Jackson Sanitarium

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Jackson Sanatorium
Construction Began 1854
Opened 1854
Closed 1971
Current Status Closed
Building Style Single Building
Architect(s) Nathaniel Bingham / A.J. Warner
Location Dansville, NY
Alternate Names
  • Jackson Health Resort
  • Our Home on the Hillside
  • Physical Culture Hotel
  • Bernarr Macfadden Hotel and Health Resort


Construction of the Jackson Sanatorium began in 1854 by Nathaniel Bingham, who chose the location due to the sulfur rich springs that ran through the area in New York. When Bingham fell ill, Dr. James Caleb Jackson, a prominent doctor and survivor of childhood illness took over the project. Construction was completed later that year, and the facility opened as Jackson's "Home on the Hillside." The sanitarium served as a retreat and healing center, spreading Jackson's idea of health through hydrotherapy and a diet with minimal meat consumption and heavy in fruits, vegetables, and grains. The doctor provided patients with an unprocessed grain source in the form of a bland, supplement made of bran and graham flour. The supplement, called granula by Jackson, was made chewable by soaking in water overnight and provided nutrition for patients of the resort.

In 1887, John Kellog, one of Jackson's colleagues, created a similar supplement, a biscuit made of whole grains like oats, wheat and corn meal. He called the product Biscuit Granula, and Jackson sought legal action against him for copyright infringement of the name. The case was settled, with Kellog adopting the name Granola. [1]

Jackson sanitarium featured other healing methods that were popular at that time, including maximum sunlight and fresh air. Each room had tall ceilings and windows placed to maximize air circulation. The roof of the building included rounded wood platforms enclosed in glass, allowing patients to be exposed to sunlight and fresh air.

After the Civil War, the facility served as a resort for wealthy people looking to be healed of physical and mental ailments. The doctor's ideas of natural healing were carried on at the facility. In the 1870's the aging Dr. Jackson handed over the care of the facility to his son and daughter in law ( Drs. James H. and Kate J. Jackson)[2], but in June of 1882, a fire broke out in the main building. A new five-story building was constructed by A.J. Warner, which opened on October 1st 1883. [3] After several decades of success, use of the facility began to slow. By 1914, the couple declared bankruptcy and Jackson Sanitarium closed its doors.

The building functioned as a psychiatric hospital for the Army for the treatment of soldiers from World War I, but soon closed again. Several failed attempts to reopen the facility failed in the following years.

In the spring of 1929, Bernarr Mcfadden, an entrepreneur and heath and fitness guru, purchased and opened the resort as the Physical Culture Hotel. The name came from Mcfadden's successful magazine, called Physical Culture, and was one of several resorts that he owned. The old building was refurbished and soon became successful as a hotel with a focus in fitness and healing. Celebrities used to hotel as a get-away, retreating to the open-air facility and participating in activities like swimming, tennis, and having exclusive parties with music.

Mcfadden died in 1955 at the age of 87. Ownership of the hotel was passed to William Fromcheck, who kept the name of Bernarr Mcfadden's Castle on the Hill. Guest numbers decreased significantly, and the hotel never reopened after it closed for the season in 1971.

The sanatorium remains vacant now, 100 years later. In January 2008, the New York State Restore Communities Initiative allotted $2.5 million for restoration of the building. [4]

Images of Jackson Sanitarium[edit]

Main Image Gallery: Jackson Sanitarium


  1. Annetta Black, Martin, Rachel, Michelle Ferlito, Eric Grundhauser, Atlas Obscura. Jackson Sanatorium. 2014. Accessed Digitally March 12 2014.
  2. http://www.institutionalgreen.org/jackson/js.html, Accessed Digitally March 14 2014
  3. Tom Kirsch, http://opacity.us/site113_jackson_sanatorium.htm, Accessed Digitally March 14 2014.
  4. Annetta Black, Martin, Rachel, Michelle Ferlito, Eric Grundhauser, Atlas Obscura. Jackson Sanatorium. 2014. Accessed Digitally March 12 2014.