Lake County Health Department Building
Nominated in 2009 for local landmark designation; status unknown
In Lake County in the early 1900s doctor W. H. Watterson contracted the disease and discovered that there were no facilities in the region to treat it. After his cure, Watterson organized the Lake County Tuberculosis Institute. By 1909, a sanitorium was located on 16 acres on Grand Avenue, east of Green Bay Road in Waukegan. „Lake Breeze Sanitorium? cared for 66 patients. Residents lived in cottages or tents and paid a monthly fee for housing and food.
This treatment of fresh air and a good diet was not always effective. By 1939, the death rate from tuberculosis in Lake County was still 38 persons per year. It was determined that a better facility was needed. The voters of Lake County, Illinois voted to erect a tuberculosis sanatorium for the county with tax revenue to be collected over a period of 10 years starting in the summer of 1939. Dr. Charles K. Petter of the staff of the Glen Lake Sanatorium, Oak Terrace, Minnesota, was appointed as medical director. Petter assumed his position in early 1939 and reportedly supervised the construction of the sanatorium. The site chosen was a 22-acre parcel on Belvidere Road in Waukegan, adjacent to today?s Belvidere Park.
The architects were William A. Ganster (1908-1988) and William L. Pereira (1909-1985), who spent months studying the treatment of patients with tuberculosis so as to improve the design of their building. As a result, the Lake County Tuberculosis Sanatorium was perfectly designed for ultimate functionality. Its southern orientation allowed for maximum sunlight exposure to enter the rooms and patients had access to balconies and terraces for fresh air. The northern end of the facility contained the administrative and medical portion of the complex.
The Lake County Tuberculosis Sanatorium was considered small in contrast with other institutions around the nation. The facility contained only 92 beds instead of the 200 to 300 that were found elsewhere. The size of the building, along with the orientation of the in-patient rooms, administrative offices, and out-patient rooms, allowed for all three areas to share a single set of stairs and elevator. Two separate buildings--the Doctors' Residence and the Nurses' Residence--were constructed on the grounds in a similar architectural style.
After the 1943 discovery of streptomycin, an antibiotic and the first cure for tuberculosis, most sanatoria closed and were demolished. The Lake County Tuberculosis Sanatorium eventually became obsolete and in 1974 was converted into a facility for the Lake County Health Department.
The main building is a two-story (with basement), reinforced concrete structure with a rectangular footprint. The building was oriented with southern exposures for all of the patient rooms, which accomodated 90 beds. The building's original exterior was defined by steel frame windows with frosted glass transoms and transparent fixed and ventilated panels. The installation was conceived to modulate light and natural air for patient comfort. Each room was also provided with its own terrace, and allowed patient beds to be rolled outdoors. The complex's north wing includes the original main entrance, administrative offices, and the original out-patients' clinic. Two adjoining smaller structures housed the nurses (the building to the east) and the doctor (the building to the west).
The exteriors of all three sanatorium buildings are chjaracterized by flat roofs, absence of ornamentation, and a strong horizontal composition reinforced by ribbon-like windows and railings of the patients' quarters. The linear arrangement of the buildings was optimized for southern exposure and views of the site's spacious wooded and grassy slope.
The building's innovative design was recognized through publication in The Architectural Forum (1940) and the Museum of Modern Art's exhibition "Built in USA since 1932" (1944) as curated by Elizabeth Mock.
Beginning in the 1880s, tuberculosis patients were treated in sanatoria or specialized hospitals. Such practice lessened exposure to the contagion, while promoting healthy diet and ample fresh air, which at the time were the extent of successful treatment. As such, the Sanatorium is significant for its functional design, with a dominant southern orientation to allow maximum sunlight exposure to enter the rooms. Patients had easy access to fresh air with accessibility to balconies and terraces.
“Lake County Tuberculosis Sanatorium,” George Nelson [Associate editor]: The Architectural Forum. Philadelphia: Time, Inc. [Volume 73, number 3, September 1940].
"Tuberculosis Sanitarium" accessed 15 March 2011.
"New Sanatorium Buildings," Diseases of the Chest. El Paso, Texas: American College of Chest Physicians. [Volume IV, number 2, February 1938].
"Lake County Tuberculosis Sanatorium," Ty Rohrer: City of Waukegan Landmark Nomination Form October 2005.