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Amid the busy streets and rugged landscape of Colorado Springs, Colorado, some weird huts stand out from the indie boutiques and red rocks. The structures look quaint and ivory – octagonal with pointed shingled roofs and small windows – and are used today as storage sheds or art studios. Some have been converted into bus stops, and one is a café. But as strange as they are, the huts are also strange relics of the medical history: they once housed patients who had recovered from tuberculosis.

A City Built on Diseases

Colorado Springs' history is closely linked to tuberculosis. Tuberculosis is one of the deadliest diseases in the United States around the turn of the 20th century. It is a bacterial disease that targets the lungs and causes a persistent cough, fever, and chills. It was called consumption because of the heavy weight loss and physical deterioration of the patients ̵

1; the disease literally seemed to consume them. There was no cure before antibiotics were developed in the 1940s. Since fresh, dry air was thought to dry out the moisture in the patient's lungs and make breathing easier, many sufferers sought treatment in high, dry climates such as Colorado Springs.

The city was founded in 1871 by General William Jackson Palmer. A civil war hero and railway tycoon who wanted to seduce the residents with the scenic beauty of the region. Colorado Springs, also called City of Sunshine, was also marketed as a health resort due to its altitude, mineral water sources and abundant sunlight. Advertisements by the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce contributed to the spread, claiming the air was "100 percent aseptic" and free of germs that might otherwise lurk in stuffy cities.

People seeking treatment for tuberculosis came to Colorado Springs in the 1870s to rest and recover – or, unfortunately, to die. In the 1890s, new tuberculosis sanatoriums brought tens of thousands of people to the region. Leah Davis Witherow, curator of history at the Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum, writes that "" By 1900, about 20,000 health seekers emigrated to the Southwest each year, "with a third of Colorado's residents" coming to the state in search of a cure "for himself or a close family member ”[PDF].

Many who recovered stayed and started a new life in Colorado Springs, so the city's population boom is largely due to tuberculosis. "A lot of people just showed up in Colorado Springs hoping to get treatment or to recover," said Matt Mayberry, director of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum, told Mental Floss. “Tuberculosis was our first major industry in Colorado Springs. We were actually just a holiday resort, but tuberculosis became the main driving force of our economy from around 1880 until after the Second World War. “

Tiny Tents and Sunbaths

At the height of efforts to treat tuberculosis in 1917 passed. There were a dozen sanatoriums in the region, each accompanied by a series of TB huts. Large sanatoriums such as the Modern Woodmen of America, in which members of the fraternal welfare society were treated free of charge, had over 200 patients.

Each invalid was living in their own hut (officially called Gardiner Sanitary Tent) designed by Charles Fox Gardiner and inspired by the teepee designed to increase airflow. The huts made of wood or canvas were open at the top and had several openings around the base for fresh air. Each cabin was steam-heated and contained a bed, a closet, chairs, a vanity, and electric lights.

“Tuberculosis huts were what we could consider tiny houses today. They each housed one patient. The purpose of the hut was to keep patients isolated and to help them prevent the disease from spreading, ”says Mayberry.

In addition to self-isolation, patients had to sit outside in steam chairs for six to eight hours a day during part of the open-air treatment – even in winter. Ventilation was considered necessary for recovery because it prevented germs from hanging in the air. Some institutions even prohibited speaking during rest periods. It has been thought that the dry air helps dry the moisture from the lungs. Heliotherapy was also popular; The patients were instructed to stay in the sun for a long time. Although there is little evidence today that sunbathing has helped those affected much, it was believed that prolonged exposure to the sun would help kill the bacteria that caused tuberculosis.

Fresh mountain air and almost year-round sunshine were also a clever marketing tool to lure healers into the region. An advertisement from the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce from 1915 assured visitors:

“The climate in Colorado contains more essential elements that promote health more effectively than that of another country. These conditions are found in the chemical composition of the atmosphere; in the dry, clean, clean, soft, yet stimulating breeze that speeds up blood circulation and increases blood cells; in the tonic effect and intoxicating influence of ozone; in the flood of its life-giving, germ-destroying sunshine… ”

But calm, fresh air and sunshine would only do so much. Hearty doses of rare meat, raw eggs, milk, and rye bread were prescribed to patients three times a day to boost their immune systems. This diet should fatten them if they have experienced significant weight loss. The schedule for patients was rigid, but mandatory if they wanted to continue to be treated in the sanatoriums. Witherow reveals a typical daily schedule recorded in the diary of patient Emeline Hilton:

"Six o'clock in the morning: Sister brought a glass of milk
Seven o'clock in the morning: Took the temperature and pulse before getting up; cold sponge bath
breakfast : Rare beef, two raw eggs, & # 39; heels & # 39; rye bread and half a liter of milk
8: 30-12: Inactivity outdoors in the sun; temperature and pulse; glass of milk at eleven; rest until Dinner in the room
Dinner: Rare beef, a raw egg, rye bread and half a liter of milk
1-5: 30: Veranda, with 4 o'clock interruption of the recording (recording of temperature and pulse) and milk and room until dinner
Dinner: rare beef, a raw egg, rye bread and half a liter of milk
7.30pm: bed and light off
9.00pm: recording (recording of temperature and pulse) and milk, when awake "[19th459018] According to Witherow, the "force-feeding" method seemed to work for Hilton, a patient in the Glockner Tuberculosis Sanatorium, who described her days as rare, raw material, and rye, and a liter of milk a day. "The weight of Hilton rose from 108 pounds to 147.5 pounds after one year of treatment. (One might wonder why rye bread was served to patients unlike any other type of bread. ”The prevailing belief was that the darker the bread, the more nutritious. The goal was to give the patient as much weight as possible and rye Bread in particular was considered healthier, filled with nutrients, and denser, ”says Witherow.)

Tuberculosis huts today

While tuberculosis sanatoriums helped some patients overcome their symptoms, development eventually became more effective in the 1940s Antibiotics provided a cure for the disease and made facilities unnecessary. When the sanatoriums were closed, the tuberculosis huts were sold rather than demolished, which is why some are still standing today.

While some have been used in public, such as the cottage that has been converted into a visitor center at the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site, others serve solely as historical landmarks. There is still a hut at the Glockner Tuberculosis Sanatorium, today's Penrose Hospital. Another refurbished cabin of the Woodmen Sanatorium is located on Mount St. Francis and serves as a memorial that is set up as it would have been when the patients lived there. In addition, the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum has a year-round exhibition called City of Sunshine which includes not only a hut in the style of the era, but also experimental medical instruments, training equipment from the 19th century and a pharmacy exhibition filled with patent medicinal products .

Whether as a storage shed or as a museum exhibition, tuberculosis huts are an important part of the city's history. "I keep an eye on them because I want to make sure they are taken care of," Mayberry says. "They are an artifact of our Colorado Springs architecture and an important reminder of who we used to be."


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