Berkshire Hills Sanitarium

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Berkshire Hills Sanitarium
Opened 1877
Closed 1918
Current Status Demolished
Building Style Single Building
Alternate Names
  • Brown's Sanitorium


The Berkshire Hills Sanitarium was founded in 1877 by Dr. W. E. Brown and Son in North Adams, Massachusetts. The large, single building facility was founded as a specialized treatment center for cancer.

As a youth, Dr. William E. Brown experienced the removal of a cancerous growth on his palate. It was removed surgically, which proved unsuccessful, and after a second surgery, Brown's entire palate was removed. He studied dentistry, and opened his first clinic in 1854 in North Adams, MA. His son, Wallace E. Brown, joined his practice in 1878 at the age of 12. The practice moved its well known building on North and Veazie Streets. The practice's national advertising campaign resulted in a large increase in business, and a large addition was built onto the sanitarium. The structure was five stories "with sun parlors on every floor plus a six story observation tower, it contained offices, treatment rooms, a pharmacy, two dining rooms (a large one for most patients and a smaller one for those with facial tumors), a laundry, a kitchen with a thirty foot range and forty suites of guest rooms. It had an electric intercom system, electric lights, a passenger elevator and another for freight. It stretched from the corner of Veazie Street most of the way west to Williams Street, and then extended south, parallel to both streets." [1]

After 31 years of establishment, the Berkshire Hills Sanitarium was a successful institute. There were several of its kind in the United States, and methods for cancer treatment were consistent among the facilities. Dr. Wallace E. Brown, of Berkshire Hills, boasted cancer treatment "without resorting to surgical procedure," in reference to the Nichol Escharotic Method. Perry Lewis Nichols, M.D., of the Dr. Nichols Sanatorium, founded a new method for cancer lesion therapy at his facility in Savannah, Missouri, in 1914. The Nichols Escharotic Method involved the use of escharotic, or caustic, pastes to treat cancerous skin lesions. The pastes, typically arsenic and zinc chlorides, left deep burns, often requiring multiple surgeries after the treatment. It was common for cancer to return within a few years and it often metastasized quickly. The method was quickly regarded as ineffective, and it was phased out by the late 1950's. [2]

Around 1908, Brown's colleges convinced him to stop advertising for his treatment center. They deemed it unethical, and Brown followed their suggestions. This was to the ultimate downfall of the institution. One year later, the facility was empty. Advertising was the sole means to alert patients for possible treatment options. The center closed, and the building was used only for an influenza clinic during the 1918 epidemic. The mortgage was foreclosed by the bank in 1920, after Wallace declared bankruptcy and moved to New York City. The beautiful structure in downtown North Adams was demolished later than year. [3]

Drs. Brown and Son promoted non-invasive and non-radiative techniques for cancer treatment. They openly denounced the use of X-Rays and Radium for cancer treatment, hosting open seminars for physicians around the country

Images of Berkshire Hills Sanitarium[edit]

Main Image Gallery: Berkshire Hills Sanitarium


  1. Paul W. Marino, Program Director of Northern Berkshire Community Television Corporation (NBCTC);
  2. "Unproven Methods of Cancer Treatment; Nichols Escharotic Method," Cancer Journal for Physicians, Vol. 18, No. 4, July-August 1968, Page 246-247.
  3. Paul W. Marino, Program Director of Northern Berkshire Community Television Corporation (NBCTC);