Eastern Oklahoma Tuberculosis Sanatorium

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Eastern Oklahoma Tuberculosis Sanatorium
Established 1919
Construction Began 1921
Current Status Active
Building Style Cottage Plan
Location Talihina, OK
Alternate Names
  • Eastern Oklahoma State Sanatorium
  • Oklahoma State Tuberculosis Sanatorium
  • Oklahoma Veterans Center in Talihina


In 1919 Oklahoma legislature passed a law authorizing the establishment of 3 state sanatoriums. At this time, $50,000 was allotted for the Negro sanatorium at Boley, $100,000 each for the 2 sanatoriums for whites; Eastern Oklahoma State Tuberculosis Sanatorium at Talihina, and Western Oklahoma State Tuberculosis Sanatorium at Clinton.

Eastern Oklahoma State Tuberculosis Sanatorium was opened November 1, 1921 with facilities for 50 patients. The sanatorium is located 800 ft above Kaimichi Valley, upon Winding Stair Mountain, 3 1/2 miles NW of the town of Talihina. The buildings in 1921 included the administration building, a wood frame pavilion, and 3 wood frame cottages. The administration building held: on the 1st floor- the general offices, laboratory, drug room, xray room, operating room, examination room, kitchen, and dining room; on the 2nd floor were rooms for the female employees. The pavilion had screened-in porches and private changing rooms, giving the patients fresh mountain air while in bed on sleeping porches.

At the time of opening in 1921, it was generally thought that the principle function of a sanatorium was not so much curative as it was for the isolation of old chronic cases of tuberculosis. Therefore, many of the first admissions were more advanced and hopeless cases.

In 1924 an additional hospital building was built, giving the institution 50 more beds and raising its patient limit to 100; which soon became inadequate for the Eastern half of the state. It was a 2-story, fireproof brick building with patient rooms situated to face South. Each patient had an individual room with hot and cold running water, toilet and linen closet, which opened to a screened-in porch by two French doors. The building also held a new kitchen, pharmacy, treatment room, and 2 general work rooms. The sanatorium also had a power house, laundry, recreation building, and steam plant (for heating building and sanitizing operating and cooking utensils.)

Methods used during this time in the treatment of Tuberculosis were artificial pneumothorax (a surgical treatment to collapse the lung by inserting air or nitrogen into the pleural space), heliotherapy (the therapeutic use of sunlight), rest, fresh air, and wholesome food.

The Recreation building was used to teach recovering patients a new vocation suitable for his/her new physical condition, so that he/she may not be a burden on the community when released. Entertainment such as "moving picture shows" and plays were also shown once a week in the Recreation building for patients well enough to attend.

In July 1925, the Legislature approriated $45,000 for a new nurses home on the grounds. A 2-story, brick fireproof building, completed April 1926, had a small kitchen & laundry in the basement, as well as a large living room and fireplace on each floor. In October 1927, construction began on a new service building to be completed in 1928. The new building held a new kitchen, a large dining room for patients, store, cold storage rooms, a large auditorium, and more quarters for employees upstairs.

In November 1928 the EOTS (Eastern Oklahoma Tuberculosis Sanatorium) had a capacity of 100 patients and was caring for 120, with a waiting list of another 100 patients. There were currently no TB hospitals for children in the state and there were estimations of 12,000 Oklahomans in need of TB treatment at the time.

In 1930 a 65-bed children's building was added to the campus and named the Harper Building. The Harper building was 2-stories with a central room and wings on each side. The South wing consisted of sleeping porches while the North of dressing rooms. The central room on the 1st floor was used as a reception room for visitors, a head nurses office, treatment room, dining hall and kitchen. The central room on the 2nd floor held two isolation wards with 4 beds each, two nurses' rooms, a solarium, and a school room for children who had their education interrupted by illness. At the time of building completion, the sanatorium already had a wait list exceeding 65 children.

By 1931 the campus had seen some improvements. A mile long cast iron water main was connected to the main town line at Talihina, a dairy barn boasting 24 milking cows, the administration building was remodeled, shrubs and trees were planted on the lawns with stumps and rocks removed, and sidewalks were layed connecting all buildings. The sanatorium also acquired a new x-ray machine at this time, the first of it's kind made by the General Electric Company.

In 1932, a 3-story infirmary building for women was constructed with an 80-bed capacity. The building was used to take care of more advanced female patients, and also as a receiving ward. It was at this time in 1932 that many evergreen trees were planted among the buildings on campus.

In 1936 a new milk building was constructed, a brick building boasting one of the best milk plants in Oklahoma. The new equipment included a 200-gallon pasteurizing machine. Equipment was also purchased to enable this plant to produce other milk products like butter, cottage cheese, and buttermilk.

In 1937 the largest building to be constructed at EOTS was completed at a cost of $184,000. It was 3-stories, plus a large basement, and added 140 beds to the capacity limit. At the time of completion the waiting list for patients was more than 100 men and more than 100 women. Therefore, immediately after the building was opened it filled to capacity, and the building continuously carried over 160 patients. Each wing of the building was segregated from the other, with men in the East wing and women in the West wing. There was a large elevator in the middle of the building, and also a motorized dumb waiter for carrying food. It was the first building on campus to have an incinerator connected on each floor for burning items from patients (tissues, napkins, etc.). In the basement was located the refrigeration plant which took care of refrigeration and ice for all buildings. On the 1st floor were the kitchen and dining room for the building, reception and waiting room, nurses office, chart room, and examination room. Throughout the building and in each room there was an electric call system which registered in the halls on each floor and then on the first floor in the nurses office.

By this time, the sanatorium changed from the isolation of old chronic cases of tuberculosis, to a more curative approach. Because there had never been enough room at the sanatorium for all Oklahomans suffering from TB, it was now considered more advisable to admit patients who would only need hospitalized from 9 months - 1 year and would be able to return to the community. Outpatient consultation and diagnostic service became offered to doctors throughout the state. Phrenicneurectomy and Thoracorplasty (a surgical procedure that was originally designed to permanently collapse the cavities of pulmonary tuberculosis by removing the ribs from the chest wall) operations were added to the list of treatments at the sanatorium during this time.

The 1940's saw the introduction of several tuberculosis drugs, as well as better social and economic conditions throughout the nation. The drugs continued to improve, leading to less need for hospitalization and shorter stays when needed.

In 1941 hospitalization for children with primary TB was discontinued, as it was opinion tha they did not require it. In 1948 the Harper children's building was remodeled into employee housing. In 1952 two wings were added to the Infirmary building, adding 100-beds to it's capacity. A new dining room and kitchen were added to the building at this time as well.

The 1960's saw the closing of the Indian Sanatorium at Shawnee, the Talihina Indian Tuberculosis Unit, and the tuberculosis unit at Veterans Hospital in Sulpher. In 1972 Western Oklahoma Tuberculosis Sanatorium at Clinton was closed and and all patients were transferred to Eastern. By the only 30 - 40 percent of TB patients needed hospitalization and their average stay was about 90 days.

In 1973 the name of Eastern Oklahoma Tuberculosis Sanatorium was officially changed to Oklahoma State Sanatorium by the state legislature. The sanatorium had a bed capacity of 150 at this time, and most patients admitted were over 50 years old. With the inpatient load continually decreasing at the sanatorium, the State Health Department ordered staff physicians greater responsibility for outpatient care across the state.

By 1975 it was decided to close this Sanatorium due to declining need and advanced treatments. Today the facility houses a VA hospital and some of the original buildings are still standing.