Wood Lea Sanitarium

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Wood Lea Sanitarium
Established September 1, 1908
Opened 1909
Current Status Closed
Location Ardmore, PA
Architecture Style Old English


Wood Lea Sanitarium was a private female psychiatric facility located in Ardmore, PA, outside of the City of Philadelphia. It was organized on September 1, 1908, by Dr. Grace E. White, who was for ten years an assistant resident physician at the Friends Hospital, in the Frankford section of Philadelphia. This was done in partnership with Mrs. Elizabeth Chase McDaniel of Ardmore. In September of 1911, this partnership was dissolved and a new one formed, Dr. White remained physician-in-charge, and Elmer C. Rouband becoming the primary business manager of the small asylum.

The sanitarium was located at 300 Ardmore Avenue, Ardmore, PA. At its construction, it was surrounded by 30 acres of land, six of which were mature woodland, through which a small brook ran, adding to the picturesqueness of the grounds. Part of the property consisted of a lawn and garden, another was under cultivation as an extensive kitchen garden, and yet another was under pasture. The house, which served as the primary residence for the patients, was a pleasant little house in the old English style of architecture, and was situated on a slight knoll, for the purpose of drainage and ventilation. It had accommodations for ten patients maximum.

On the ground floor of the house, opening west and south, was a large assembly room, and connected with it is an indoor conservatory. Here the patients, who were well enough to mingle with each other, met for entertainment and the proper employment. A grand piano and Victrola gave the opportunity for music. Additionally, a well-selected library affords facilities for reading. Every effort was made to assist the patient to develop the resources for entertainment, or by diversified occupation, to engage them. Knitting, crocheting, basket-making, embroidery, dressmaking, indoor gardening, cards and other games had been available, while in the summer; tennis, croquet, outdoor gardening, walks and tramps over the surrounding country furnish entertainment for the patients.

The primary feature of Wood Lea's treatment methodology, was the use of a non-institutional and homelike atmosphere provided for the patients. The theory of the physician-in-charge was that nervous patients, and those of abnormal mentality, improve most rapidly in an environment where all that accentuates the deviation from the normal is minimized as far as possible, and where the regime approaches as nearly as possible to normal living. The facility featured direct contact between the physician-in-charge and the patients, the intelligent and active cooperation of the attendant nurses, and a comparatively small number of patients.

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