isonicotinic Acid Hydrazide, was made known
to the public. Following approval by the Pure Food and Drug Laws, it was made available for Cresson Sanatorium patients.
It is too soon to know the end results of its use in the treatment of tuberculosis.
During the time a patient is under treatment at the Sanatorium, he may develop other illnesses
which require treatment or operations. The Sanatorium Medical Staff is supplemented by a large group of consultants
who are all specialists in their particular branch of medicine or surgery, and they are called to the Sanatorium to treat
patients when necessity arises. Most of these consultants come from either Altoona or Johnstown. One Johnstown
physician, in particular, has been making weekly visits to the Sanatorium for the past ten years, and another from Altoona
for about the same length of time.
In order that the patient's mind may be at rest while he is being treated for tuberculosis,
and that personal and family problems created by his illness and hospitalization may be alleviated, a medical social worker
was added to the Staff in February 1950. Through interviewing and counseling, she aides patients in working out solutions
to their problems, and plans in close coordination with social agencies in the patient's home communities, including the State
Clinics, family and children's agencies, veterans' organizations, and Boards of Public Assistance.
An Occupational Therapy Department was established in February 1951, with the appointment of
a trained occupational therapist. Occupational therapy is a treatment media used in conjunction with medical therapy
and rehabilitation. Patients at Cresson Sanatorium have always done some occupational therapy on their own
such as fancy work, leather and costume jewelry. Under the guidance of the trained therapist, a complete department
has been organized, whereby all patients having permission from their doctor, may participate in all types of handicrafts
as a tryout period to vocational training. The department is used also for work tolerance exercise. Ward patients
are contacted daily for individual instruction in various arts and crafts.
Each year, many patients are discharged with medical consent from the Sanatorium. Persons
with a history of tuberculosis often have difficulty in making proper vocational adjustments. A number of patients are
physically able to return to their former jobs, but others are unable to do so because the jobs are too strenuous or are otherwise
unsuitable. In this latter group are the ones who need to be rehabilitated.
A Rehabilitation Department was established at Cresson Sanatorium on September 1, 1950, with
the appointment of a Vocational Counselor with a degree in psychology. The principle function of this Department is
to restore the patients to the fullest vocational and economic usefulness of which they are capable. The Counselor administers
psychometric tests to the patients to find out the vocation for which they are best suited. Several months before the
patient is ready to be discharged, the Counselor refers his case to the Pennsylvania Bureau of Rehabilitation for assistance
in arranging training at a school or job placement.
A Vocational Training School on the grounds, where patients may begin their training while still
convalescing, was inaugurated in October 1950. Patients are taught commercial and high school subjects. Patients
whose high school work was interrupted because of illness, and who are unable to attend the Sanatorium school, receive bedside
Rehabilitation is not a new subject at Cresson Sanatorium. Dating from the early 1929's,
many patients have been rehabilitated within the Sanatorium and are now holding some of the key positions. Some of the
first patients to be rehabilitated were young women whose tuberssulosis was arrested and who were trained at the Sanatorium
to be practical nurses. These classes began in August 1919, and some of the first graduates are still employed on the
The Nurses' Training School was reorganized in 1949 and the services of a full-time instructor
were obtained. A one year course is offered. The school affiliates with the Rosalia Foundling and Maternity Hospital
in Pittsburgh, giving the students ten weeks of training in obstetrics, formula room and pediatrics.
Cresson Sanatorium had been gradually transformed from a Sanatorium, where at one time the only
treatment was rest, to a busy tuberculosis hospital, where all the ills of the patient, in addition to his tuberculosis, are
That this is true was made evident in November 1948, when full approval was given by the American
College of Surgeons and the American Medical Association.
Five medical directors have guided the destiny of the Sanatorium since its opening in 1912.
Dr. William G. Turnbull, who has been conducting the State Tuberculosis Clinic in the Frankford district of Philadelphia,
was the first Medical Director, serving until 1923, when he was appointed Deputy Secretary of Health. While Dr. Turnbull
was in the service, during World War I, Dr. M. E. Cowan, Chief of the Medical Staff, served as acting Medical Director.
In 1923, Dr. Thomas H. A. Stites, who had served as Medical Director of Hamburg Sanatorium from
its opening in 1914 until 1920 and who had previously served seven years as Medical Inspector of Dispensaries, was appointed
to the post, serving until 1935, and again from 1939 to 1943. Dr. Louis A. Wasner of Johnstown, was appointed Medical
Director in 1935, and served until 1939.
In 1943, Dr. B. Franklin Royer, who had served as Deputy Commissioner of Health, under Dr. Dixon,
and, after Dr. Dixon's death, as acting Commissioner of Health, became Medical Director. Upon Dr. Royer's retirement
in 1947, the present Medical Director, Dr, Harry W. Weest, of Altoona, who had previously served as Secretary of Health, was
appointed to the position.
The first patients were admitted to the Sanatorium in 1912. The buildings at that time
comprised the present administration and dining buildings, a hospital wing (East Wing) with connecting corridors, twenty cottages
and four open pavilions, power house, barn and poultry house. As construction work was not completed, it was necessary
to house the first patients in the present kitchens and dining rooms, but by June of 1913, cottages and wards were completed
and in service.
The water supply was for many years a problem. It was finally solved by purchasing from
the Pennsylvania Railroad Company. Water is pumped to the Sanatorium reservoirs from a larger reservoir belonging to
the Railroad Company. As the number of diesel engines increased, less water is needed by the Railroad Company, and the
Sanatorium is doubly sure of a plentiful supply.
West Wing, the present men's hospital, was added to the Sanatorium in 1915 and 1916. At
the same time, an addition was made to the dining building, thus giving more kitchen and dining space, as well as additional
quarters for nurses, who occupied the second floor of this building. At this time, too, a residence was built for the
Medical Director, who had been occupying a cottage on the Mountain House Gds. near Cresson. A chapel had been erected
in 1914. Five more cottages were added to Men's Camp in 1921. Other construction during this period included a
"playhouse" where the children could play indoors in bad weather, schoolhouses, garage, a large hall where entertainments
were held, a separate building with a capacity of 122 beds for children. In 1931, the barn was remodeled and made into
a dormitory for non-patient male employees. Work was started on the children's playhouse in the late 1930's, converting
it into the present Surgery.
World War II put a stop to construction, and plans for new buildings had
to be laid aside until the end of the war. As soon as material was again available, work was started on two cottages
for doctors, two new units to house patients, a nurse's home, an addition to the chapel, and an addition to the power plant.
The doctors' cottages were ready for occupancy in 1949, the units and nurse's home in the summer of 1950.
Children's Department (Unit 3) was closed in August 1950, and the large modern building which
they occupied was converted into a hospital suitable for adults.
Alterations were made in 1951 to four large wards in the men's hospital, converting them into
rooms and small wards.
An addition was made to the Administration Building during 1951 and 1952, providing on the first
floor a large conference room for the medical staff, office quarters for the business manager, and a staff office for the
doctors. The second floor provides a large recreation room for the doctors and their families, and a reading room for
the doctors. The new quarters were placed in use in August 1952.
A Medical Service Unit was opened for occupancy in October 1952. The new Unit, which adjoins
J and K wards, houses the X-ray Department, Laboratory, Clinical Laboratory, Pharmacy, Dental Clinic, Ear, Nose and Throat
Clinic, Orthopedic Clinic, and other important Clinics, including an Out-patient Department.
So vital is the part played by x-rays in the diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis that today
a sanatorium without x-ray equipment would be unthinkable. In 1912, the x-ray had not come into wide use, and Cresson
Sanatorium functioned without benefit of x-rays for several years.
Records show the first purchase of x-ray equipment to have taken place in 1921. The equipment
was installed in a room about 13' by 15' on the second floor of the East Wing. A supply closet was made into a
darkroom. This first equipment, a Keleket Mobile X-ray machine, non-shockproof, cost about nine hundred dollars, and
was elaborate for the time.
In 1929, this equipment was replaced by equipment of the latest type, and more floor space was
added to the x-ray room. Five years later, the x-ray department was moved to larger quarters on the second floor of
the West Wing, occupying what is now the "W" ward lavatory and dressing room, and new equipment was again obtained.
A control and generator more suitable for the fluctuating line voltage from the Sanatorium power plant were installed.
In 1939, the department moved to quarters on the West Wing basement, thus doubling the
amount of floor space. A new radiographic table was installed, and all the equipment in the radiographic room was made
shockproof. At the same time, a mobile x-ray machine was acquired, so that, when necessary, patients may be x-rayed
without being moved from their beds.
The latest improvements were made in 1950, when Pennsylvania Electric Company power was made
available direct to the x-ray department. A new generator and control of greater capacity than any other previous equipment
were purchased. The equipment in use today was installed at a cost of nearly twenty-five thousand dollars.
An additional x-ray department was installed in Unit Number Three, formerly Children's Home,
now in use as a hospital for adults. The main x-ray department was moved to the Medical Service Unit in October 1952.
Equipment for taking miniature x-rays has been installed. This makes possibe mass x-ray surveys, and facilitates follow-up
work for employees, out-patients and others.
When the first x-ray equipment was installed, it was used only for emergencies and in unusual
cases. Today every patient is x-rayed on admission. X-rays are then taken at frequent intervals, depending on
the type of treatment necessitated by the patient's condition, and the recommendations of the physician. Non-patient
employees are x-rayed every six months, ex-patient and patient-employees more frequently. The x-ray has become a powerful
weapon in the battle against tuberculosis.
The Pharmacy and Laboratory do much the same work as in any hospital. Sanatoriums physicians'
prescriptions are filled and drugs and medications dispensed by the Pharmacy. Checking the narcotics and keeping the
narcotic records is an important part of the work. The development of antibiotics and other new drugs and the wider
use of surgery in the treatment of tuberculosis have greatly increased the work of the Pharmacy.
Originally in the Administration Building, the Pharmacy occupied several locations before being
moved in October 1952, to its present quarters in the new Medical Service Unit.
The Laboratory, too, has expanded as he Sanatorium has grown and as new methods of diagnosis
and treatment have been developed. Starting in a small room in East Wing, between G and H Wards, it soon required more
space. The room now used as a laundry room in East Wing basement was then fitted up, and the work was divided between
the two places. Later the Laboratory was moved to two adjoining in the basement corridor between the East and West Wings.
It is now permanently located in the new Medical Service Unit.
Routine sputum tests, urinalysis, and Kahn tests are made. Sedimentation tests, blood counts,
and other tests are done as ordered by a physician. Now that thoracic surgery is being done, requiring transfusions,
the Laboratory does blood typing and matching.
Much has been learned in recent years about food and the importance of proper diet for health
and well-being. This knowledge is made use of in planning meals for the patients and staff of Cresson Sanatorium.
Each day's meals are so planned as to include foods from each of the seven basic food groups. From time to time, a State
Nutritionist from the Nutrition Division of the Department of Health calls at the Sanatorium to check on the menus and offer
suggestions. The department is in charge of a trained Dietitian.
Some idea of the task facing the dietary department may be gained from the fact that nearly three
thousand meals are served daily. Hospital patients are served from food trucks, insulated to keep the food hot, which
carry the food from the kitchen to the wards. Ambulant patients are served in a large cafeteria. There are also
two cafeterias for employees, and the medical, nursing, and office staffs are served in a separate dining room. Food
for patients on special diets is prepared in a diet kitchen, and served on trays which are delivered to the wards in a truck
specialty made for this purpose.
Large quantities of food are needed to serve so many meals. The Sanatorium bakery
turns out over a hundred Pullman-size loaves of bread daily, and once a week one hundred fifty pies. From ten to fourteen
bushels of potatoes are used for dinner and four hundred pounds of beef or other meat. When a canned vegetable is served,
thirty gallon cans are required. Six hundred sixty dozen eggs are a week's supply. Fifteen hundred gallons of
milk are used weekly and one hundred sixty gallons of ice cream.
Every effort is made to give variety to the meals, and to make the food as appetizing as possible.
Thus food plays its part in the restoration to health of tuberculosis patients.
A modern well-equipped laundry located in the wing of the building
which housed the power plant takes care of all Sanatorium laundry work. The laundry had been expanded and new equipment
added to meet the growing needs of the institution. Ratings made at the test laboratory of the Pennsylvania State College
in the work done in the laundries of over fifty state institutions place Cresson Sanatorium laundry on the honor roll.
Reading matter is supplied to the patients from a library well stocked with books and magazines.
A bookmobile is taken through the hospital wards several times a week to enable hospital patients to make their own selections.
The spiritual welfare of the patients is looked after by a Protestant and a Catholic Chaplain.
The present chaplains are Reverend Henry Lee Robison and the Reverend Father Walter Byrne.
The Reverend Henry Lee Robison, Jr., of Blacksburg, Virginia, was appointed by the Pennsylvania
Council of Churches on May 1, 1951, to serve as the first full-time Protestant Chaplain in the history of the Sanatorium.
Heretofore, two part-time ministers had charge of the Protestant patients' spiritual welfare.
Services were held in the patients' dining room in the early days of the Sanatorium. The
need for a chapel soon became apparent, and Rev. J. S. Helm, pastor of Cresson Presbyterian Church and Sanatorium chaplain,
took the lead in initiating the project of building one. He succeeded in interesting Mrs. Thaw, who contributed generously
toward the fund being raised. Various church groups contributed, and in 1914 Grace Chapel, a simple but beautiful stone
structure, was erected. It is so constructed that both Catholic and Protestant services can be held in it. Catholic
services are held every Sunday morning at 9:00, Protestant services at 10:00. These services are broadcast to the hosp[ital
patients. During the week, there are various services held by the chaplains.
The interior of the Chapel was completely refurbished in 1947. In 1949, an addition was
built at the rear, providing an office for the chaplain and access to a tunnel connecting the chapel with other buildings,
and a new electric organ was installed.
The present entertainment hall was built in 1925. Here movies are shown twice a week, and
entertainments and plays are given from time to time by various civic groups and high school dramatic clubs from surrounding
communities. It also serves for other functions such as the biennial medical meeting of the Cambria and Blair County
The Entertainment Hall, or Auditorium, as it is now frequently referred to, underwent a complete
renovation in the early part of 1951. Walls were re-decorated and re-painted, new stage curtains were hung, and new
comfortable seats were purchased. The major part of the renovation was paid for from the profits of the Community Store.
Before 1925, movies were shown and entertainments held in a small hall, now the plumbing shop,
which was built about 1915. The Sanatorium had its first showing of movies in 1914, and from then on movies were shown
more or less regularly. The patients' dining room was used for the purpose, but it was hoped that a way could be found
to build a hall. A donation of five hundred dollars from one of the organizations interested in Cresson Sanatorium patients
gave impetus to plans for building. The money was used to buy lumber, a sawmill on the grounds provided additional lumber,
and the Sanatorium carpenters put up the building. It served its purpose well, but was, in time, outgrown. Then
the new Hall was built, and it passed to other uses, eventually becoming the plumbing shop.
A store and branch post office are maintained at the Sanatorium for the convenience of patients
and employees. Such a large number of persons away from home are included in the patient body of Cresson Sanatorium
necessarily means a large volume of incoming and outgoing mail.. For several years, all mail was delivered to the East
Wing, where the Head Orderly sorted and distributed it. Then a room in the Administration Building was set aside for
this purpose, and a patient was put in charge of the collection and distribution of mail. All trransactions involving
money orders, registered mail, and outgoing parcel post had to be taken care of at the Cresson Post Office by the driver who
carried the mail back and forth. This involved considerable inconvenience, and it was therefore a welcome step when
the United States Postal Department established a the Sanatorium a branch post office, known as State Branch, with a duly
qualified clerk in charge.
The Community store is run for the benefit of the patients and employees, and profit from it
make possible many services not provided for by State funds. It had its origin in the early days of the Sanatorium when
one of the patients obtained permission to keep on hand a stock of goods from which the other patients could make purchases.
His stock, which consisted chiefly of notions, stationary, thermometers, apples and oranges, was kept at his bedside, packed
in boxes./ With a basket on his arm, he went from ward to ward selling wares. No edibles except apples and oranges
were permitted to be sold. In 1918 or 1919, candy was added.
When the business was given up by its originator, it was taken over by another patient, a Miss
Porter. She was given a small room off the corridor leading to East Wing in which to keep her store, which came to be
spoken of as "Porter's". Camp patients and employees went directly to the store to make their purchases. Several
assistants of Miss Porter went through the hospital wards taking orders which they later filled, carrying the goods to the
wards in baskets. The assistants were given a commission on ten percent on all orders taken.
When Miss Porter gave up the store in late 1919 or early in 1920, it was decided that it should
no longer be a private venture, but rather a community enterprise carried on for the benefit of all. Several persons
advanced the capital needed to stock it with merchandise. The Community Store, as it came to be known, later bought
out their interest in the business.
Throughout most of its history, The Community Store has been manages by a patient or former patient.
Since 1947, a Store Council, composed of the Medical Director, the store manager, the representatives of the patients and
the employees, had handled matters pertaining to the store. So successful has the store been that quarters provided
for it have several times had to be enlarged.
The following are a few of the larger items furnished by the Community Store in the past ten
years: movie equipment, a spinet piano for the schoolhouse, hair dryers for women patients and employees, lounging chairs
for the patients' solarium, and a new central broadcasting and public address system which enables hospital patients to hear
programs from the major networks, services held in the Chapel, and programs given at the Entertainment Hall. Each hospital
bed is equipped with an earphone which permits selections of either of two programs. The Community Store also paid the
greater part of the cost of the new electric organ in the Chapel and provided other equipment for the Chapel.
Children were at first housed in the two wards of East Wing and in several
cottages in Camp. When the West Wing was built, all the children were transferred there, occupying ten of twelve wards.
Most of the children were not active cases of tuberculosis, but had been exposed to the disease, usually in their own homes,
and were therefore potential victims. Under a regimen which included much rest, good food, fresh air and sunshine, plus
correction of such physical defects as bad tonsils and bad teeth, they were built up to resist the disease.
In 1932, a new building, Children's House, with a capacity of 122 beds, was opened for children.
It is connected by tunnel with the other main buildings. For the first time the Sanatorium was open to patients under
six years of age. The nursery occupied at first one ward, later two. For a time both Children's House and one
floor of West Wing were used for children, but after 1939, Children's House was able to accommodate all who needed treatment.
The children's department was discontinued in August 1950 and the building they occupied was converted into a hospital for
As the number of children admitted to the Sanatorium increased, the need arose for providing
them with some schooling. A small frame structure, heated by a coal stove, was erected, and a patient who had been a
teacher and who was now sufficiently recovered to work for a few hours a day was put in charge. The first textbooks
were used books donated by the Johnstown Public Schools. After the West Wing was opened, a playground was laid out,
and the little schoolhouse moved there. Two others like it were built, together with a large open pavilion for play.
As the three schoolhouses could not accommodate all the children, part of the West Wing basement was used for classes.
Between 1925 and 1927, the three schoolhouses were replaced by two four-room schoolhouses, heated by steam and fully equipped.
Here the children followed the same course of study as in the public schools. Those who finished eighth grade took the
Cambria County high school entrance examinations, and were given certificates by the County Superintendant of Schools.
In 1921 and 1922, a large stone building containing a swimming pool and play space was built
for the use of the children. For a time in the early 1930's, the swimming pool was used for treatment of children crippled
with polio, the treatments being given by a physiotherapist. As he need for this building passed, it was converted into
the present Surgery, another floor being added to it and other improvement made. It contains two well-equipped and completely
up-to-date operating rooms, a number of rooms for post-operative care of patients, and the necessary service rooms.
When the Sanatorium opened, the only transportation was that provided by four mules brought from
Mont Alto. At that time, patients usually came by the Pennsylvania Railroad to Cresson. They were met at the train
and brought to the Sanatorium by wagon or sled, drawn by two mules. Practically all goods and supplies used by the Sanatorium
came to Cresson by freight, to be hauled up the mountain by the faithful mules. The same means of transportation was
used for the mail.
Today, the Sanatorium has a fleet of cars and trucks of different types to meet the various needs
of an institution of its size. The garage in which they are housed and kept in good mechanical condition was built
when the motor vehicle began to take the place of mule and horse-drawn vehicles. It has since been enlarged and improved.
The first motor vehicle owned by the Sanatorium was a 1913 Model T Ford, a touring car as it
was called, with side curtains. The next was a big Alco truck, built by the Americal Locomotive Company of Philadelphia.
Some time after this, two cars were donated to the Sanatorium by Mrs. Thaw, first a Pierce Arrow and, a year or so later,
a Packard. The motor age had come to Cresson Sanatorium.
A great interest was taken in the Sanatorium by Mrs. Mary Thaw of Pittsburgh, who had
a summer home near Cresson. She gave generously in a financial way, particularly in the building of the Chapel, and
she visited the Sanatorium frequently, familiarizing herself with its needs. On her visits she several times brought
with her Helen Keller, her friend and protege, and Miss Keller's teacher, Mrs. Anne Sullivan Macy. On one occasion,
Miss Keller gave a short talk to the Sanatorium children, who were gathered in the Assembly Room.
Chuck Felton Note:
contacted the American Foundation For The Blind, www.afb.org , which maintains an archive of Helen Keller material. Their website listed one photo of Helen Keller taken
at the Cresson Sanatorium on September 20, 1920 where she delivered a short speech. Both the photo and a copy of
Helen's speech are shown below. My thanks to Helen Selsdon, Archivist at the AFB Information Center, for sending
me the material.
1. Anne Sullivan Macy with Helen Keller at Cresson Sanatorium
- Cresson, Pennsylvania 1926 (Note san building in the top left corner)
2. A copy of Helen Keller's speech showing edits.
(Courtesy of the American Foundation for the Blind, Helen Keller Archives)
The buildings that make up the Sanatorium are connected by a system of driveways, which, with
the help of the State Highway Department, are kept in excellent condition. It was not always thus. In 1912 and
1913, the driveways were dirt roads, often deep in mud. No snow plow kept them open in winter, and the mule-drawn sled
often had to take to the fields. As soon as possible, stone was used to make hard roads of the driveways. Later,
the State Highway Department added the blacktop.
Until the Sanatorium acquired its own snow plows it had to depend on the State Highway Department
to keep the driveways open in winter. If this service was delayed, there was a return to the horse-drawn sled.
Not until the early 1940's did the horses and sled disappear entirely from the scene.
For some years, the Sanatorium had its own poultry farm. The poultry house, which had a
capacity of approximately one thousand chickens, was built by contract as one of the original buildings. Largely because
they are good egg layers, White Leghorns were selected as the breed to be raised. The object was to ensure a plentiful
supply of fresh eggs, which were considered essential in the treatment of tuberculosis. The poultry farm was expanded
from year to year until it had a capacity of five thousand chickens. At first day-old chicks were bought; later on incubator
and brooder house were installed.
By the early 1930's a number of poultry farms had been started in surrounding areas, and it was
found that eggs could be bought as cheaply as they could be produced. Moreover, most of the poultry houses were beginning
to need repair, and it would have required a considerable expenditure of money to rejuvenate the chicken runs. The poultry
farm was therefore discontinued. Fresh eggs are delivered regularly to the Sanatorium from near-by farms.
About forty thousand pounds of fresh pork is produced annually at the Sanatorium piggery, located
on the north side of Route 22, at some distance from the hospital buildings. This constitutes the major portion of the
fresh pork used in a year, and is the only part of the food supply produced on the grounds. The piggery was started
in 1914,near the barn, and was moved to its present location in 1916.
A tree planting program was started in the spring of 1917. In the years since then, thousands
of seedling pines, spruces, and hemlocks have been planted on the Sanatorium grounds. As they grew, thinning out was
done in December, giving the Sanatorium a good supply of Christmas trees. For some years, until the necessary thinning
out was complete there were enough trees at Christmas to give to every employee who needed one. Route 22, as it passes
the Sanatorium grounds, is bordered by a young forest of evergreens, the appearance of which has been improved in recent years
by trimming the lower branches.