Mercer Sanatorium

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Mercer Sanatorium
Established 1900
Current Status Closed
Building Style Single Building
Location Mercer, Pa.


The institution was established under this name by Dr. Mary McKinstry-Hull in 1900. The ground was a gift from the citizens of Mercer, and was formerly the site of the Mercer Water Cure, established in 1850 by a Dr. Wakefield and successfully operated until the death of its founder.

Dr. Hull conducted the sanitarium very successfully as a general sanitarium for chronic invalids, many of whom suffered from nervous disorders, but she did not treat mental diseases.

The present owner and medical director acquired the institution by purchase November 1, 1912. At that time the grounds consisted of 10 acres, most of which was laid out in lawns, there being a splendid grove of oak trees immediately east of the institution.

In addition to the main building, which consists of the original building and an annex, both of which are built of frame, there is an 8-room frame cottage situated about 100 yards from the chief building. Both buildings are well provided with porches, there being 175 feet of continuous porch space on the main building. The main building is two and one-half stories high, the upper floor being devoted to the nurses.

This building is heated by steam and lighted by electricity and natural gas. The water supply is from an excellent spring on the grounds, from which the water is pumped to two tanks on the hill above the institution. The spring water is soft and of excellent quality.

The sewage is carried into the town sewer, which empties into a creek.

About May 1, 1913, 30 acres of farm land adjoining the sanitarium grounds were purchased. At the present writing arrangements have just been completed to purchase an additional 12 acres of park land adjoining the grounds. An attractive stream runs through this piece of land and there is also a splendid chalybeate spring, which is quite noted locally for its medicinal qualities. With this additional piece, therefore, the grounds will consist of 52 acres. An extensive view of the surrounding country is commanded from the hill on the grounds.

The main building has a capacity for some 35 patients. The cottage on the grounds is used as a residence for the medical director's family. The detached buildings, apart from this cottage, consist of the barn, ice-house, chicken houses, etc. There is a herd of eight Jersey cows which supplies the institution with excellent milk. The garden and farm supply, to a large degree, the needs of the institution.

This institution emphasizes strongly the occupational treatment of nervous and mental disorders. A teacher is employed who devotes her entire time to the instruction of patients in various forms of weaving, basketry, ornamental cement work, lace weaving, punched brass work, etc. There are five looms in the occupational room, each of different design and intended for different types of weaving. The small frame looms are also employed, which the patients use in their rooms, out of doors, etc. There is also systematic outdoor employment for both men and women in suitable weather. The men have done such work as building summer houses, making cement walks, construction of chicken houses, etc. The women occupy themselves chiefly at flower gardening.

In the way of recreation, there are croquet, tennis, billiards and pool, music, cards and occasional entertainments.

A training school was established in the fall of 1912 and is presided over by a competent graduate nurse as superintendent of nurses. The course is two and one-half years in extent, the last four months of which are spent in a general hospital. Male graduate nurses are secured as required for special cases, as the great majority of the patients are of the female sex and few male nurses have been required.

There is a spacious associate dining room, but about half of the patients have their meals served in their rooms on trays.

Cases of drug and alcoholic addiction are received as well as nervous and mental cases. The capacity is 35 patients.

There are no special methods of treatment except that the occupational treatment is carried out more fully here probably than in most private institutions.

The institution is provided with two hydrotherapeutic plants and the usual electrical equipment. No special scientific work is attempted in the laboratory, the latter being devoted simply to the clinical diagnostic methods.

There is but one medical officer, Dr. Wm. W. Richardson, who was for six years previous to assuming charge of this institution chief physician of the male department of the State Hospital for the Insane, Norristown, Pa.[1]