Damp and Cold
Clairvaux Tuberculosis Hospital
Located at an undisclosed place in United States of America
Photo © 2004 Tom Kirsch, opacity.us
Clairvaux Tuberculosis Hospital* History
In 1909, the Department of Public Charities began construction on a Tuberculosis hospital located at the site of a city poorhouse. The central administration building, dining hall, and kitchen were surrounded by eight pavilions - four for each gender - and connected via ground floor corridors and service tunnels underneath. Built at a price of $4 million, twice the original estimated cost, it was described as the largest and finest TB hospital ever constructed. At a maximum capacity of over 1,600 patients, it certainly was the largest Tuberculosis hospital in the world at the time. Other buildings included a pathology laboratory, power house, laundry house, chapel, surgical building, and theater.
The hospital was quite posh when it first opened - living rooms once featured fine china, and brilliant white tablecloths and napkins lined the dinner tables. These luxuries soon proved to be idealistic and costly, and were replaced with more utilitarian items. Still, Victrolas and records were installed throughout for entertainment, and each of the 40 wards had a small library. During the early 1940s, the hospital was packed with over 2,000 patients; almost as many people would come to visit on the allocated visiting days.
The hospital played an important role in the development of new drugs to fight Tuberculosis, and in an ironic twist, the hospital doomed itself as advances were made in treatment and recovery. By 1960, the hospital had only a few remaining TB patients.
The old pavilions were closed in the 1970s, and four of the eight were demolished some time after that, however other buildings found new life in caring for the elderly, or as rehabilitation centers. The hospital still functions to this day as a premiere rehabilitation center and home.
In 2009, a long-abandoned residence for nurses was renovated into apartments for the elderly; some nurses who worked the wards in the 1940s-1960s now reside in the very same spaces when they worked here.
* Note: the name "Clairvaux Tuberculosis Hospital" is a pseudonym; the real name of this location is currently undisclosed.