Edgecliff Sanitarium

The White Plague in Spokane

Tuberculosis was the most devastating disease of the 19th and 20th centuries. Isolation was the most effective public health intervention.

Tuberculosis was endemic in America in the 1800s and early 1900s. Known as consumption or "the White Plague," the disease killed thousands of people each year, and there was no cure. Tuberculosis Sanitariums such as Edgecliff were built to keep the infected separate from the general population while offering the afflicted what treatment and comfort they could.

Tuberculosis is an infectious disease of the lungs. Symptoms are fever, chills, night sweats, a loss of appetite, and severe coughing that could contain blood and mucous. People were encouraged to not carelessly cough, sneeze, or spit in public since the disease was highly contagious. Sanitariums were established across the nation to isolate and treat the sick. In 1915, Edgecliff Sanitarium opened its doors in Spokane Valley.

The hospital was located on a 12-acre campus that housed fifty-eight adults and thirty-five children when it first opened. Patients were treated with plenty of fresh air, sleep, wholesome food, and exercise--none of which actually cured the patient. Patients would end up staying for months in quiet environments, isolated from normal life. By 1940 Edgecliff housed 140 forty patients and included ambulatory cottages and a children's pavilion. By 1950 the sanatorium had increased its patient capacity to two-hundred beds.

With developments of effective antibiotics in the 1940s institutions such as Edgecliff soon were no longer needed. In 1975, the state withdrew funding and Edgecliff closed after sixty-three years. For a short time, the campus was used as an alcohol rehabilitation facility. In the early 1990's it was purchased by Park Place Retirement Community. After an extensive remodel the place opened as an independent living facility. In 1996 Brookdale Senior Living purchased the complex, which now houses two-hundred units.