Cresson TB Sanatorium Remembered
Newspaper 51

The following article, written by David Wenner, was published in the Harrisburg Patriot News on Thursday October 24, 2013. Click the following link to go to the newspaper website:


Relic of frightening era of tuberculosis gets a marker

This photo from the State Archives shows the Cresson Tuberculosis Sanatorium in April 1960 in Cambria County. (Provided photo )

A fascinating but nearly forgotten relic of health care in Pennsylvania has received some notice.

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission recently approved a historical marker for the former Cresson Sanitorium in Cambria County. The Cresson facility, known locally as “the San,” quarantined and treated people infected with tuberculosis.

It operated from 1913 to 1964, when the threat of tuberculosis disappeared in the United States. Over the years, tens of thousands of people from throughout Pennsylvania were confined at Cresson, located about 140 miles from Harrisburg between Johnstown and Altoona. TB was a highly-contagious and often fatal lung disease known as the “Great Killer” and “White Plague” during the early part of the 20th century.

Many people were sent to a sanitorium against their will. Many died at Cresson, including some who are buried as a nearby cemetery. The state also operated sanitoriums at Hamburg and Mount Alto. Yet little was publicly known about any of them until a few years ago, when Chuck Felton, a former Cresson patient, began researching the institution.

Felton, who now lives in Texas, was living in Towanda, Pa. when he came down with TB
and was sent to Cresson in the mid-1950s. He eventually culled state archives for photos and information. He eventually made contact with dozens of former patients and employees and organized a reunion held in 2011.

The Cresson facility later became a state mental hospital and then a state prison, SCI-Cresson, which was recently closed. More information can be found on Felton’s website.