This week's Tuberculosis Thursday is a special one. Yesterday we were honored to spend the morning with Betty Gaffney talking about her time as a patient at Trudeau Sanatorium in 1947-1949. Betty came to Saranac Lake after she contracted tuberculosis at the end of her nurse's training at Bellevue. We sat down to record an oral history with Betty and her sister Pauline, and we really enjoyed hearing about their memories of that time.
Betty graciously donated some photographs to our collection, and said she had nothing but good feelings about her time here. We also took a ride over to Trudeau Sanatorium so Betty could tour the campus for the first time in more than 72 years! We had a great morning with Betty and her family, and we can't wait to share more. Thanks for visiting us and sharing your story!
[Images: Betty Kelly [Gaffney] about age 21 on the steps of Baker Memorial Chapel, c. 1947. Historic Saranac Lake Collection, TCR 712. Courtesy of Betty Gaffney. Betty Gaffney at age 95 in front of Baker Chapel, August 25, 2021]
This Tuberculosis Thursday, we’re celebrating the belated birthday of a baseball great and big-name TB patient, Christy Mathewson! But who was Christy, and why was he such a big name in Saranac Lake? Christy was considered one of the greatest baseball pitchers of all time, and he contracted TB after WWI. He came to Saranac Lake in 1920 to seek the cure, and originally stayed at the Santanoni under the care of Dr. Edward Packard. In 1924, Christy, his wife, and son moved into the house on Park Avenue that is now known as Christy Mathewson Cottage.
Over the years, Christy’s health slowly improved to the point that he became a part owner of the Boston Braves and got involved with charity efforts to support tuberculosis patients and research. Unfortunately, he was involved in a car accident in 1924 that injured his arm, and by the end of the year his health had deteriorated again. He caught a cold that wouldn’t go away while at spring training with the Braves in April of 1925, and returned to Saranac Lake for bed rest. The baseball world was stunned when he passed away on October 7, 1925. His wife remained in the house on Park Avenue until the 1950s, when she returned to Pennsylvania. Christy was one of the first five inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936 along with Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, and Walter Johnson.
Today's Tuberculosis Thursday feature is gone but certainly not forgotten! The Alta Vista Lodge was a grand cure cottage on Franklin Ave. in the Helen Hill neighborhood. It originally began as two separate identical houses, and was combined into one large facility around 1924. It was remembered as an exclusive cottage, and it tragically burned to the ground in 1959.
Learn more about the Alta Vista Lodge on our wiki.
Sunday was National Friends Day, so this Tuberculosis Thursday we're sharing a photograph of TB patients at Stony Wold. These young women, including Eileen Leavitt (right) and Carol Smith (second from the right) all cured at the Sanatorium on Lake Kushaqua in the late 1940s. It was common for patients taking the cure to form close friendships, and their shared experience often led to lifelong friendships. While we don't know if these ladies kept in touch, it's clear in the photographs that they enjoyed each other's company at Stony Wold.
[Photograph courtesy of Kevin Leavitt.]
This Tuberculosis Thursday, we want to share about some interesting TB history from elsewhere in the country. About 40 years before Dr. Trudeau's development of the "fresh air cure" in Saranac Lake, Dr. John Croghan experimented with using caves to treat TB patients. Dr. Croghan purchased Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, hoping that the cool, still air in the caves would improve the health of patients. He brought 16 patients to the cave in the winter of 1842, to live in two stone cabins and eight wooden buildings.
Dr. Croghan's cave sanatorium was unsuccessful, as the damp, dark, unventilated conditions worsened the patients conditions, and five of the sixteen patients died. After just five months, Dr. Croghan returned to the surface with the remaining patients, and abandoned the treatment buildings.
This attempted treatment method is of course in stark contrast to the method developed in Saranac Lake, where patients would spend as much time as possible in the fresh air and sunlight. This postcard (c. 1912) was recently acquired by Historic Saranac Lake and shows tourists outside one of the remaining stone cabins in Mammoth Cave.
If you want to learn more about Dr. Croghan's sanatorium in Mammoth Cave, check out this fascinating article from Mammoth Cave National Park.
[Historic Saranac Lake Collection, TCR 666.]
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