Five words to summarize the third and fourth weeks of my residency: research, research, and more research. Seeing as my major residency project is a multiple property submission (MPS) on Kentucky’s tubercular sanitaria (sanatoria), it is no surprise that I’ve delved into research these past two weeks.
Back at the KDLA Archives Research Room, I consulted with staff and discovered a trove of records from Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health Services. Two boxes contained administrative files from the Division of Tuberculosis.
Inside these boxes, I found maps for proposed TB sanitarium districts, invitations to the cornerstone laying ceremonies at each TB state hospital, contracts with the sanitaria architects, documents on the building programs and equipment purchases, and newspapers announcing the construction/opening of the mid-century TB state hospitals in each district. All in all, these Division of Tuberculosis records offer a rich collection of primary sources detailing the construction of sanitarium sites in Kentucky.
The staff in the Archives Research Room have been extremely helpful in locating tuberculosis-related records and copying the dozens of pages I’ve requested in my visits thus far. In addition, the Kentucky government information and law specialist at Western Kentucky University’s Helm-Cravens Library scanned and sent me a 1945 report entitled Report on Sites for the Tuberculosis Sanatoria Commission of Kentucky.
Compiled by architect Fred J. Hartstern, the document presents survey information for sites in each tuberculosis district and recommends the best sites for tuberculosis hospitals. As the excerpt below shows, each site was evaluated based on factors including accessibility, transportation, elevation, and water supply.
The criteria used by Hartstern adheres to sanitarium planning set forth by the National Tuberculosis Association in 1921. As state-run sanatoria for the public gained credence, sanitarium design became more standardized by the 1920s. The design of institutional sanatoria relied on and emphasized the importance of climatic and natural conditions. T. B. Kidner of the National Tuberculosis Association outlined the principal factors of tuberculosis sanitarium landscape planning:
- accessibility; transportation facilities and distance from a center of population
- the topographical features
- the exposure (orientation) and shelter from prevailing disagreeable winds
- the climatic conditions
- soil and drainage facilities[i]
Long considered a disease of the environment, tuberculosis treatment through the mid-twentieth century reinforced the therapeutic significance of the landscape. It’s interesting to note how ideas about sanitarium planning continued to impact site selection decades later. I hope to gain a better understanding of how the environment informed state sanitarium design in Kentucky as I embark on fieldwork this semester. With the first month of my residency complete, I’m currently planning upcoming research and fieldwork trips to Lexington and Louisville. Hopefully the weather will cooperate and allow me to have get in some on-site fieldwork at sanitarium locations before the end of September.
[i] “Notes on Tuberculosis Sanatorium Planning,” Public Health Reports (1896-1970) 36, no. 24 (June 17, 1921): 1371.