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San Life: The Western Maine Sanatorium, 1928-1929

This slideshow contains 14 items
1
Western Maine Sanatorium gate, 1928

Western Maine Sanatorium gate, 1928

Item 23630 info
Maine Historical Society

The gates to the Western Maine Sanatorium on Greenwood Mountain in Hebron carried a small sign identifying the institution inside.

Even without a large sign, the facility was well known.

Begun in 1904 as a private hospital for treating tuberculosis, the sanatorium became part of a state network of hospitals in 1915.


2
Four patients, Western Maine Sanatorium, 1928

Four patients, Western Maine Sanatorium, 1928

Item 23615 info
Maine Historical Society

Merle Wadleigh of Portland, who was about 24 when this photo was taken, spent part of 1928 and 1929 at the Sanatorium.

Like many patients there, he kept track of his weight as a sign of his progress fighting the disease, which previously had been known as "consumption" because it physically consumed the patients.

On this photo, probably sent to his mother, Wadleigh wrote, "July 1928, The four horsemen, This was taken when I was in Reception. I weighed 140."

Patients at the Sanatorium began their stays in Reception, and were moved to men's or women's cottages after their conditions were assessed and treatment begun.


3
Sanatorium doctor and staff, ca. 1928

Sanatorium doctor and staff, ca. 1928

Item 23613 info
Maine Historical Society

While he was a patient at the Sanatorium, Wadleigh took photographs of his fellow patients, staff, buildings, some festivities, and visits from his family and friends.

Observers have criticized TB sanatoriums for overly structuring patients' lives and for offering a dreary existence.

While Wadleigh left no words to describe his time at Hebron, his photographs suggest that he viewed at least some of his time there as positive.


4
Dr. Lester Adams, Western Maine Sanatorium, 1928

Dr. Lester Adams, Western Maine Sanatorium, 1928

Item 23631 info
Maine Historical Society

Dr. Lester Adams was the long-time medical director of the Sanatorium, serving from 1928 until the facility closed in 1959.

Dr. Estes Nichols was the first medical director and founder of the Sanatorium, which was operated privately until 1915 when it became a state institution.

Nichols believed in the fresh air treatment. Patients slept outdoors on porches or in pavilions that were open on one side to let in fresh air. Patients wore fur coats, were wrapped in blankets, and put their feet in boxes lined with straw.

By Adams' tenure, that treatment had been modified, although fresh air still was seen as beneficial.


5
Children's Cottage, Western Maine Sanatorium, 1928

Children's Cottage, Western Maine Sanatorium, 1928

Item 23632 info
Maine Historical Society

The sleeping facilities at the Maine State Sanatorium all were built on the same basic design: a center portion with two extending wings that housed the sleeping porches and pavilions.

Separate cottage housed children, men and women.

The second floors of the residential units housed staff as did some other buildings. Most staff lived on the grounds.


6
School House, Western Maine Sanatorium, 1928

School House, Western Maine Sanatorium, 1928

Item 23633 info
Maine Historical Society

Because the Sanatorium had children as patients, it also needed a school.

In addition, there was a large farming operation. The Sanatorium produced its own milk, eggs, vegetables and fruit.

A diet rich in protein and calories was part of the treatment for tuberculosis before drugs that could treat the disease were developed in the late 1940s.


7
July 4 parade, Western Maine Sanatorium, 1929

July 4 parade, Western Maine Sanatorium, 1929

Item 23634 info
Maine Historical Society

Before the state took over the Sanatorium, it was named the Maine State Sanatorium and was run by an association that was charged both with prevention and treatment of tuberculosis.

The Maine State Sanatorium Association incorporated in 1901 and the Hebron facility opened in 1904.

From that time, the Sanatorium was known for its holiday celebrations, especially on July 4 and Washington's Birthday.

Parades, sporting events appropriate to the season, picnics and other activities drew people from around the area.


8
July 4 parade, Western Maine Sanatorium, 1929

July 4 parade, Western Maine Sanatorium, 1929

Item 23635 info
Maine Historical Society

The holiday celebrations got their start in 1904 when the Sanatorium had a "parade of horribles" as part of its opening celebration.

Patients who were well enough rode on floats that featured each department of the hospital or walked in the parade.

Others viewed the parade from their sleeping porches.

Costumed paraders also went through the pavilions to visit with patients.


9
July 4 revelers, Western Maine Sanatorium, Hebron, 1928

July 4 revelers, Western Maine Sanatorium, Hebron, 1928

Item 23636 info
Maine Historical Society

The costumed revelers probably were staff and patients.

The man in the woman's dress most likely is Merle Wadleigh, the patient whose photo album contains these images.


10
Patients, Western Maine Sanatorium, Hebron, 1929

Patients, Western Maine Sanatorium, Hebron, 1929

Item 23637 info
Maine Historical Society

Merle Wadleigh, in the center of this photograph, or a staff member may have staged this shot of three patients, showing stages of health.

Because tuberculosis patients frequently lost much weight and had trouble eating, they often were quite emaciated.

A sense of humor best understood by patients at the san show in this photograph of, from left, "Curtis," who is extremely thin; Wadleigh, a medium to light weight; Lane, who is rather heavy.


11
Merle Wadleigh, Hebron, 1929

Merle Wadleigh, Hebron, 1929

Item 23638 info
Maine Historical Society

Merle Wadleigh of Portland poses in front of a Sanatorium building with "Janie" in 1929.

He appeared to have quite a few visitors, especially in 1929, when he must have been nearing the end of his treatment.

In many of Wadleigh's photos, patients are wearing pajamas or robes. With visitors, they are dressed in street clothes.


12
Group at Western Maine Sanatorium, 1929

Group at Western Maine Sanatorium, 1929

Item 23614 info
Maine Historical Society

A group of Sanatorium patients posed for a photo on May 31, 1929.

Because they lived in close proximity and shared the effects of tuberculosis, patients often became friendly with one another.

They frequently referred to the facility as the "san," and sometimes wrote letters after they left treatment that suggested they missed the san and their friends there.


13
Patients and nurse, Western Maine Sanatorium, ca. 1929

Patients and nurse, Western Maine Sanatorium, ca. 1929

Item 23629 info
Maine Historical Society

Merle Wadleigh's pictures often suggest a sense of community among patients -- but also among patients and staff.

Here, Wadleigh is shown on the left with "Lindy" and Arthur Lehman.

The photo was taken on Easter Sunday, probably in 1929.


14
Wadleigh family, Hebron, 1929

Wadleigh family, Hebron, 1929

Item 23639 info
Maine Historical Society

Nellie Wadleigh of Portland, center, visited her son, Merle, at the Western Maine Sanatorium in Hebron on Nov. 10, 1929.

At left is Merle Wadleigh's sister, Manola Wadleigh Burns.

Wadleigh looks quite healthy and this photo might have been taken near the end of his stay at the facility.

His treatment probably was successful as he lived until 1990, when he was 86.


This slideshow contains 14 items