Pureair Sanatorium

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Pureair Sanatorium
Established 1918
Opened 1920
Closed 1975
Current Status Demolished
Building Style Single Building
Location Salmo, WI
Alternate Names
  • Tri-County Pureair Sanatorium


In 1918, work began on the Tri-County Pureair Sanatorium after years of exhaustive lobbying by Ashland physician, Dr. Matthew S. Hosmer. Aware of the importance of the isolation of infected individuals as the key to reducing the spread of tuberculosis, Hosmer had traveled throughout the Chequamegon Bay region since the late 1890s trying to convince area residents of the need for a TB sanatorium. However, no single county could afford to construct and maintain a sanatorium and since state law forbade cooperation between counties on such matters, Hosmer faced something of a dilemma. This was finally overcome in 1915 with the passing of special legislation to allow for the establishment and maintenance of district sanatorium hospitals.2 Pureair was the first of only two sanatoriums to be built as a result of this change in state law.

The Pureair Sanatorium opened on July 12, 1920 with every bed filled although the building was only half-finished, such was the demand for a bedrest facility for TB in the area. Ashland, Bayfield, and Iron counties had a high incidence of the disease, resulting from poor sanitation, health care and nutrition in the region. Consumption,as it was often called, was widespread among the Chippewas on the Bad River reservation in Ashland County and the Red Cliff reservation in Bayfield County. Tuberculosis was also the major killer of iron miners on the Penokee and Gogebic Ranges 'in Iron County, referred to locally as the "black belt." "Loggers" were also victims of the disease though it was not specific to any occupational type.

By 1921, the county boards agreed to expand the sanatorium to meet the treatment needs of World War I veterans who-had contracted the disease overseas. The 32-bed addition was completed in 1923. In the early years of the sanatorium's operation, the only known treatment for tuberculosis was to subject the patient to several years of isolation. Initial care consisted of near total bedrest. Fresh air was also considered crucial to the treatment and "cure" of the disease.

In 1945, state law was enacted to provide free care and treatment for TB. Prior to this, many families accumulated massive debts from the treatment of ailing family members. With the advent of the antibiotic streptomycin in the 1940s and later of the synthetic drug isoniazid, the need for prolonged care at a bedrest sanatorium was greatly reduced. It was because of this and new surgical techniques that Pureair was forced to close its doors in 1975.