North Dakota Tuberculosis Sanitarium

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North Dakota Tuberculosis Sanitarium
Established 1909
Opened 1912
Closed 1987
Current Status Closed
Building Style Single Building
Location Dunseith, ND
Alternate Names
  • San Haven Tuberculosis Sanitarium
  • San Haven State Hospital


North Dakota law created the North Dakota Tuberculosis Sanitarium in 1909 to care for persons afflicted with tuberculosis. Originally known as the North Dakota Tuberculosis Sanitarium (later Sanatorium), the hospital was governed by a Board consisting of the Governor, the Superintendent of the State Board of Health, a member of the Public Health Laboratory, and two members appointed by the Governor. In 1911, the governing Board chose Dunseith in Rolette County as the home for this facility. The choice of Dunseith on the south slope of the Turtle Mountains was selected because of the higher altitude, less snowfall, drier atmosphere, and favorable conditions for patients with tuberculosis. The facility opened to patients in November of 1912. In 1915, financial support of the Sanatorium came from the legislature, private paying patients, or from the patient’s local county funds.

Patients from Grafton and other institutions were transferred to the San Haven facility in the late 1950s, and in 1957 a building was remodeled to include the developmentally disabled and the elderly. Also in 1957 the State Legislature directed the State Department of Health and the State Health Planning Council to seek out federal funding for the construction of a tuberculosis sanitarium in Grand Forks with the cooperation of North Dakota State Medical Center at University of North Dakota. Later legislation directed the State Medical Center to continue to work with the existing Sanatorium at San Haven.

A Mental Health Authority within the State Health Department was established. The section of San Haven that housed the School for the Feeble Minded was under the authority of the Grafton State School. The 1961 legislature authorized the Board of Administration to transfer patients from Grafton State School to San Haven. In the 1960s the Grafton State School like other U.S. facilities of developmentally disabled reached a peak population of 1,300 who were served daily at the facilities of Grafton and the School at San Haven.

In 1971, the North Dakota Tuberculosis Sanatorium was referred to as San Haven State Hospital. Several legislative changes took place in 1973. San Haven became a division of the Grafton State School, however, San Haven continued to treat patients with tuberculosis. The superintendent at Grafton State School also served as the superintendent of the San Haven State Hospital and appointed an assistant superintendent to manage San Haven. In 1973 the Director of Institutions was authorized to discontinue operations at the tuberculosis sanatorium and was to transfer responsibility for the care of patients with tuberculosis to the State Department of Health. Increasingly patients with tuberculosis were either inpatients or outpatients at general hospitals and were treated by physicians of their own choice. Finally, the state leased a portion of the land at San Haven to the Dunseith Park Board to be used as a golf course or for other recreational purposes.

A new section of the Century Code related to new methods of care for persons with tuberculosis. The State Health Officer under the guidelines of the State Health Council was responsible for the care of the patients. The care of those with tuberculosis at San Haven was phased-out and the San Haven facility was to only provide custodial care for the developmentally disabled. Until 1979 the assistant superintendent acted as both the chief of staff and chief of the medical staff and this became two separate positions.

State resources did not cover the all of the costs for maintaining the facilities at San Haven and questions concerning adequate care of the developmentally disabled arose. This brought about a lawsuit in 1980 between the North Dakota Association for Retarded Citizens and the State of North Dakota. The court-ordered changes modernized the custodial system and gave the developmentally disabled residents an opportunity to live in their own communities. In December of 1987 San Haven State Hospital closed. The facility stood vacant in 1989 and the legislature in 1991 authorized the director of the Office of Management and Budget to sell, lease, exchange, or transfer the title of San Haven properties. Any funds realized from the transaction would be deposited in the general fund. In 1992 the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Tribe purchased from the State of North Dakota the San Haven property.