Thursday, December 13, 2007

Methodist Deaconess Sanatorium was a hallmark of Albuquerque, dubbed TB Town

by Mo Palmer

Recently I gave one of my snoozer talks about "Albuquerque in the Time of Tuberculosis." The title is a play on "Love in the Time of Cholera," which sounded cool. The title, not cholera. I have no idea what the movie is about.

I got through the lecture without falling asleep, and it must have been OK, because I didn't hear anyone snoring.

I realized while doing research and the "history chat" that people are aware of Presbyterian and St. Joseph sanatoriums. But how many remember the one at Central and Pine, one block west of University, which was Plum Street back then.

It was Methodist Deaconess Sanatorium, built in 1912, and although its legacy is the same as Presbyterian and St. Joseph — major metro hospitals — its heritage is no longer visible.

Here's what I learned. If I'm wrong, or you have something to add, I'd love to know.

Many denominations "missionized" the West. Among them were Catholics, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Episcopalians and Methodists. All were dedicated. Most established churches and schools, and some got into health care.

The University of New Mexico has an early photograph of a house barely beyond the campus. We've pondered who lived there. Now I think it was the Porterfield homestead, which the family donated to the Methodist Committee.

I found, in a "booster booklet" advertising the facility, all the little cottages around that very home. I think I made a discovery. That's always a thrill.

The cottages were moved to a new location. This might help you get a visual. Methodist Deaconess Sanatorium was built in California Mission Revival style, like the Alvarado Hotel and the YMCA at First and Central.

The featured photo is the main building. Look at the lawn furniture, where folks could recuperate outdoors.

Albuquerque needed all the health care it could get. Tuberculosis was to the 1800s and early 1900s what the bubonic plague was to the 1300s, except tuberculosis was a white death instead of a Black Death.

The extremely pale look of "consumption" victims appealed to those of the Romantic era. Lord Byron wanted to die of tuberculosis, dribbling blood. Unfortunately, he caught a cold, got a fever and shuffled off in a more mundane manner. Oh, well. The wasting disease did give rise to dramas such as "Camille" and operas "La Boheme" and "La Traviata."

Albuquerque's altitude, sunshine and air attracted legions of "lungers," chasing what often proved to be an elusive cure. As fast as treatment centers appeared, they were stuffed.

Over the years, Albuquerque was "San City," as in Sanatorium City. In addition to St. Joe, Pres and Methodist, there was the Albuquerque Sanatorium, AHEPA (a Greek sanatorium), Miramontes on the Mesa, Sandia Ranch, Murphy, St. John's and Hillcrest.

Some were the same buildings that changed names. Anybody go to Regina Coeli (Queen of Heaven) Church or School? That is what Miramontes became. Now the site is occupied by a mattress place.

Methodist Deaconess was a success. Ives Memorial soon graced Methodist's campus and was used as a dwelling for nurses, doctors or maybe both. Later, Ives Hall was host to all sorts of community meetings. It seems like every one of our myriad service and social clubs met there.

The Ives Memorial became the Park Lane Hotel, and it was painted yellow. It was on Route 66. Apparently, it was an elegant place for a while.

After the freeway beat up the Mother Road, many old hotels and motels faded away; at some point, the Park Lane was razed.

Some Methodist Deaconess Sanatorium patients healed and stayed on to make us proud. U.S. Sen. Clinton P. Anderson and Ward Hicks of advertising fame both got well there. Larry Glasebrook, who eventually lost his long battle, helped establish Kamp Killgloom, later Camp Well Country, in the Sandias. He dreamed of providing mountain care for those of limited means. The camp is still there, but it's a private home.

Glasebrook and Anderson edited the Herald of the Well Country, a house organ that still yields a cornucopia of gossip about life in TB Town.

Methodist Deaconess Sanatorium succumbed to decline, as did all other sanatoriums, when World War II drugs made tuberculosis a goner.

Here's a tidbit you might not know. Methodist Deaconess Sanatorium was sold to help finance a new hospital. You'll never guess what rose from the sanatorium's ashes or broken bricks, as the case might be. Today it's Galles Motors on Central, with its acres of glass windows.

(A passer-by snapped a photo of the Methodist sanatorium's smokestack going down. And that's the only image I found.)

Like the Presbyterians and the Catholics, the Methodists also continued their work in a brand-new hospital, Bataan Methodist Memorial. The Bataan hospital opened in 1952 on Gibson Boulevard, next to the little Lovelace Clinic. The hospital was named for the New Mexicans who lived and died on the Bataan Death March.

Bataan Memorial was absorbed by Lovelace. Walking from one end to the other of those facilities will put 10,000 steps on your pedometer. Today, it belongs to Ardent.

There are 8 million stories in the Naked City — of course, that's New York, not Albuquerque. But this has been one of ours and a patch added to the history quilt we've been assembling for the past seven years. This might be our last. Hope to see you again.



Originally published in The Albuquerque Tribune, December 13, 2007.
The Tribune articles are used with the permission of Scripps Howard.

The Missing Photos:
(Courtesy of The Albuquerque Museum)

Methodist Deaconess Sanatorium, built in 1912 at Central and Pine in Albuquerque, was designed in California Mission Revival style, like the Alvarado Hotel and the YMCA at First and Central. The photo above is the main building. Notice the lawn furniture (left), where folks could recuperate outdoors.


(Courtesy of Albuquerque Museum, gift of John Airy, Ward hicks Collection)

Ives Memorial, circa 1920s, soon graced Methodist's campus and was used as a dwelling for nurses, doctors or maybe both.

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