Irene Byron Tuberculosis Sanatorium

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Irene Byron Tuberculosis Sanatorium
Construction Began 1916
Opened 1919
Closed 1974
Current Status Demolished
Building Style Cottage Plan
Location Ft. Wayne, IN
Alternate Names


In 1913 Irene Byron, a young graduate of the Hope Hospital Training Program for Nurses, began work as the visiting nurse for the Anti Tuberculosis League. In this role, she had responsibility for educating patients in the importance of sanitation. If the disease were caught in the early stages, a good diet, fresh air, and rest could help patients recover. Miss Byron and other leaders of the Anti Tuberculosis League quickly learned, however, that Fort Wayne was experiencing a tuberculosis epidemic. By September of 1913 more than 600 local residents were suffering from the disease. Two hundred were so sick that nothing short of a miracle could save them. Most of the remaining 400 victims might survive if they could be propery cared for. While tuberculosis sanitariums were becoming established elsewhere, Fort Wayne at this time lacked such facilities.

As a first step, the Anti Tuberculosis League opened a free clinic and dispensary. Irene Byron, now as the league's executive secretary, took responsibility for supervising programs of home care. In the summer of 1914 Irene Byron began campaigning for an outdoor hospital that would enforce strict rules of rest, diet, and fresh air. Thanks largely to her efforts, the following spring the Anti Tuberculosis League opened Fort Recovery, a group of wooden huts that housed twenty patients, even very young children.

Miss Byron continued to care for hundreds of other patients in their homes. At the same time she crusaded for a fresh air school to help underweight chidren become more robust. Irene Byron clearly risked her life through her regular visits with TB patients. By the winter of 1915, such exposre had taken its toll, for she was forced to take an extended leave of absence to visit family in California. She apparently regained her health, for when the call went out in the fall of 1917 for nurses to serve in World War I, she was one of the first from Fort Wayne to sign up. Knowingly, she again risked her life to care for soldiers stationed at Camp McArthur in Waco, Texas, stricken with influenza. Despite the hardships she faced, she hoped to be sent to war areas in France.

Within less than six months in Texas, however, Miss Byron died, becoming Allen County's first woman martyr of the war. She was only 36 years old. Irene Byron's efforts to fight tuberculosis in Fort Wayne nevertheless continued. In the summer of 1919 a new modern sanitarium was dedicated in her honor to care for soldiers returning from service.