The sanatorium

for curing tuberculosis


The sanatorium for curing tuberculosis

Nov 13, 2017 | Urban

A sanatorium is a medical facility for long-term illness, most typically associated with treatment of tuberculosis (TB).

a.k.a. the “Great White Plague”

History of the sanatorium



Lipik springs

Lipik springs

Lipik, Croatia | The Lipik Sanatorium was mentioned as far back as 1517, under the name of “Lipik springs”.

Image © | Banja Lipik


Sanatoria in the modern sense

Sanatoria in the modern sense

Sutton Coldfield, England | George Bodington opened a sanatorium, “the Driffold House” in 1836. You can find his essay “On the Treatment and Cure of Pulmonary Consumption” at the topic of ‘why is a sanatorium needed’.

Image ©  | Treatment and Cure of Pulmonary Consumption


Brehmersche Heilanstalt für Lungenkranke

Brehmersche Heilanstalt für Lungenkranke

Görbersdorf, Silesia | In 1863, Hermann Brehmer opened the Brehmersche Heilanstalt für Lungenkranke in Görbersdorf (Sokołowsko), for the treatment of tuberculosis. Patients were exposed to plentiful amounts of high altitude, fresh air, and good nutrition.

Image ©,foto.html | 1879, Dr Brehmer’s Heilanstalten w Sokołowsku (reklama obiektu)


Dr. Robert Koch identified the tubercle bacillus as the cause of the disease

Dr. Robert Koch identified the tubercle bacillus as the cause of the disease

Every year on 24 March, World TB Day commemorates the day in 1882 that Dr. Robert Koch identified the tubercle bacillus as the cause of the disease. Despite advances in modern medicine, TB is still endemic in many parts of the world, causing nearly 1.5 million deaths every year.

Today, TB treatment often involves prolonged use of a combination of antibiotics to reduce the risk of the bacteria becoming resistant. In this photograph taken in 1937, children are undergoing a very different type of treatment, common throughout Europe from the late 19th century.

Sanatoriums were based on the belief of Hermann Brehmer, a German physician who thought that TB arose due the heart’s inability to irrigate the lungs. He proposed that areas high above sea level, with plentiful fresh air and good nutrition, were the key to curing the disease and established Brehmersche Heilanstalt für Lungenkranke (Brehmersche Sanatorium for Lung Patients) in Görbersdorf.

After Brehmer’s death, the sanatorium movement spread throughout Europe and even into metropolitan areas at low altitudes. The choice of climate was varied, from high-altitude Alps resorts such as Davos, to the dry air and sun of Arizona, USA. Soon after this photo was taken, sanatoriums began to close after the antibiotic streptomycin was discovered as the first cure for TB in 1943.

In 2016, TB continues to be one of the top infectious disease killers in the world and ending the epidemic by 2030 is a health target of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Image © | Child patients lying outside in beds on a terrace outside the Hospital of Alton, Hampshire, in the sun as part of their therapy | 1937, Wellcome Library, London


Adirondack Cottage Sanitarium, USA in 1885

Adirondack Cottage Sanitarium, USA in 1885

Was the first such establishment in North America, USA by Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau. After Trudeau’s death in 1915, the institution’s name was changed to the Trudeau Sanatorium. Architecture style can be described as late Victorian, late 19th and 20th Century Revivals.

Image ©  | 1922 Trudeau’s Cottage Sanitarium


Saskatchewan Anti-Tuberculosis League in 1911

Saskatchewan Anti-Tuberculosis League in 1911

Canada 1900, it was Saskatchewan’s first health charity. Peter McAra was the first President and Dr. William Hart was the first Medical Superintendent.

Image © | Saskatchewan Anti-Tuberculosis League in 1911


The cure for TB – 1943

The cure for TB – 1943

Graduate student Albert Schatz isolated streptomycin — a bactericidal antibiotic effective against a virulent strain of tuberculosis — in a tiny basement laboratory at Rutgers University.

Image © Wikimedia Commons | An October Scene- The Young Consumptive, from “Le Journal Illustré” no. 34 (October 2-9, 1864)

What is tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB).

Consumption, phthisis or Miliary tuberculosis, scrofula, Pott’s disease, and the White Plague refer to tuberculosis throughout history. The historical term “consumption” came about due to the weight loss.

La Miseria by Cristóbal Rojas – Obra de arte, Pintura de Cristóbal Rojas (1857–1890) Galería de Arte Nacional, Caracas- Venezuela. – 150 Pinturas Antológicas. Juan Calzadilla. Fundación Museos Nacionales, Galería de Arte Nacional, Caracas, 2012, Public Domain,

Ways to cure TB?

The advancement of scientific understanding of tuberculosis and its contagious nature created the need for institutions to house sufferers.

Tuberculosis facilities came to life as early as the 1840s. George Bodington proposed a dietary, rest, and medical care program for a hospital he planned to find in Maney, England. After numerous attacks from medical experts, especially articles in The Lancet, disheartened Bodington and he had to turn his plans into housing the insane. Read his essay here.

George Bodington (1799–1882) was a British general practitioner and pulmonary specialist.

Around the same time in the United States, in late October and early November 1842, Dr. John Croghan, the owner of Mammoth Cave, brought 15 tuberculosis sufferers into the cave in the hope of curing the disease with the constant temperature and purity of the cave air. Patients were lodged in stone huts, and each was supplied with a slave to bring meals.

Dr. John Croghan (1790–1849) was an American medical doctor who helped establish the United States Marine Hospital of Louisville and organized some tuberculosis medical experiments and tours for Mammoth Cave, in Kentucky (U.S.) during 1839–1849.

By late January, early February 1843, two patients were dead and the rest had left the Mammoth Cave. Departing patients died anywhere from three days to three weeks after resurfacing; John Croghan died of tuberculosis at his Louisville residence in 1849.

Two patients were dead and the rest had left the Mammoth Cave. Departing patients died anywhere from three days to three weeks after resurfacing.

Efforts to end TB

On March 1, 2018 I received an email from a Health Educator with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s Tuberculosis Control Program and I was surprised to read it…

World TB Day is at the end of March and provides the opportunity to raise awareness about this deadly disease. To commemorate this day, my program has decided to create a display of historical TB sanatoriums to show how far we have come in terms of TB prevention and treatment.

The World Health Organization (WHO) organises campaigns every year to commemorate World TB Day. This year it was held on March 24, 2018.

Mayo Clinic states the following as possible treatments for TB


Medications are the cornerstone of tuberculosis treatment. But treating TB takes much longer than treating other types of bacterial infections.

With tuberculosis, you must take antibiotics for at least six to nine months. The exact drugs and length of treatment depend on your age, overall health, possible drug resistance, the form of TB (latent or active) and the infection’s location in the body.

Recent research suggests that a shorter term of treatment — four months instead of nine — with combined medication may be effective in keeping latent TB from becoming active TB. With the shorter course of treatment, people are more likely to take all their medication, and the risk of side effects is lessened. Studies are ongoing.

Most common TB drugs

If you have latent tuberculosis, you may need to take just one type of TB drug. Active tuberculosis, particularly if it’s a drug-resistant strain, will require several drugs at once The most common medications used to treat tuberculosis include:

  • Isoniazid
  • Rifampin (Rifadin, Rimactane)
  • Ethambutol (Myambutol)
  • Pyrazinamide

© Mayo Clinic

Sanatoria in Belgium

Personally I know 3 sanatoria here in Belgium, I visited all 3 of them. One is already converted into a retirement home, being Sanatorium Joseph Lemaire. The 2 other buildings are still abandoned and very popular among urban explorers with traces of tags and more broken windows after each visit. A sanatorium is a huge complex with large rooms and many windows to get lots of fresh air and sunlight. Located far from the city and surrounded by nature this is the perfect place to cure the disease. Back then, medicines didn’t exist yet and the sanatorium was thought to cure the sufferers.

Preventorium for the kids of Dolhain


This old art-deco hospital was a tuberculosis preventorium for kids. In the 1970s this hospital had 150 beds. Preventoria differed slightly from sanatoria in that they catered more specifically to patients with an early state of infection. The Dolhain preventorium nestled along the Weser and the railway line Liege-Welkenraedt, knew its best days in the 70’s. Due to advances in medicine, that almost completely eradicated tuberculosis, the domain lost its purpose. The hospital was sold in the 1990s to a German company that planned lofts in the building. Now, many years later, the plans still haven’t been carried out.

Outside the hospital stands an old fire truck. The Magirus-Deutz with a 30 meter ladder was used years ago by the local fire brigade.

Image © Pieter-Jan

Sanatorium Du Basil


The construction of Sanatorium Du Basil, a complex of around 1.2 million francs, started in 1900 and occupied 56 hectares of usable space for curing tuberculosis. The first patients were admitted three years later in 1903. 113 beds were provided for men from Liège at first. Later the facility was opened for women too. Located at a remote area from the nearby city at a height of 400 metres surrounded by a coniferous forest. Fresh air as well as quiet and peace should help curing the disease. The site had its own water supply and even their own graveyard to prevent infection from tuberculosis as it was a major concern.

After integration of another hospital this site closed in 2010. It became a shelter for asylum seekers and was finally abandoned due to cost concerns. Since then it stands in decay.

“Not to spot with the disease but rather a picture to illustrate how he thought it should look like.”

Sanatorium Joseph Lemaire


This sanatorium is situated in Tombeek (Overijse), Vlaams-Brabant. Built in modernism and Nieuwe Bouwen style by architect Maxim Brunfaut. Designed in 1937 by Maxim and Fernand and commissioned by the socialist insurance La Prévoyance Sociale and named after the director of that time.

» Written by Alan who goes under the name of twin-rhino | Published on November 13, 2017