Oregon History Portland History

Milwaukie’s Portland Open-Air Sanatorium (1905)

A look at the the long-gone Portland Open-air Sanatorium, located in Milwaukie, Oregon.

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).”
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).

11 replies on “Milwaukie’s Portland Open-Air Sanatorium (1905)”

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.

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 .

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.

Chris, do you know if anyone is collecting artifacts from the sanatorium? I have a silver tea pot, 8 ounces I’m interested in donating, selling…

Try the Milwaukie Museum. They eagerly accepted about 30 photos I had of the POAS from 1920

Do you know when it closed? My aunt was one of the head RN’s there, and I remember it in the early 40’s.

Also, is there a large, lovely retirement home built where it was formerly located? Thanks so much for any info.

fascinating! I finally found out how my great, great (a few more greats) aunt died. She died there of TB in Feb 1910 at the young age of 24

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s