The New York State Hospital for Incipient Pulmonary Tuberculosis (as it was originally named), was commonly known simply as "Ray Brook." Opened in 1904 in the hamlet of Ray Brook, it was the first New York State-operated tuberculosis sanatorium, and the second in the United States, after Massachusetts. After a protracted study of alternative sites, New York State chose to establish its hospital in the highly-regarded fresh air of the Adirondack Mountains, near the critical mass of tuberculosis experts in Saranac Lake.
Although medical developments made sanatoria obsolete starting in the mid-1950s, the State Hospital at Ray Brook continued to operate until the mid-1960s. The property was then transferred from the Department of Health to the new Drug Addiction Control Commission, combining enforcement and treatment; in 1971 the new facility opened as the Ray Brook Rehabilitation Center, housing 70 to 130 women addicts. However, it was judged a failure, and closed within five years. It was succeeded by a camp program for adult inmates, "Camp Adirondack". Working with the Department of Environmental Conservation, "campmen", as inmates were known, were employed in logging, sawmill, wildlife preservation, construction of campsites and snowmobile and cross-country ski trails, and construction of a toboggan run at the Mount Pisgah ski area. The camp also constructed the Ice Palace each winter for the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival.
With the selection of Lake Placid for the 1980 Winter Olympics" the inmates worked on the Olympic trails at Mount Van Hoevenburg. The camp facilities were used for Olympic staff housing, which led to renovation of the water treatment plant, sewage system, housing and food service areas. During the games, the inmates were relocated to other prison facilities in the state, and were replaced by 900 State Police and 300 U.S. Customs Bureau personnel, National Guard and security forces of foreign governments who provided security for the Games. Two hundred acres of the Camp Adirondack was used as the site for the Olympic Village; after the games it became a new federal prison, the Federal Correctional Institution at Ray Brook.
The newly improved facilities allowed a substantial increase in the prison population, which led to the erection of the first security fence around the perimeter of the complex. In 1981, Camp Adirondack was designated a medium-security facility and renamed the Adirondack Correctional Facility. It presently is rated as a 700-man, medium-security prison, and employs 311.
Literary connections Sylvia Plath's college boyfriend, Dick Norton (Buddy, of The Bell Jar) contracted tuberculosis while at Harvard University, and was sent to Ray Brook for treatment. Plath visited him in 1952, and broke her leg while skiing on Mount Pisgah in nearby Saranac Lake. 1Andrea Barrett's 2007 novel The Air We Breathe is based on a fictionalized Ray Brook Sanatorium. 2
The Adirondack News, October 20, 1900
A hearing was given by the Forest Preserve board and State Board of Health in the senate chamber at Albany Thursday on the proposition to place the state hospital for consumptives at Lake Clear. Letters were read opposing the Lake Clear site from Whitelaw Reid and Anson Phelps Stokes, and Dr. Ransom of Clinton prison earnestly advocated the selectlon of the Dannemora site, claiming less humidity in the air there and urging that at Dannemora there was an abundance of labor in the prison population and the state owns plenty of land there for the site. Dr. Vanderver, of Albany, also favored the Dannemora site, but Mr. Townsend and Dr. Pryot, of the hospital commission, advocated the Lake Clear site as the best. A number of Clinton county people appeared to urge Dannemora's claims and it was agreed that another hearing will be given on the matter to the Dannemora advocates at a later day but probably not till after election. That is wise as some of the Clinton county men are evidently making a political thing out of it.—Farmer.
Plattsburgh Press Republican, 100 Years Ago — Lookback: Week of Jan. 28-Feb. 3, 1908
In its annual report to the Legislature, the State Hospital at Ray Brook for the treatment of incipient tuberculosis says there has been a steady growth in the population of the hospital. During the year, 287 were admitted and 267 were discharged.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, December 29, 1926
Two Hundred Entertained at Annual Holiday Ball Last Night at Ray Brook
The annual Christmas ball at Ray Brook Sanatorium was held in the great dining room of the main building last evening. For many years past Dr. H. A. Bray, medical superintendent, Miss L. Cleland, staff manager, and J. J. Farrington, steward, have entertained patients and everyone connected with the sanatorium at a dance during Christmas holiday week.
Patients and the staff of Trudeau sanatorium received invitation to the event last evening and neighboring families at Ray Brook were also entertained, the gathering numbering in all more than 200 guests. Doc Bray's orchestra, of this village, played for the dancing.
One of the most enjoyable features of the evening was a "Paul Jones" during which all the guests had opportunity become acquainted with each other, and formalities gave way to a general atmosphere of merriment and good fellowship. The orchestra generously responded with several encores to the most popular numbers of the dance program. Dancing continued until midnight.
Decorations of evergreen and the customary color effects in red and green trimmings that were arranged in the dining room for Christmas day made an appropriately festive setting for the annual dance, which was further enhanced by the pretty, colorful evening gowns worn by the feminine guests. Refreshments were served during the evening.
Feeling that I might be moving from a first rate sanatorium to a poor relations workhouse, the sight of a lovely little 9-hole pitch and putt golf course across the road from the imposing portico of the main building got my immediate attention. An institution where you took your exercise on a golf course just couldn't be all bad. Trudeau had nothing to com-pare to this! And when I went home two years later, I was still sort of enchanted by the place. Every sanatorium probably had its detractors, but I felt that Ray Brook would have to lock the doors and take away my mail privileges before I would knock it.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, June 16, 1952
MALE CHORUS AT RAY BROOK
Twenty members of the Plattsburg Glee Club under the direction of Frank Provost and Joseph Lombardoni with his violin, entertained at the Ray Brook State Hospital last evening.
The male chorus sang with a will, might, and main in rendering sea chanteys and such as: "The Drum" and Romberg's "Stouthearted Men". Of the spirituals, folk tunes and hymnals which comprised their diversified program, some renditions were: Gerhart's "Dry Bones"; Ringwold's "Sweet and Low"; Grieg's "Brothers Sing On"; Cook's "Swing Along"! and of their chosen four by Bartholomew, one was "Steal Away". Mrs. Madeline Ryan accompanied them on the piano.
Violinist Joseph Lombardoni, one time resident of Saranac Lake, delighted all with Drdla's "Souvenir"; Kreisler's "Liebsfreud" and "Schon Rosmarin"; and Nero's "Hot Canary".
He modestly affirmed that he had spent 10 years studying music in Europe, adding that it always had been a pleasurable but secondary interest. For the past 18 years, Mr. Lombardoni has been the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company's representative in the Dannemora area. Miss Grace Beldon was his piano accompanist.
At the program's end, a bit later between sips of coffee, the Chorus spontaneously gave forth with more song. Hospital emcee Joseph Segriff and radioman Gordon Cardwell quickly re-hooked up the microphone, and the entire hospital heard encores as never before.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, March 12, 1964
RAY BROOK CUTBACK IS SET; PEOPLE TAKE BLOW IN STRIDE
Number of TB Patients To Drop by Half in '65
By PETER W. COX
Within twenty-four hours of the first news of the cutback at Ray Brook State Hospital in April, 1965, residents of the area were talking about doing something about the situation.
Although the formal announcement came unexpectedly, quite accurate rumors on the subject had been circulating for a week. When the rumors were confirmed, the attitude was generally that the closing would be a major economic blow but something could be done to minimize the blow.
The Tuberculosis Hospital will cut back from 200 to 100 beds on April 1, 1965 and the number of employees will be cut correspondingly, although the number to lose jobs will be less than half those presently working there.
Dr. I. J. Brightman, Assistant Commissioner of Health for Chronic Disease Services, said yesterday that the hospital would be cut back to 99 beds. He said that a total shutdown was not foreseen.
Since maintenance will remain close to the same, most of the maintenance personnel will be retained. The greatest cut back in personnel will be among medical and nursing staff. The number to lose jobs will be less than 125.
When the Trudeau Sanatorium closed on December 17, 1954, 125 persons were left without their former jobs. The Ray Brook cutback is the greatest single such action since that time.
As of Friday, March 6, 339 persons in the Saranac Lake area had filed claims for unemployment benefits at the New York State Employment office. The area covers Vermontville, Loon Lake, Bloomingdale, Paul Smiths, Lake Clear, and Saranac Lake.
It is understood that state employees at Ray Brook who lose their jobs because of the cutback will be eligible for unemployment benefits.
There had been no announcement of the planned closing until early in the afternoon Wednesday when Channel 5 in Plattsburgh broke the story.
This newspaper had been in contact with various officials as recently as Wed. morning and had been told at that time that rumors of a possible cutback or closing were not true. When the story was broken on television, others with knowledge of it were willing to speak.
In fact, Assemblyman Grant W. Johnson of Essex County had talked with Dr. Brightman Wednesday morning, at the request of this newspaper, and had been told that there was some truth to the rumor but had been asked to delay any announcement until he heard further from the department of health.
Rumors had been rampant in the area for about a week, but there have been a series of rumors on the subject for some time. Even after the story broke on television, Assemblyman Hayward Plumadore of Franklin County had not been told of the planned cutback but he immediately offered his help in seeking information.
Oneonta legislators had recently spoken for closing Ray Brook, but Assemblyman Johnson had defended the hospital on the floor on the basis that tuberculosis is on the increase, not the decrease.
The budget for the coming year, which amounts to $1,677,288 and is the same as last year, will not be cut until 1965 when it will be reduced in line with the patient and staff cutback.
No one will lose his job before April of 1965, but when persons, whose jobs will not continue after April 1, 1965, retire they will not be replaced. This is also true of patients, as they are discharged, they will not be replaced. This is a standard form of attrition.
In 1965, when employees are released, they will receive priority in other state jobs for which they qualify.
Dr. Brightman pointed out that presently 140 of the 200 patients at the hospital come from New York City and only 60 of them are from what is known as the Ray Brook area. He said that the Ray Brook area would be enlarged, however, so that it could constantly supply enough patients to fill the 99 bed section.
There are two major buildings at Ray Brook and what is commonly known as the "New Building" will be used to house the remaining beds. The New Building was constructed in 1939 while the hospital was originally built in 1904 under the administration of Governor Theodore Roosevelt.
When asked if there were any plans for utilizing the older building. Dr. Brightman said, "the rest of the plant isn't much good." He said that while the state has made them as fire resistant as possible they are still "fire resistant old buildings" and these are not what the state is looking for.
There are two other State tuberculosis hospitals, The Homer Folks Tuberculosis Hospital at Oneonta which was built in December of 1935 and the Mt. Morris Hospital built in March of 1938.
Dr. Brightman said that both of these hospitals had been subject to cutbacks in the number of patients in the last 6 months; they were at 250 and are now at 200; in each a unit was closed.. Dr. Brightman said that the State feels the total of 500 beds will not satisfy their needs for many years.
Assemblyman Johnson spoke with Dr. Brightman a second time Wednesday in the afternoon, when he was told for the first time, in detail, what was happening.
He then called this newspaper to fill in his constituents on what was happening.
"Everybody here is pretty upset, was the word from among the employees at the State Hospital upon hearing the news.
William Wigger, Senior Stores Clerk, who has been at the hospital for 24 years, told this newspaper that the men and women at the hospital were expecting major cuts in personnel but they had no idea how many. He said that a week ago, department heads had been called in and asked the minimum number of personnel they would need to operate a 100-bed hospital. Mr. Wigger said this had started the current trend of rumors.
He continued that he had been expecting something like the cutback for ten years but it had been a great shock when it came.
Saranac Lake Bank Vice-President Gordon Partridge took a more optimistic note by saying that the cutback might not be as major a blow as it seems on the surface. In his comment, Mr. Partridge reflected a widespread sentiment that the community has time to compensate for the job cutback.
Mr. Partridge also said that the cutback was not completely unexpected and that the community has been somewhat complacent about Ray Brook.
Mayor John F. Campion of Saranac Lake saw the cutback as a blow to the economy but his attitude was also one of doing something about it. The mayor was on his way to New York to see about a planning grant, and he used his trip as an example of overcoming such setbacks.
Several persons spoke of how people from Ray Brook were good customers and how the cutback would hurt their business, but while the cutback was compared to Trudeau, there was a note of doing something about the situation.
Several times this reporter was told that now was the time to put more effort into future plans to revitalize the economy rather than relying too heavily on what has been in the area for a long time.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, March 12, 1964
Ray Brook Headed by Dr. Pryor in 1904
The original hospital at Ray Brook was built in 1904 but an addition, the infirmary building was erected in 1939. It is this building that will remain open as a 100 bed unit.
Ray Brook is the first and oldest of the regular state TB hospitals [sic: Massachusetts was reportedly first, and Ray Brook second] and was established largely through the interests of Dr. John H. Pryor of Buffalo whose pioneer efforts ultimately secured legislation for its construction.
Dr. Pryor became first director of Ray Brook Hospital. Dr. James Monroe, present director is the sixth. Second director was Dr. Melvin P. Burnham followed by Dr. Albert H. Garvin, Dr. Harry Bray, and Dr. Frederick Beck.
Dr. Bray was director for the longest period of time, 33 years, when he retired in September of 1950. Dr. Monroe has been director since 1960.
In 1904 Ray Brook had a bed capacity of 150 which included a hillside tent colony and warm weather dwellings for ambulant patients.
In 1910 all departments of the hospital underwent enlarging, the boiler room became the power house at its present site and two new wings were constructed.
In 1911 the first employees building was erected, an annex was added in 1933. The storehouse and refrigeration plant were completed in 1925 and the following year the laboratory was completed. The laboratory was dedicated to a past president of the Board of Visitors, Dr. Frank Erdwurm.
Paint and repair shops were added to the working units of the hospital in 1928 and ground was broken for the new infirmary in 1937.
Dr. Herman E. Hilleboe, State Health Commissioner in 1957, speaking at a hearing in Syracuse concerning a proposal to close the Onondaga State Hospital told health authorities that the Ray Brook Hospital and the hospitals at Oneonta and Mt. Morris, “probably will be the hard core group of hospitals we will retain for a long time.”
At this time in 1957 the Biggs Memorial Hospital in Ithaca was closed and the closing of Onondaga Hospital, Broadacres at Utica and J. N. Adam Memorial Hospital at Perrysburg were anticipated.
It was felt at the time that an important factor in maintaining Ray Brook was that it was one of the most complete hospitals in the state. Dr. Hilleboe said the state would save $2 million by closing Onondaga.
In 1957 Ray Brook had 290 employees and 267 patients and an annual budget of over $1,300,000.
The Ray Brook budget in 1960 was $1,542,000 with 267 patients, and 275 employees.
A similar great economic blow hit Saranac Lake in December, 1954 when Trudeau Sanatorium closed.
Severance pay was given the 125 employees when they were released at Trudeau, they were under social security, but not under the New York State Unemployment Insurance Law.
The unemployment from Trudeau, using the 125 figure represented a total of 4.9 per cent of the Saranac lake work force. The unemployment in the Saranac Lake area at the time was 100.
Another 75 employees of the Trudeau Institute were not affected by the Trudeau closing. Ray Brook absorbed many of the unemployed from Trudeau.
Concerning the patients, since no new patients were being admitted, it was anticipated that only about 30 would still be at Trudeau when it closed December 1.
Dr. Gordon Meade who was director of Trudeau when it closed said, "Every effort will be made to assist employees affected by the closing to secure new positions and separation allowances will be made to all and for many of our older employees we hope to be able to supply some pension benefits." Jacques DeMattos who was president of the Chamber of Commerce called a special meeting the following Saturday to consider the Trudeau problem.
Dr. J. Burns Amberson who was president of the Trudeau Board of Trustees commented at the time: "We are now seeing the results of the pioneer work begun here by Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau more than 70 years ago in the battle against tuberculosis. His untiring efforts were ably carried on by those who succeeded. The result has been a very marked decline in the tuberculosis death rate. "We have witnessed a corresponding decline in the patient census not only at Trudeau but at most private and public tuberculosis sanatoria in this country. In the light, of these changes we feel we cannot justify keeping our patient facilities open.”
Directors: Dr. John H. Pryor of Buffalo; Dr. Melvin P. Burnham; Dr. Albert H. Garvin; Dr. Harry Bray; Dr. Frederick Beck; Dr. James Monroe; and Dr. F. Clark White, who was the last director of Ray Brook, having previously served as assistant director.
2012-07-06 14:24:51 My grandfather passed away at this place and I am trying to find any one that might have records for the patients back in the 20's or 30's please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org thank you —184.108.40.206 * Responded 8/10/2012 — LibbyClark
2012-07-24 20:43:21 I am trying to find my father in laws mothers records, she passed away and was a patient in the 1930's if anyone can help with these records please contact me at email@example.com thank you so much —220.127.116.11 * Responded 8/10/2012 — LibbyClark
2013-05-11 12:47:48 ARE THERE RECORDS OF PATIENTS AT RAY BROOK FROM THE EARLY 1940'S? I AM LOOKING FOR MY FATHER'S RECORDS. HIS NAME IS SAM KWIAT. THANK YOU, firstname.lastname@example.org —18.104.22.168
1. Taylor, Robert, America's Magic Mountain, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1986. ISBN 0-395-37905-9
2. This article appeared originally on Wikipedia as Adirondack Correctional Facility; its edit history there reflects its authorship. It is licensed under the GDFL.