San Haven Sanatorium 2012
San Haven Sanatorium is a former tuberculosis sanatorium in the foothills of the Turtle Mountains, a few minutes north of Dunseith. Thousands of TB patients received treatment here between 1909 and the end of the TB endemic in the 1940’s. Prior to the advent of antibiotics which brought tuberculosis under control, roughly 50 percent of TB patients died from the disease. The most common remedy at the time was to surgically collapse a lung. One can scarcely imagine the suffering that took place here.
Years later, San Haven would become a home for the developmentally disabled, and the subject of some controversy — alleged understaffing, mistreatment, and neglect. There is still a vocal group of former employees and regional residents who emphatically deny any mistreatment or neglect ever occurred.
San Haven, like hundreds of other Sanatoriums around the country, was closed in the 1980s.
In exploring San Haven, we immediately felt a heavy foreboding due to the atmosphere of a place which harbored so much suffering, amplified by the extended period of abandonment and natural reclamation of the site. Trees and weeds have gone wild. The formerly beautiful and placid water features have long run dry. Walking paths which were once wide and smooth are now rutted and subject to the infiltration of nature. The stillness of a very large complex consisting of dozens of still-standing structures is occasionally interrupted by wind in the trees, doors banging in the breeze, and the haunting chattering of pigeons echoing through empty hallways.
Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC
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