Milwaukie’s Portland Open-Air Sanatorium (1905)

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Located where Park Blvd. hits River Road, the location is likely where the Willamette View retirement community now sits right on the border of Milwaukie and Oak Grove.

I’ve seen the name mentioned, seen it on maps and have always wondered what this sanatorium was, when it was built and what happened to it. By chance while searching for beer history,  I stumbled on the lengthy-titled book (take a deep breath): “The Campaign Against Tuberculosis In The United States (Including A Directory Of Institutions Dealing With Tuberculosis In The United States And Canada Compiled Under The Direction Of The National Association For The Study And Prevention Of Tuberculosis).”

http://sites.rootsweb.com/~ormultno/Directories/1924/hospitals.htm#Portland%20Open%20Air%20Sanatorium
The sanatorium provided “individual cottages with steam heated dressing rooms, hot and cold running water and shower and tub baths.”  Source. 

Scanning it I discovered that, yes, the Portland Open-air Sanatorium was real and existed and took “incipient and advanced cases” with a capacity of 40, and rates from $10 to $30 a week.

The Sanatorium was located at “Milwaukee” (the book’s spelling) Heights, on the Oregon Water Power and Railroad Company’s line, six miles south of Portland, on a bluff three hundred feet high overlooking the Willamette. It was the first sanatorium for the treatment of tuberculosis to be established in Oregon.

The book continues:

The sanatorium is situated in a fir grove, sheltered from the winds, the climate being so mild and equable that the patients live comfortably in tents during the entire year.  Its equipment consists largely of tents, which can be used the entire year. (People were much tougher in 1905.)

It offered “the exclusive treatment of tuberculosis by the careful application of the most modern physical, dietetic, hygienic and specific procedures. Patients were provided with X-ray and laboratory facilities, but also “individual cottages (I guess the tents were replaced) with steam heated dressing rooms, hot and cold running water and shower and tub baths.” 

It didn’t last long when the state realized it needed a much larger facility, mandating public medical care to tuberculosis patients in 1910, after which patients from the Milwaukie Heights hospital were relocated to the new Oregon State Tuberculosis Hospital in Salem (in the former Oregon State Deaf-Mute School building, constructed in 1894).

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4 thoughts on “Milwaukie’s Portland Open-Air Sanatorium (1905)

  1. Kristin December 9, 2018 / 2:11 pm

    This is so fascinating! Right up the street from me and just a few years before my family bought our property .
    I have also wondered if any cemeteries existed in the immediate area.

  2. Kristin December 9, 2018 / 2:14 pm

    Interesting to see this map because I see where my family property is and the name attached. How can I find out more ? I see a name I never heard about .

  3. Chris April 15, 2019 / 3:00 pm

    My grand uncle, Charles Henry Skuse, worked at the sanatorium as a “physical culture instructor”. I also have a postcard of him when he was there if anyone is interested.

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