Sea View Hospital was built between 1905 and 1938 as a tuberculosis hospital. It is located in what is now a national historic district in Willowbrook on Staten Island in New York, USA. The hospital was specially designed and commissioned to deal with the disease and was designed with the best technology of the day. It was the largest and most costly facility for the treatment of Tuberculosis in the United States.
Originally designed by Raymond Almilrall in the Spanish Mission style, work began on the Sea View Hospital complex in 1905 and it opened to the first patients in 1913. There were 4 dorms for women and 4 for men that stretched out from the centre. Later additions included an auditorium in 1917, a pathology lab in 1927, an isolation hospital in 1928 and a children’s hospital in 1935. A total of 37 buildings made up the hospital complex at its peak.
The first tuberculosis sanatorium was opened by George Bodington in Sutton Coldfield, England in 1836 but his ideas were dismissed as crude by medical professionals of the time. In 1863, Hermann Brehmer opened the Brehmersche Heilanstalt für Lungenkranke in Görbersdorf (Sokołowsko), Silesia (modern day Poland) providing high altitude, fresh air and good nutrition to help treat tuberculosis. Soon, sanatoriums opened all across Europe.
The first tuberculosis sanatorium in North America was the Adirondack Cottage Sanitarium which opened in Saranac Lake, New York in 1885. They quickly spread across the country. It was suggested by experts at the time that high altitude and dry air could help treat the disease. Arizona, in particular, was famed for its TB resorts with the dry desert air attracting people from all over the country. In 1920, Tucson had 12 tuberculosis resort facilities with a capacity for 7,000 people. When more people arrived than could be properly housed, they began setting up tents in the desert.
By the 1930s, the last of the tuberculosis sanatoriums in the United States were built with Glenn Dale Hospital in Maryland and Edgewood State Hospital in New York being among the last. A number of discoveries around this time improved the diagnoses, prevention and treatment of tuberculosis. The French physician Charles Mantoux perfected tests for diagnosing the disease. In 1921, the Bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) vaccine was first administered in France. In 1944, two antibiotics were developed to treat tuberculosis. Swedish chemist Jörgen Lehmann developed 4-aminosalicylic acid and Albert Schatz, Elizabeth Bugie, and Selman Waksman developed streptomycin. A later study by the Medical Research Council found the drugs used in combination were more effected in treating the disease.
The BCG vaccine became mandatory in many countries around the world although it has never been mandatory in the United States. They prefer to use the detection and treatment method which led to the rapid decline of tuberculosis and the sanatoriums used to treat it following World War II.
Sea View Hospital remained a tuberculosis sanatorium until the 1960s when the number of people using it dropped dramatically. It was converted to a geriatric hospital for a time before being closed in the 1970s. It remains abandoned however the 37 buildings are classed as national historical landmarks after being placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.
Some of the existing buildings have been repurposed and include a rehabilitation centre, volunteer fire and ambulance services and an independent living facility.