Infected Houses and Sanitized Spaces: Architecture, Adaptive Reuse, and Tourism of the Early 20th Century Tubercular Era

No Thumbnail Available
Stout, Jenna
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Middle Tennessee State University
In turn-of-the-century America, tuberculosis (TB) served as a palpable threat to the public. The “infected house theory” posited that tuberculosis infected the actual fabric of buildings, attaching further stigma and public health concerns to sanatoria, boardinghouses, and other architecture that housed consumptives. The razing of sanatoria represented an effort to make way for new housing, cleansed of the stigma of disease. Other spaces were adaptively reused, undergoing a sanitization. Through an architectural and material culture-based approach, this dissertation explores the process by which TB architecture shifted from perceived contaminated to sanitized spaces. It also discusses ways to interpret the forgotten white plague at historical sites with sun parlors, sun rooms, and sleeping porches in the South.
Tuberculosis histories rarely look beyond the sanatorium. Yet, given that the majority of consumptives never saw the inside of a sanatorium, the tubercular architecture landscape largely consisted of constructed sickroom spaces tacked onto domestic buildings. This dissertation is a regional study on the tuberculosis sanatorium movement and architecture in the South. It contextualizes sleeping porches, boardinghouses, and tent cottages within the larger sanatorium movement. As a work of public history, this study further focuses on the preservation, adaptive reuse, and interpretation of consumptive spaces. Case studies shed light on how different sites deal with their consumptive legacy. These sites illuminate how health and disease can be interpreted and serve as a template for public historians.
Boardinghouse, Consumptive Housing, Health Tourism, Sleeping Porch, Sunroom, Tuberculosis