Cresson TB Sanatorium Remembered

Newspaper 50

The following article, written by Rachel Vasilco, was published in the Cresson Mainliner on Thursday October 10, 2013.  Click the following link to go to the newspaper website:


                                   ‘Cresson San’ approved for historical marker
                                     By Rachel Vasilko of Mainline Newspapers    

Four years ago, Etta Albright of Cresson was contacted and asked to help organize a reunion for patients, nurses and doctors of the former Cresson Tuberculosis Sanatorium. She agreed to help, not knowing then that she would dedicate so much of her time to the place and its history.

The Cresson San was one of three state-run tuberculosis sanatoriums in Pennsylvania. It remained open for 50 years, from 1913 until 1964, and was considered vital in the treatment of TB.  

When Chuck Felton, a former patient at the San, and Albright began their plans for a reunion, they wanted to make the event a sentimental celebration, one that would be remembered by more than just those associated with the institution.

“We felt a more meaningful present would be to designate a historical marker since they are a big piece of history,” Albright said.

She wrote up the initial proposal and sent it to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. It was rejected because of the lack of primary sources and documents. Albright decided to do some research and try again.

“I asked Dave Huber to take over,” she said. “He had more of a background.”
    Together Albright, Huber and Dot DeAngelo researched the history of the tuberculosis sanatorium and sent in their second proposal. Once again, it was rejected. This time for lack of proof of the San’s significance. The group still did not give up.

After more research about the significant role the San played in history, they applied one more time for the historical marker.

On September 13 the group finally received approval for the designation of a roadside marker “to recognize the significant local, state and national history of the Pennsylvania State Tuberculosis Sanatorium at Cresson.”  

“We are delighted to have the marker approved,” Albright said.
    Felton, who has a website dedicated to the San, was also very excited about the approval.    “That is something tangible and physical that is going to be there to commemorate the sanatorium,” he said.

Felton was a patient at the Cresson San for a total of 16 months beginning in 1955 when he was a senior in high school. From the time he was released in 1956 until 2009, he spoke very little of his experiences there.
    “I was looking for a project to do and I thought, ‘I did have that weird experience 50 years ago,’” he said.   

He decided to create a website to document his story for his children. However, within two weeks he started to receive emails from other patients sharing their stories with him.
    “I heard from over 200 people that had a direct connection to the San,” Felton said.

When he and Albright held the first San reunion in 2011, over 200 people attended, including WQED producer, David Solomon who documented the unique event. His television program about the San and its history aired on PBS stations across Pennsylvania. This year it received an Emmy Award by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Mid-Atlantic Chapter in the category of Outstanding Historical/Cultural Program.

“It’s been quite an exciting ride actually,” Felton said. “All this from starting a small website. It really shows you what the internet can do.”
    Felton’s website now contains 275 pages including over 1,000 pictures and over 100 stories that have been sent to him by former patients, nurses and doctors.

“(The website) is the greatest joy of my retirement,” Felton said. “I think it’s going to go on until I am no longer walking this earth.”  
    He said the site now serves to document as much as he can about the Cresson San and to get in touch with as many people as he can.    “TB was the biggest killer, and infected people were ostracized by the rest of society,” Felton said. “Now they’re ready to tell their stories. It’s kind of like coming out of the closet having had TB.”

Both Felton and Albright urge people to educate themselves about the San and it’s importance in history.
    “It treated 45,000 patients and younger people have never heard of it,” Felton said.    They believe the new marker will help to keep people educated.
    “It’s a really wonderful thing that they’re putting up this marker,” Felton said. “It’s great to remember what was done.”   

Currently, the Cambria County Historical Society is raising money for the fabrication and installation of the roadside marker. Grant funding for historical markers is not available so all costs must be covered by contributions.
    Donations may be made by sending a check made out to “Cresson San Reunion” with “marker account” noted on the memo line to First Summit Bank  in Cresson.

The historical society is also working with officials to have the marker site approved. Installation of the marker and a formal dedication ceremony is planned for late spring 2014 pending the completion of all required steps according to PHMC guidelines.
    For more information on the Cresson San, visit to model on display at Mount Aloysius College, or view the documentary, “Cresson: Remembering Life at ‘The San,’ which can be found on the WQED website.