Essex County Sanatorium

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Essex County Sanitarium
Opened 1928
Closed 1964
Demolished 1976
Current Status Demolished
Building Style Cottage Plan
Location Middleton, MA
Alternate Names
  • Essex County Tuberculosis Sanatorium


Located in a town called Middleton Massachusetts, the Essex County Tuberculosis Sanatorium opened in 1928. Just 2 miles north of Danvers State Hospital, "The San" as it was called, was filled to its capacity during operation with over 350 patients. During its time, the closest nearby Sanatorium was located in Hebron, Maine. Several years went by before the Middlesex County Sanatorium opened in Waltham, Massachusetts to help assist with the epidemic. The treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis in the 1920's was not so far advanced as it is today. The sulfa drugs and penicillin, as well as certain forms of surgery, have since then eliminated long periods of hospitalization for the illness.

Patients at the San ranged from doctors, lawyers, clergymen, bank executives, insurance agents and even undertakers. There were fishermen from Gloucester, tannery workers from Peabody, stone cutters from Rockport, shoe workers from Lynn, along with many others. The ages also varied from as young as 7 to as old as 80.

Dr. Olin S. Pettingill was the San's first Superintendent. He brought with him a ready-made staff of nurses and doctors from the Hebron facility where he had been the head of a smaller institution dedicated to the study and elimination of tuberculosis. Many staff members lived on the hospital grounds at the "Webb House" which was located where the Essex County Correctional Facility is now.The treatment of pulmonary tuberculosi was then quite simple, good food and plenty of rest was the initial cure. It wasn't odd to see patients covered in layers clothes and blankets and the windows open during the winter months as fresh air was key to recovery. Like many other institutions, the San kept the male and female patients separated. The male patients were at one end of the main building and females at the opposite end. The Essex Sanatorium was completely self-sufficient. It had its own power, heating and water supply along with animal, fruit and vegetable farms located west of the property.

In 1960, as tuberculosis cases lessened the Sanatorium helped more chronic disease patients than tuberculosis patients. Eventually the chronic disease patients were moved elsewhere and the last tuberculosis patients were moved to the Middlesex County Hospital in July of 1964. The buildings sat abandoned for over 12 years. During the years of abandonment, the San had its share of homeless inhabitants and vandalism as a 2 alarm blaze destroyed the Superintendent's building on November 5th, 1969. The Superintendent's building was immediately demolished as a result of the fire damage. The entire campus was razed in 1976."[1]

Images of Essex County Sanatorium

Main Image Gallery: Essex County Sanatorium


  1. John Gray, "Essex County, Middleton, Massachusetts." 2004. Accessed October 21st 2013.