Registrar, Frontier Historical Society and Museum
German scientist Robert Koch discovered Mycobacterium tuberculosis, presenting his findings to the Berlin Physiological Society in 1882. Through that presentation, Koch changed the way the world perceived tuberculosis. His findings proved that tuberculosis was not an inborn disease, but rather one acquired through the inhalation of a bacteria. Although Koch had discovered the cause of tuberculosis, he could not provide a cure.
In the effort to bring order to the disease, the sanitarium was created in 1884. Through strict daily regimens practiced with generous doses of optimism, the isolated tubercular patients struggled to heal. When the sanitarium treatments failed, patients relocated to the arid West in search of fresh air and other cures.
By 1887, the town of Glenwood Springs was labeled “the sanitarium.” The waters of the Glenwood Hot Springs in addition to the warm, gentle climate invited the tubercular to come to the area for a recovery. For decades, however, no specific hospital was created in Glenwood Springs for the treatment of sufferers.
The U.S. Congress in 1921 sponsored a bill to build a tuberculosis sanitarium somewhere in the Rocky Mountain states. This facility would treat World War I veterans afflicted with the disease.
The city of Glenwood Springs petitioned Congressman Edward T. Taylor to locate the sanitarium here. Sites were then discussed during a town meeting. Wulfsohn Ranch west of Glenwood Springs contained 500 acres and could be purchased for $35,000. Other sites were also considered. Eventually, a motion to purchase a site for donation to the government for sanitarium construction passed.
Glenwood Springs lost its bid for the sanitarium. Thankfully, the eventual discovery of effective drugs to fight tuberculosis made the construction of a sanitarium in Glenwood Springs unnecessary.
“Frontier Diary” is provided to the Post Independent by the Frontier Historical Society and Museum, 1001 Colorado Ave., Glenwood Springs. Winter hours are 1-4 p.m. Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
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