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The Madison County Tuberculosis Sanitarium

February 9, 2018

Last modified: February 12, 2019

The Madison County Tuberculosis Sanitarium was located on Troy road in Edwardsville and operated from May 1926 to January 1969. Plagued with financial troubles, this building encountered issues with subsidence soon after opening and by the 1960s the county could not continue to justify its funding due to the dwindling number of patients. Facing a shortage of spaces for the elderly, in 1969 Madison County refurbished the sanitarium to become the Madison County Nursing Home.

By 1915, tuberculosis was one of the leading causes of death in the United States.1 To address this issue, the state of Illinois enabled legislation that allowed individual local governments to raise money for sanitariums to care for the afflicted. Led by the local advocacy group the Antituberculosis Association in 1920, Madison County authorized a property tax to be deposited into a fund which would accumulate value. As a result, no bonds would be needed to build the sanitarium.2 A fifty-acre lot was purchased for $40,000 from William R. Grace in October of 1921, and the first cornerstone was laid on August 7, 1925. Made entirely of brick, the structure was three stories high and could accommodate ninety to a hundred patients.3 Under the care of its first superintendent, Dr. D. D. Monroe, the Madison County Tuberculosis Sanitarium opened its doors to its first patients in April 1926.4

Soon after opening, however, the sanitarium started to experience structural problems due to subsidence. By May small cracks appeared on the first and third floor but “otherwise nothing had been observed to indicate any unusual conditions” in the building.”5 By June these tiny cracks expanded to more than one inch. They grew another inch by July, and the foundation also started to show damage.6 At this point, the county employed structural engineers to assess the damage to determine if the subsidence was caused by the weight of the building being over code or the structural integrity of the closed mines underneath. The engineers soon found that the building did not exceed 4,000 pounds per square inch and therefore was within the building code. The study concluded that the mine integrity was the reason for the subsidence.7 Eventually, Madison County filed a lawsuit, and the former operator of the mines, the Donk Brothers Coal & Coke Company, was found liable and fined $100,000.8


While the safety and future of the Madison County Tuberculosis Sanitarium structure was being decided in July of 1926, the immediate needs of the patients residing within the building needed to be addressed. Not wanting to close the facility, the supervisory board chose to move the patients outside onto the property and into government-issued tents for the months of August and September. Meeting notes from the Supervisory Board in 1926 indicate that the patients enjoyed their time outside and their health improved. The report stated, “It is gratifying to note that with a few exceptions all of the patients gained in tent life. Their appetites were better, weights increased, cough was less, and their mental attitude toward treatment was improved.”9

Over the course of August 1926, the building continued to sink almost twelve more inches, and cracks appeared in the ground around the structure. Funded by the county, hundreds of wooden jacks were used to help raise the building, and massive wooden beams were anchored against the northern wall in the hopes of maintaining its structural integrity.10 These devices were kept in place for the next two years until the county was sure the subsidence was over. Contractors replaced the wooden jacks with brick and plaster in 1928,11 and the total cost of repair was approximately $50,000.12

With the structure repaired, the sanitarium employed more than forty people and cared for 323 patients in 1929. However, funding became an issue.13 To address the financial concerns, the board decided to cultivate the land surrounding the institution. They hired a farmer to grow food for the consumption of the residents in the hopes of saving money. They provided a home on the property and paid him $50 a month for his service.14 The facility also employed four registered nurses, eleven attendants, full-time technicians for the lab, a physiotherapist, a part-time dentist, a bookkeeper, and other service staff including janitors, kitchen staff, and groundskeepers. Dr. D. D. Monroe served as the superintendent until 1935 when he retired and was replaced by Dr. O. C. Heger.15 Dr. Heger, however, stepped down in 1939 and was replaced by Dr. Joseph T. Maher.16

Due to improvements in living and social conditions coupled with more effective treatments, cases of Tuberculosis started to decline by the second half of the twentieth century.17 By the 1960s, there was little need for the Madison County Sanitarium, and most of its patients were finding services in smaller clinics in the area. In 1968 the county conducted a study to determine the fate of the building, and they concluded that it should be sold to the county and refurbished into the Madison County Nursing Home. The tuberculosis facility closed its doors after 43 years in 1969.18 In the mid-1970s the building was transformed into a nursing home, but by the late 1990s the county decided to close it because the facilities were “too old and poorly designed to be effective.”19  In the early 2000s, the building itself was torn down and replaced by the grocery store Dierbergs in the Edwardsville Crossing shopping center.

Endnotes   [ + ]

1. Editors, “Tuberculosis Control: Past and Future,” Public Health Reports Vol. 61, No. 27 (1946); 979-981, accessed November 8, 2017.
2. Madison County Tuberculosis Sanitorium Collection, Madison County Petitions, Etc., Box – STKD-SH7, V. File, Madison Historical Society Archives, Edwardsville, Illinois, United States. “Battle on in County Between Farmer-Doctor,” Alton Telegraph, (Alton, IL) Oct 29, 1924.
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid.
5. Madison County Board of Supervisors, “August 12, 1926 Official Proceedings of the Madison County Board of Supervisors,” 20.
6. Ibid.
7. Ibid.
8. Madison County Tuberculosis Sanitorium Collection, Madison County Petitions, Etc., Box – STKD-SH7, V. File, Madison Historical Society Archives, Edwardsville, Illinois, United States.
9. Madison County Board of Supervisors, “October 14, 1926 Official Proceedings of the Madison County Board of Supervisors,” 25.
10. Ibid, 24.
11. Madison County Board of Supervisors, “August 14, 1926 Official Proceedings of the Madison County Board of Supervisors,” 15.
12. Madison County Board of Supervisors, “January 15, 1929 Official Proceedings of the Madison County Board of Supervisors,” 25.
13. Madison County Board of Supervisors, “June 10, 1929 Official Proceedings of the Madison County Board of Supervisors,” 29.
14. The Edwardsville Intelligencer, November 14, 1937
15. Madison County Tuberculosis Sanitorium Collection, Madison County Petitions, Etc., Box – STKD-SH7, V. File, Madison Historical Society Archives, Edwardsville, Illinois, United States.
16. Alton Evening Telegraph, November 7, 1939.
17. E. Vynnycky and P.E.M. Fine, “Interpreting the Decline in Tuberculosis: The Role of Secular Trends in Effective Contact,” International Journal of Epidemiology, Vol. 28 (1999), Assessed November 14, 2017.
18. The Edwardsville Intelligencer, January 22, 1969.
19. “State board denies Madison County request to close homes,” The Daily Chronicle (Sycamore, IL), August 14, 1998.
Cite this article: Brendon Floyd, "The Madison County Tuberculosis Sanitarium," Madison Historical: The Online Encyclopedia and Digital Archive for Madison County, Illinois, last modified February 12, 2019, https://madison-historical.siue.edu/encyclopedia/the-madison-county-tuberculosis-sanitarium/.
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