In the mid-19th century, the first institutions were built to care for sufferers. Intially, TB was treated by diet and fresh air at specialized hospitals. Even with these sanitoriums available throughout Europe, the disease continued to spread.
In the early 1900s, when Lake County doctor, W.H. Watterson contracted TB, he discovered that there were no facilities in the region to treat it. After his cure, Watterson—along with Dr. Elva A. Wright—organized the Lake County Tuberculosis Institute.
If people could not afford the sanitorium they would remain at home, often isolated from other family members. In the case of my grandmother, Marie, she stayed in a small cottage behind her parents' home in Sturtevant, Wisconsin.
In 1939, a 90-bed sanitorium was constructed on Belvidere Street in Waukegan, adjacent to today's Belvidere Park. The building was modern in design and became nationally known for its unique architecture.The building was designed by William L. Pereira and William A. Ganster of Ganster and Hennighausen. Pereira and Ganster's work was featured in a 1944 Museum of Modern Art exhibition in New York, featuring architectural achievements.
Sanitorium under construction, 1939 - BBDM 77.13
Sanitorium lobby. Photo by Hedrich-Blessing Studio, Chicago, circa 1940 - BBDM 77.20.
By the 1940s, the emphasis on the need for fresh air was gone, and patient rooms looked much as they do today. TB Sanitorium room. Photo by Hedrich-Blessing Studio, Chicago, circa 1940 - BBDM 77.13
The first vaccine for TB was developed at the Pasteur Institute in France between 1905 and 1921. Mass vaccination against TB did not begin until after World War II. Also in the 1940s, a series of antibiotics were developed to combat the disease.
Diagnosis relies on chest X-rays, a tuberculin skin test, blood tests, as well as microscopic examination and microbiological culture of bodily fluids. Treatment is difficult and requires long courses of multiple antibiotics. Sanitorium examination room, circa 1940 - BBDM 77.20
"Get Your Free Chest X-Ray Here" is painted on the front of this mobile tuberculosis unit, circa 1955. Photo by The Gerstenslager Company, Wooster, Ohio - BBDM 2009.13.1.
Update: When I wrote this post in 2010, the fate of the building and whether the Health Department would continue to use it were in discussion.
Fortunately, the "Belvidere Medical Building" continues to operate as part of the Lake County Health Department and serve the community.