Last weekend we went out with our realtor in Colorado Springs to check out a couple of potential houses on the westside that might work for us.
One of the houses had the neatest feature in the backyard:
It’s kind of run-down but, yep, that is an old tuberculosis hut. Ever heard of them?
They were used at the former Modern Woodmen of America’s Sanatorium in Woodmen Valley just north of Colorado Springs, Colorado (now known as the upscale Peregrine area).
Colorado Springs was home to a large number of “San’s” in the early twentieth century because of the clean, thin mountain air, abundant sunshine and dry climate – all thought to be beneficial for tuberculosis patients.
According to an article by Radio Colorado College, the Modern Woodmen of America’s Sanatorium had rows upon rows of these quaint octagonal-shaped huts spread across the sprawling hospital grounds.
The huts – also known as “tent cottages” – were used for individual TB patients as an alternative to being on a crowded hospital ward and also because the huts provided easy access to the outdoors.
The Woodmen Sanatorium operated from 1909 until 1947. After that time, all but one of the 180 huts were sold off and dispersed from their original location.
Apparently, they were highly portable and could be hauled by truck to any local destination.
Colorado Springs citizens snatched up the huts and used them as garden sheds, guest houses, artists studios, storage sheds, bus stop shelters, and even businesses.
They can be found all over Colorado Springs – you just have to look for them. The majority are located in older, downtown and westside neighborhoods. Perhaps you’ve seen them before but didn’t recognize them as TB huts.
Of course, not all are as restored or well kept as the examples above. Many former TB hits have been left to languish in backyards with little repair over the decades.
Here is another TB hut located in the backyard of a house that was recently on the market in the southwest area of Colorado Springs:
The realtor even included a couple of tantalizing photos of the interior of the hut:
I was also able to find a couple of interior shots of the fully restored TB hut at Penrose Hospital in the Margery Reed Memorial Park.
It is furnished with period antiques that would have been found inside a TB hut in the early twentieth century:
According to the Modern Woodmen website,
Each cottage had two windows, a closet, bed, chairs, washstand, steam heat, electric lights, and a call system to summon orderlies or nurses.
There’s a certain appeal about these compact, uniquely shaped dwellings. In fact, I even found a miniature ceramic version of a TB hut for sale in an on-line auction:
How cute is that? I just can’t get enough of these things!
Above (and below) are pics of the last remaining TB hut on the former grounds of the Modern Woodmen of America’s Sanatorium…
They’re fantastic and sturdy little architectural reminders of what was once a huge part of Colorado Springs’ identity and economy.
Now, if you live in the Colorado Springs area, you’ll be seeing these things everywhere!
(And if you don’t live in this area, but have something similar in your city, I’d love to hear from you!)
Very helpful on-line resources: