Gabriels Sanatorium, opened in 1894 by the Sisters of Mercy, was only the second sanatorium in the area, a very early charitable effort which built on the work of Dr. E. L. Trudeau. Gabriels was the first sanatorium in the Adirondacks to admit black patients. 1Henry Gabriels served as the Bishop of the Diocese of Ogdensburg from May 5, 1892, to April 23, 1921, when he apparently died in office at age 82. 2
After the sanatorium closed, Paul Smith's College purchased the property in August 1965, as an extension center for their growing Forestry Program. PSC closed the Gabriels campus in 1980, and sold the facility to the State of New York to be used for a minimum security prison.
Camp Gabriels received its first draft of inmates on August 30, 1982. These residents were transferred from the Adirondack Correctional Facility, which had been upgraded from a Camp to a Medium Security Facility. Camp Gabriels operated until 2009, when it was closed by Governor Andrew Cuomo. It has been for sale by the state since then. Despite at least two announced auction dates, it has not sold.
Malone Gazette, July 5, 1895
Propositions will be received by the Sisters of Mercy for the building of the Sanitarium Gabriels, Paul Smith's, N. Y. The plans and specifications are to be seen at Mr. Patrick Hackett's, hardware merchant, Ogdensburg, N. Y. The bids to be handed in to Mr. Wm. Akin, architect, Ogdensburg, N. Y., before July 6th. The Sisters do not bind themselves to accept the lowest bid.
Malone Gazette, July 5, 1895
The corner stone of the Gabriels Sanitarium for consumptives at Paul Smith's, which will be built by the Sisters of Mercy of the diocese of Ogdensburg, will he laid July 8th with imposing ceremonies by Bishop Gabriels. Archbishop Corrigan and other prominent church officials will be present. It is announced that Gov. Morton has made a generous contribution to the building fund with the request that the Sisters give the name of Anna L. Morton, the governor's wife, to a room or ward in the sanitarium.
New York Times, June 27, 1897 (A pdf of the full article is here)
ON MOUNTAINS AND LAKES
The Numerous Adirondack Resorts Now Ready to Receive the Summer Visitor.
...A large sanitarium has been erected in the vicinity of Paul Smith's, under the auspices of the Sisters of Mercy, on land donated for the purpose by Dr. Webb. The plan of the institution embraces the best features of hotel and cottage life, and it is the design of the incorporators to charge persons no more than is necessary to meet the expenses, thus enabling sufferers of limited means to take advantage of an opportunity to breathe the mountain air. It is also the purpose of the managers of this institution lo make no distinction against any patient on account of creed.
Malone Gazette, August 6, 1897
Bishop Gabriels recently announced that Sanitarium Gabriels, near Paul Smith's Station, will be dedicated on August 21st. The sanitarium, the site for which was generously donated by Paul Smith and Dr. W. Seward Webb, has been built with special reference to the care and treatment of consumptives and will be owned and controlled by the Sisters of Mercy, an order that for good and charitable deeds has won a high and deserved place in the confidence and respect of the people. The sanitarium will be dedicated with appropriate and interesting ceremonies.
From Seneca Ray Stoddard's 1908 The Adirondacks, Illustrated
The Sanitarium Gabriels [...] was opened in 1897. A group of substantial cottages surround the larger Administration Building. Patients suffering from lung troubles, who are pronounced curable by competent authority, are eligible. For such the rates are $10 to $15 per week, with every tenth patient free. There is no discrimination on account of race or creed. It is in charge of the Sisters of Mercy, who may be addressed at Gabriels, N. Y.
"Forest Leaves," a woodsy little magazine, is published here quarterly. Its cover is a dream, its contents of gentle, wholesome character, suggested by its title.
The following history is based on a document at the New York State Office of General Services. It was posted in connection with the state's efforts to sell the property. The full document can be found here.
GABRIELS SANITARIUM, 1897 – 1965
Gabriels Sanitarium opened on July 16, 1897, for treatment of Tuberculosis invalids in the Adirondacks. It was named in honor of the Right Reverend Bishop Henry Gabriels who had urged the Sisters of Mercy to attempt the establishment of the much needed sanitarium.
Sister Mary of the Perpetual Help Kiernan, of the Sisters of Mercy Order, used her untiring faith and energy to make her dream a reality. Sister Mary and her co-worker Sister McAuley lived in a log cabin with the gift of a donkey and cart for transportation. Within a few years, although they only had $15 from the Mother House and a lot of determination to work with, they acquired the site and several buildings.
Dr. Seward Webb and Mr. Paul Smith donated the first 100 acres of land and the State of New York followed with a grant of 600 additional acres. Many people gave generously and donations were used to support the property.
Only those with at least moderately advanced cases of Tuberculosis were admitted as patients. When they entered, they were not only treated for Tuberculosis, but also were taught every detail of prevention so they might tell others and possibly prevent other cases from developing. Fifteen per cent of the patients were treated free of charge, a few paid the entire cost, and most patients paid less than the full cost of treatment. The average patient's length of stay was eight months.
The Sanitarium flourished through the hard work and dedication of its staff, and despite the destruction of several buildings due to fire over the course of its history.
However, after World War II, the decline of Tuberculosis forced the Sanitarium staff to devote most of their facilities to geriatric patients. In the 68 years of the sanitarium's operation, over 5,500 patients were treated. Sixty-nine per cent of the patients benefited from treatment and a great number were able to return to their former lives.
After a series of unsuccessful fund drives and a re-evaluation of the Sanitarium's new nursing program, the Sisters decided to sell the property.
PAUL SMITH'S GABRIELS CAMPUS 1965 – 1980
On August 15, 1965, Paul Smith's College purchased the Gabriels Sanitarium property for $150,000 as an extension center for their growing Forestry Program.
Gabriels housed the sophomore foresters enrolled in a block program for the fall term. Later classes were held there, as well, to avoid having to provide transportation to the main campus. Classes were taught in the basement of Rest-a-While Cottage, while the Butler Building served as classrooms and a cafeteria. The Butler Building was built in the early 1970s as a gymnasium, but it was later used as a cafeteria and for additional classroom space.
By 1977, declining enrollment led to buildings deteriorating due to disuse, and the school started moving the different options of the Forestry Program back to the main campus. Finally only the forest technicians were at Gabriels. Also, in 1979-80 two new dormitories were constructed and opened to students, which provided additional space on campus so that only thirty-five students went to Gabriels to live for the last time. The Gabriels campus had become such a financial liability that the administration opened up two additional cottages on the main campus, Moffet and Walker, for the Spring semester to house the thirty-five remaining students. The fall term of 1980 was the last to see Paul Smith's students at the Gabriels campus. By this time, it was being used only as dormitory space— all classes and dining services were at the main campus.
The college then sold the facility to the State of New York to be used for a minimum security prison.
HISTORY OF CAMP GABRIELS 1982 – PRESENT
Camp Gabriels received its first draft of inmates on August 30, 1982. These residents were transferred to Camp Gabriels from the Adirondack Correctional Facility, which had been upgraded from a Camp to a Medium Security Facility. The first group of twenty-five inmates was selected because of their building skills. These men were all housed on one floor in the first housing unit and proceeded to refurbish the second floor and the other housing unit areas in a systematic fashion. As additional housing areas were reconstructed, more inmates were received at the facility.
The Camp's maximum capacity was initially designated at 149. A year later in the Fall of 1983, the Camp experienced a modest increase; the capacity was increased from 149 to 166. The next expansion occurred two years after the Camp's inception. In August of 1984, the capacity was increased to 201 beds. In July of 1987, the population increased to 251 due to the Shock Incarceration Program at other Camps.
After the housing units were refurbished, other buildings in the Camp were systematically upgraded. A new garage was constructed to provide space to work on facility vehicles. A loading dock and crew room were added to the Mess Hall. The first new building to be constructed was used to house staff from the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Equipment and crews were deployed each day from that area. The next major project was the construction of a Vocational Building utilizing inmate and staff labor. The Vocational Building has a lower level that serves as a storeroom for the facility. A new Visiting Room was built using contract labor in January of 1984.
In the Summer of 1984, the chapel was refurbished. It serves primarily as a religious center where services for all faiths are conducted. It also serves as an area where various inmate organizations and groups can meet during evening hours. Educational classes are also conducted in the chapel.
In the fall of 1985, the Recreational complex was completed, containing a basketball area and shower room.
A new Administration Building was constructed in 1986, housing the Superintendent, Senior Counselor, Steward, and Support Staff. A three-bay bus garage and a Mess Hall addition were completed the same year, and the property's roads were resurfaced.
In June 1991, a new 56-man dormitory was completed and future plans are for a similar dorm to be started in the fall of this year. These dorms will replace inmate housing, presently in a wooden structure. These dorms will increase the capacity to over three hundred inmates.
During 1991, budgetary constraints caused a loss of ENCON personnel associated with Correctional Camps. The former ENCON Crews were changed to Community Service Crews. At present, Camp Gabriels has 15 Community Service Crews servicing communities, institutions, and non-profit organizations within a 50-mile radius of this facility.
Camp Gabriels has continued to show a progressive pattern of development since its inception. The mission of Camp Gabriels is to continue to maintain a secure environment while building and to foster positive programming for inmates, with cooperative service to the Community. [Camp Gabriels was closed by New York State in 2009.]
Excerpt from an undated report written for the Sisters of Mercy by Sr. Agnes Martin: 3
Following the Great Depression, Sanatorium Gabriels was experiencing not only financial problems, but also a lack of patients. However, God again showed his interest in the Sisters' work. In the early 1940's, during World War II, a Norwegian ship was torpedoed and sunk. Many men lost their lives, but a number of sailors were rescued. Through their exposure to the sea and elements, it was found that many of these rescued men had developed TB. For some reason, the Norwegian Government could not bring them back to Norway, so made arrangements for their care at Stony Wold Sanatorium, a few miles from Gabriels. These patients, perhaps because of loneliness and lack of communication due to the language barrier, became a problem to Stony Wold due to their drinking and carousing. The Norwegian Officials were at a loss what to do about it, until it was suggested to them to ask the Sisters at Gabriels to take care of them. The Sisters immediately accepted. It was not long before the Sister Nurse in charge had them well under control, and these men had the greatest respect and love for her, as well as all the Sisters. They remained at Gabriels until the end of the war when they returned to their own country. The income derived from their care kept Gabriels going.
Original Text from a display at the Brighton History Days, 4 by Pat and Tom Willis
The Sisters of Mercy were founded by Catherine McCauley in Dublin, Ireland, in 1831. Catherine had taken care of an elderly Quaker couple until they died and they left their fortune to her. With this, Sister McCauley built houses for homeless women and schools for poor children. When she died she left an order which grew into the thousands internationally, The Sisters of Mercy.
The Sisters of Mercy of the Ogdensburg Diocese had been considering aiding the victims of TB and wanted to obtain land in the Adirondacks for this purpose. Bishop Gabriels had observed the wretched conditions of patients from New York City and in 1894 urged the Sisters on.
Mother Mary Perpetual Help Kiernan, a woman of courage and vision, along with Sister Mary McCauley, led the exploration for land. Saranac Lake proved too expensive. Finally Paul Smith and William Seward Webb became aware of their need, and offered a large tract which they jointly owned near the railroad station in the Town of Brighton.
“Mother,” said Mr. Webb, “Can you assure me that this land is desired for the use by the Sisters directly?”
“Indeed, I can, Mr. Webb. It is the wish of the Sisters of Mercy to alleviate the distress of the unfortunate victims of tuberculosis,” replied Mother Mary. And so they were given the land.
Mother Mary was delighted. “…we own a vast stretch of wooded land (100 acres) down to Lake Lucretia…it was originally called Jones Pond but I …obtained… the right to change the name…after Mr. Perry’s wife…Mr. Perry is the kind architect who has drawn up the plans for the buildings and is donating his services…the idea is to have a sanatorium built on the cottage plan.”
Not far from the tracks was a small cabin the Smiths used for storing lumber but was then empty. The two Sisters managed to make it their home, obtaining water from the station. On frequent trips Mother Mary approached New York City’s richest. Her sweet manner and silent prayer won them to her. Many a time she and her companion walked the streets, footsore, tired and ill. Mr. Ryan asked what she wanted and with a tremor she named a figure. Mr. Ryan smiled and wrote the check.
In July, 1895 the cornerstones for the Administration Building, Kerin Cottage, and Rest-a-While Cottage were laid. Many notables were present, including the Most Reverend Bishop Henry Gabriels, Rev. Michael Brown from Hogansburg, Rev. Michael Holland from Tupper Lake, Mr. W. Seward Webb, Mr. Paul Smith and Mother Stanislaus. Mother Mary called the rising sanatorium “Gabriels” after Bishop Gabriels. Paul Smith changed the name of the town and the railroad station from Brighton to Gabriels.
By 1903 a total of $135,000 had been spent on Sanatorium Gabriels. There were about a dozen buldings; they had their own electric and water supplies, and Mother Mary had started a magazine, “Forest Leaves.” In 1905 they acquired a 200 acre farm which they developed into a state of the art farm for the production of uncontaminated food for the patients, still known today as the “Sisters Farm.”
In 1914, sadly, Mother Mary died at the San and was buried between the Shrine and the Angelus Bell. In 1916 the Administration Building burned to the ground despite the efforts of all the local people to save it. The Knights of Columbus erected their Units 1 and 2 on the foundation, later this was called the priest’s bungalow. By 1918, 2,442 patients had been treated at Gabriels.
In 1923 the Knights added Units 3 and 4, large buildings, probably designed by John Russell Pope, each housing 22 of their members. In 1927 an Infirmary was added with operating room, lab, pharmacy, x-ray, and dental department.
By 1946 donations had fallen off and the Sisters had to sell their farm. In 1953 another fire destroyed the old convent. Despite taking in non TB patients (the aged, chronically ill, or recuperating), the number of patients decreased until by 1960 there were only 9 TB patients and 55 geriatric patients. TB had largely been conquered by the drugs streptomycin and isoniazid. Gabriels Sanatorium was sold to Paul Smith’s College in 1963 and the Sisters moved to Lake Placid and built a new geriatric nursing home called Uihlein which still operates today.
Sources: Adirondack Collection, Saranac Lake Free Library; Harding; Collins.
1. Adirondack Museum, "The War on Consumption"
2. Adirondack Daily Enterprise, 4/23/09.
3. This was sent from Millie Williams of the Uihlein Mercy Center to Natalie Leduc on November 2, 2006.
4. Brighton History Days have been held one weekend each summer since 1994, sponsored by the Brighton Architectural Heritage Committee.