Tuberculosis Comes to New Mexico

The Immaculate Heart of Mary Center was once home to those suffering from tuberculosis.

From the late 19th century until 1940 tuberculosis was the leading cause of death in the United States. Many people suffering from the disease came to the high desert mountains of New Mexico in search of a cure. There were sanatoriums throughout the region that cared for the tuberculars. In the northeastern part of Santa Fe, Sunmount Sanitarium nestled up to the Sangre de Cristo mountains. That location is now home to the Immaculate Heart of Mary Retreat and Conference Center.  

Sunmount Sanitorium

Santa Fe’s Sunmount Sanitorium began in 1880.

 Sunmount Santiarium began as a group of tent houses and small cottages in 1880. Dr. Frank Meara and is wife built a hospital in the early part of the 20th century in the same location. Prior to the advent of antibiotics, which destroyed the bacterial infection of the lungs, the primary treatment for the sick was pristine air, sunshine, low humidity and pollution and the high altitude of northern New Mexico. Many people that came west seeking treatment of the disease stayed when they got better. These new residents contributed greatly to the vitality of Santa Fe and the rest of New Mexico. 

People Found Creativity Not Death in New Mexico

Carlos Vierra, the artist who advocated for the Pueblo Revival of architecture recovered in Santa Fe. The architect John Gaw Meem, who contracted tuberculosis while working on the New York City subway system, also came to Santa Fe. Cristo Rey church is one of the many buildings that Gaw Meem designed. Will Shuster, the Santa Fe artist who created Zozobra, suffered from mustard gas poisoning during World War I and came in search of a cure. New Mexico U.S. Senators Clinton P. Anderson and Bronson Cutting came to the state suffering from tuberculosis. Dr. William Randolph Lovelace came to New Mexico as a young physician from Missouri suffering from tuberculosis. Today, his name graces one of the major hospitals in the state.

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