A Place of Hope and Healing

Welcome to a history of the South Mountain Restoration Center. This story will take you across ground that has been walked by thousands of “tuberculosis patients, undernourished children, World War I veterans, mentally retarded woman, geriatric patients, and troubled youth.”[1] For over a century this has been a place of hope and healing and this impressive complex stands as a symbol of our society’s enduring battle to care for those too ill to take care of themselves.

[1] Kathryn Yelinek, The History of South Mountain Restoration Center 1901-2001 (Commonwealth of Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 2001), 35.

     The purpose and history of this center is deeply connected to the land, climate, and geography of this area. Located on top of the South Mountain ridge, in south central Pennsylvania, at an elevation of 1,600 feet, the 500 acres of the Restoration Center has offered a perfect setting for those in need of a healthy place to live, heal, and find hope.[1]

[1] “Mt. Alto Sanatorium Started From a Tent Near Present Site,” The Record Herald, 1947.

John Gilbert Memorial Chapel

  John Gilbert Memorial Chapel

This simple yet charming chapel was built and designed by Dr. Samuel G. Dixon, Pennsylvania’s Commissioner of Health, in 1911 and has served as the physical and spiritual center of the complex. [1] It is the oldest building still standing and offers an opportunity to learn about the early years of the institution.
            An article in The Record Herald, one of the local newspapers, in 1947 is a pleasant introduction to the founding of the center. " In mid summer of 1902-about the time a young farmer named Charles Johnson was attacked and injured by a wild cat on South Mountain-a middle aged physician made his appearance in the South Mountain area. It was ‘Old Doc’ Rothrock, called the father of Pennsylvania’s forests, who pulled his horse-drawn wagon to a stop in a grove of white pine four miles above Mt. Alto, and unofficially established the now famous tuberculosis health resort.” [2]
           It was first named the White Pine Camp, a private enterprise that welcomed those who needed the fresh air and sunshine for their various afflictions. It is speculated that Rothrock suffered from some sort of lung disease, possibly tuberculosis. During these early years conditions at the camp were very primitive with the residents living in tents or wooden shelters.[3]
            In 1907 Pennsylvania began a statewide effort to combat tuberculosis and the name of the site was changed to the Mont Alto Sanatorium. Residents lived in “Dixon cottages” specially designed to maximize the sunshine and fresh air thought necessary for recovery. The population grew during this time from 30 patients to 960 by 1912.[4] Throughout the history of the center the chapel has served as many things for many different people, but it has always been a place of hope, faith, and community.

[1] Yelinek,10
[2] Record Herald, 1947.
[3] Yelinek 5-11
[4] Yelinek, 8-9

The Nurses' Home / Cornel Abraxas Leadership Development Program

The Nurses Home

           One of the most interesting aspects of the Restoration Center is the style and type of buildings that were constructed especially during the building boom of 1938-1940 when Pennsylvania allocated over four million dollars to the center for new construction.[1] The Nurses’ Home built during this time shows the combination of classical elements, like the columns and fa├žade, with the then modern emphasis on efficient use of space and imposing size. Standing three stories high it was built to accommodation up to 107 nurses.[2]
            By 1947 the center held over 800 patients with a total capacity of 1,750. Touted as a marvel of size and sophistication of treatment for tuberculosis it also employed over 500 staff.[3] Many of these staff were nurses and they lived and worked on the grounds. Their role in the treatment of the tuberculosis patients was crucial and many were former patients themselves.[4]
            Although the methods of treatment for tuberculosis advanced and changed over the years at the core of all of these were the daily routines and close monitoring of the patients that the nurses provided. The consistency and compassion that they showed towards their charges were a key element in the hope for recovery.
            Today this building houses the Cornel Abraxas Leadership Development Program, a program designed to help troubled adolescent boys. Although this program and the VisionQuest program, also located on Restoration Center grounds, serve a different client their use of the buildings and grounds are consistent with the mission of providing hope and healing for those in need. The care of children has been a constant since the early days of the institution.

[1] Asylum Projects, http://www.asylumprojects.org/index.php?title=Main_Page (accessed September 30, 2010).
[2] Yelinek, 14
[3] Record Herald, 1947.
[4] Yelinek, 12.

Unit 1

Unit 1

Unit 1 was built in 1938 at a cost of 1.2 million dollars. The building is 7 stories tall and its walls are eighteen inches thick. [1] As Kathryn Yelinek describes, “when it first opened, the building boasted operating suites, medical and administrative offices, a kitchen, a dining room, a research lab, a morgue and autopsy room, two movie theaters, an auditorium with stage, recreational facilities, and headsets beside each bed that played two radio stations. With its eastern-facing solariums and numerous windows, Unit 1 provided 100 percent fresh air return.” [2]
            During the 1950’s Unit 1 held the most critical patients, with the men located in the north wing and the women in the south. Patients were classified based on the severity of their illness with the most severe being on the higher floors.[3] It was during this era that the treatment of tuberculosis took a whole new turn with the use of drugs and it would not be long before the South Mountain facility would no longer be needed to house these patients.
            Unit 1, which is still an active hospital providing long term care for geriatric patients, is an imposing structure with its grand entryway, Pennsylvania state seal on its front, and bright cupola. Many patients lived out their lives there and how must it have felt for them to move from the cottage style of living to this new large institutional setting? Change and progress are two essential aspects of the Restoration Center's story
and advances in the care and treatment of tuberculosis and other afflictions must be evaluated from both the patient and medical provider viewpoints.

[1] Asylum Projects, http://www.asylumprojects.org/index.php?title=Main_Page (accessed September 30, 2010).
[2] Yelinek, 14.
[3] Asylum Projects, http://www.asylumprojects.org/index.php?title=Main_Page (accessed September 30, 2010).

Unit 2

Unit 2

Unit 2 was opened in 1940 as the Children’s Hospital or preventorium. This four story structure combined all the up to date amenities deemed necessary to care for the children with tuberculosis with a beautiful classical style.[1] It housed both boys and girls and offered them a structured routine that combined proper diet, plenty of rest, class work and play time. By 1946 100 children resided at the preventorium and they ranged in age from 18 months to 17 years. In describing the makeup of the population The Record Herald in 1947 stated “noticing a large percentage of colored children in the preventorium, a visitor may be astounded to discover that the Negro toll is 2 ½ times that of the white race. In fact, exactly one-half of the feminine population in the preventorium is made up of negro girls.”[2] Why is that, and are there any conclusions we can draw from these facts?
            As we can see Unit 2 is vacant and has been since 1985. Many plans have been proposed to reopen this structure, but this impressive structure still stands empty. What should be its future?

[1] Yelinek, 14.
[2] The Record Herald, 1947.

The Cemetery

This cemetery dates from the very early years of the sanatorium, and as Kathryn Yelinek explains “for many years its very location was forgotten since the plaques and boundaries had disappeared, leaving only local hearsay to testify that a graveyard existed on the grounds.”[1] In 1978 the cemetery was rediscovered and of the 308 graves there only 17 remain unidentified. The dates of death range from 1909-1931 and most were buried on grounds because they had lost touch with their families or their bodies were unclaimed possibly due to fear of infection.[2]
            This gravesite filled with forgotten patients reminds us of the serious work that took place here and the fact that although many were able to find hope and healing here this has also been a place of death and sorrow.
            In learning about ome of the history od this century old institution it is striking the progress that has been made in the care of patients with tuberculosis and other afflictions. We as a society have built an institution that continues to provide hope and a place to heal for those in need.

[1] Yelinek, 10.
[2] Yelinek, 10.