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55 Responses to “Inside the Iola Tuberculosis Sanatorium”

  1. Patrick Chefalo says:

    I live in Charles F. Crandall’s 1888 house, and became interested in his work.

    I found a HRSG (?) survey document on-line, seeking historical preservation, and here were the comments about the site, in part:

    “Integrity Location: Resources remain in their original location

    Design: District contains diverse examples of design from the period: Beaux-Arts,
    Craftsman, and Prairie

    Setting: Old growth trees, original plan mainly remains intact

    Materials: Most properties retain their original materials and maintain good integrity

    Feeling: Setting and Materials convey a sense of history

    Association: District contains properties associate with three prominent local

    Architects: Siegmund Firestone, Charles F. Crandall, and Horace T. Hatton


    Essential Physical Features: Meets HRSG criteria

    Sufficient Visibility of Physical Features: Meets HRSG criteria

    Comparative Analysis: Not Applicable

    Vital Aspects for Nomination: Physical and architectural integrity of the styles
    portrayed; physical manifestation of the fight against tuberculosis; association with
    architects Firestone, Crandall, and Hatton

    The County Board of Supervisors appropriated $75,000 for a new complex, and in 1910,
    bids were received for the administration building and three pavilions based on the designs by Charles F. Crandall.

    The other main architects involved with campus include Siegmund Firestone and Horace T. Hatton.
    Hatton is responsible for the large thirteen bay building at the center of the complex, while the power plant and the Beaux-Arts administration building on the northwest corner of the district are attributed to Siegmund Firestone.”

    Also cites how the buildings have deteriorated since the 1986 survey (I recall this one being published in 2001) buts still deems them worthy of preservation.

    And so it goes. Preservation and stewardship shown by grand lip service while the buildings deteriorate, until they are “too expensive to repair” as obvious by the pictures. Then they are turned over to commercial interests to put up big box stores. Typical Rochester behavior.

  2. Justin Chaize says:

    Beautiful work

  3. Joel Helfrich says:

    @Patrick Chefalo: For once, you and I agree on something. Thanks for your comments.

  4. Jerry Wolf says:

    I attended a meeting last week at St Anns Church which was a presentation of Citygate. The developer is not just putting in a Cosco store there. That is just 1/3 of the total 44 acre project, all of which is in the City of Rochester. There will be very attractive retail stores and restaurants with three floor of apartments above them. A ramp garage for the tenants, and a bus loop station. Attractive pavered paths and a bike rental program like they have in Europe where you rent a bike with a credit card and return it to any station and are charged for the time used. There will be h
    ousing along the canal and much more. Significant architectural elements are being removed and stored and will be incorporated in the new buildings. Stone benches will be restored and reused. The mature Sycamore trees on the corner will be preserved and a landscape architect is on board. There will be 1.5 million spent on improvements to the canal path there and on the proposed housing off of Clinton Ave in Brighton. I feel that this developer who is also the developer for Clinton Crossings and is developing a huge housing project along the canal off Clinton Ave in Brighton will do a fantastic job.

  5. Jerry Wolf says:

    Anthony Costello, the developer, hired a professional photographer and he took over 6,000 photos and Anthony is talking about publishing a book on Iola in the future and have photos and history displayed in the development somewhere.

  6. Paula Farinella says:

    Very interesting…thak you.

  7. Doug says:

    I see we have seen the same historical preservation document. I’ve been there almost every weekend of the past month taking pictures and documenting each building, I’m surprised I haven’t run into anyone else. Right now I’m actually in the process of taking some of those old photos from the historical preservation document and overlaying my own pictures on top of it.

    Also, I don’t know who to contact regarding this, but there is a water main leak under the south stairwell of Building 7 and has been going for at least a month I bet. There’s about a foot of standing water through the entire basement level. Even though they’ll be tearing the building down eventually I figure someone is paying for all that water and they might want to know.

    It’s sad to see the complex in such disrepair. I think I’ve finally got every building documented (except 4, since it is so similar to 9). Check out my Flickr account for photos. Majority are from Iola with a few coming from the remains of Genesee Hospital or other spots of interest around Rochester. http://www.flickr.com/photos/63094046@N06/

    I’ll keep you guys updated when I finish the then and now photo overlays.

  8. Patrick says:

    I know technically this is considered trespassing but it seems as though people are in and out of here so often! Does anyone seem to care whether or not photographers enter the property? I would love to check it out but have always been apprehensive…where is the best place to park and enter so as not to stand out? Thanks in advance for any info you guys can provide and sorry for all my questions – this whole urban exploration thing is just something I’ve been itching to do!!

  9. Doug says:

    Pat, send me an email at [email protected] and I can get you some helpful advice.

  10. Pete Tonery says:

    Thank you for doing this. I too have always wondered about it. I never felt open to exploring there because of the jail.
    It’s too bad we let our building deteriorate. In many places developers are required to bond a project to insure completion and guarantee funds for a tear down if the jobs doesn’t get finished. I wonder if there would ever be a way for a municipality to bond big campuses like this to ensure their reconstruction rather than demolition.
    Must add something else: CityGate SUCKS. This is nothing more than Henrietta style zombie-consumerism being transplanted to the City/Brighton. The plan is obviously a mall anchored by another China-Crap Big Box. Huge parking lots, mall housing and some pretend gree “walkways.” The developer claims he wants it to be like Park Ave.?? How stupid does he think we are. CityGate is a dump. I hope neighbors work to defeat it rather than be entranced by the myth of a “Costco.” Costco is just more of the same junk.

  11. Jerry Wolf says:

    Pete: You made some pretty strong statements about CityGate and most of them are incorrect and biased. Have you actually seen the renderings of what is proposed and attended a community presentation? If you have, you are amongst the minority. The majority in attendance at the very large community presentation I attended were in favor of the proposal. It is definitely not anything like any shopping area in our county. This project is totally in the City of Rochester, not in the city and Brighton.

    I agree with all that it is a shame that these beautiful buildings were not maintained and restored by our government which owned them, BUT it was not done and it’s too late and we must move on. The developer is being very sensitive to the history of the Iola complex with the developer having a relative living there in the past. The condition of the buildings are not his fault. They were like that when he bought the property eight years ago. He actually hired a professional photographer to document the Iola complex and he took over 6,000 photos which the developer intends to publish a book about and display photos throughout CityGate. Significant architectural elements are being removed and will be incorporated in the buildings of CityGate. They have been discussing other ideas for this property, and by far the present one is the best so far. Neighbors to this property are mostly renters, so your hope of them defeating CityGate probably won’t happen. If you are truly interested in how CityGate turns out, get involved. The developers are seeking community input and are responding to that input.

  12. Just for the record, as an architect with a lifetime of reusing historic structures, I don’t see anything in Sarah’s photographs that indicates buildings too far gone to be recycled. I believe that this very website has run a series of images showing buildings in worse condition that have been repurposed, right here in Rochester.

    Be careful not to administer the last rites until the patient has actually expired.

  13. chase tyler says:

    I have a book about Rochester that was published in the thirties, back when Iola was still open. The author was really happy about it, he wrote it had started as a purchased farm in 1910. Iola is Iroquois for ‘never discouraged’ and the tuberculosis rates had dropped from 0.16% to 0.04% between 1910-1935.

  14. @Chase, thanks! I did not know that!

  15. Patrick Chefalo says:

    How other cities must “move on” due to vulture investors:


  16. Marilyn Murphree says:

    I have been searching for Iola information for many years. Iola is directly across from Monroe Community Hospital where I frequently go to visit a relative who is a resident there.

    My mother died in Iola in 1940. At that time I was a patient there. I was about 5 or 6 yrs old. I have a photo of me with a few other kids on the roof of one of the buildings. I have a few very vague memories of being there. I will be 80 soon and would give anything to remember more, also to be able to see some records of my mother and me if at all possible. I will go to this site when I get the time to really study it. If anyone can lead me to more information, please let me know.

  17. @Marilyn, if you have that old photo of you and your friends at Iola in a digital format or if you can scan it, please send a copy to [email protected].

  18. Marilyn Murphree says:

    We are packing to move out of state so I have to search for the box that contains old pictures. I will try to find it soon but if not soon then it will be when we are unpacking in our new state. No matter what state I’m living in I will always be searching for anything to do with Iola. Thanks so much for your reply. Is there any way to view old records of Iola? I’m interested in finding out how long my stay as a patient was. No one in my family knew (they are all gone now).

  19. @Marilyn, I’m not sure how to go about it yet, but if you can send me a copy of that photo, I’ll take it to someone here and start digging.

  20. Marilyn Murphree says:

    thank you. I’ll be in touch.

  21. Joel Helfrich says:

    @Marilyn Murphee:

    A guy who I thought was named “Al Denken” or “Al Decker” claimed at the City Council meeting last week to have written both a master’s thesis and a PhD dissertation regarding the Iola campus. He could help. I have, however, not been able to locate on ProQuest Dissertation and Theses any MA or PhD writings on Iola, so who knows if what he claimed at last week’s meeting is true.

  22. kev m says:

    Was wondering if there was any insight as to how long the campus will remain standing? I would hate to miss out on the opportunity to check it out, as it has always caught my eye.

  23. Joel Helfrich says:

    I would not think that the buildings will make it to the end of the year, but who knows. You can ask the City when a demolition permit will be answered. In fact, Costello removed a number of architectural details on July 16 from the building (7 or 8?) along E. Henrietta, destroying a great amount of brickwork and roof details in the process. Hacks!

    BTW, TB/Consumption/Tuberculosis never truly went away:



  24. Tim says:

    I have only lived in Rochester for a year and half. I love how there is so much history here. I work across the street and wondered why buildings owned by the county weren’t being used, now I know.

  25. Marilyn Murphree says:

    I commented earlier about being a patient as a child and also my mother was a patient who died there in January 1940. I particularly remember the main office where my grandmother would take me regularly, after I was released, for follow up questioning and then an exray upstairs. Does anyone know of photos of the interior of these places taken at the time use? I remember the clacking of the many typewriters in the office while waiting to be interviewed…must have been about 8 yrs old. Right then I knew that what I wanted to do was be an office worker and type. And I did.

    I would be interested in seeing photos taken at the tine of the children’s building and the children’s dining room.

    So if anyone knows of a book of photos, please let me know. We are moving at the end of September to our new state where I will dig up the old picture of us children on a rooftop of one of the buildings, as I mentioned before, and will send a copy.

  26. Joanne Merkel says:

    Thank you so much for the pictures and info, like some of the other people who commented I have gone by these structures so often always wondering what their initial use/history was.
    I went to graduate school for Historic Preservation in Michigan and one of the classes I took in Traverse City had a similar case. They had a state mental hospital in disrepair from the 1880’s (built and designed based on the popular Kirkbride Plan of the time) until an ambitious re-developer, The Minervini Group began restoring it into a multi-use development. My class took a personal tour with the Ray Minervini himself, they renovated everything but still kept all the important historic character, like the distintive wide hallways of that kirkbride plan, and original woodwork. It is truly a testament to what can be accomplished with a old run down building. Go to their website if you have a chance it is so cool! retail on the 1st floor and apartments on the upper floors. (I saw one of the apartments as well- awesome). When I visited they were only half done and we also toured the untouched other wing, so you could really see the extent and scope of the work they had done. Great example of a community embracing this historic treasure! http://www.thevillagetc.com/

  27. Francis Hirsch says:

    I was also in Iola when I was 5 or 6 for about a year my mother Dorothy Hirsch from Pittsford went there when I was 4 And died when I was 14 in 1948. I remember playing out on the roof when weather permitting. I remember one day I heard screaming from the girls room down the hall and watched a aid caring the screaming girl threating to throw her down the laundry chute across the hall from our dorm if she didn’t stop screaming That was the only bad experience except was forced the eat bacon and eggs which was very greasy, I just wish they had oatmeal which I eat today. At night a nurse would come in after we in bed and through an extra blanket on which was folded at the foot of our bed before she opened all the upper windows for fresh air. Will be on the road south and arrive there about Oct 6th. I am 79 now Anyone have any other stories to share please do.

  28. Marilyn Murphree says:

    Francis Hirsch,
    As I commented in an earlier post a couple months ago, I too was a patient at Iola when I was about 6 yrs old. I too am 79.. I have a picture of me on the roof with some other children. Wouldn’t it be funny if you happen to be one of the other children? The picture will be on its way to Arizona in 9 days in a moving van. As soon as I unpack and find the picture I will send a copy to this website. My mother died in Iola in 1940.

  29. Marilyn,
    I’ve made several attempts to find patient records from Iola but to no avail. One person at the Central Library told me that the Miner Library at the University of Rochester Medical Center has some of the records. But when I asked over there they told me they had no such records and they have no idea what the County did with the records when Iola closed. I’ve also made several phone calls to various County offices. None of those calls have been returned. If anyone has any ideas or connections, please leave a comment.

    We’re searching for information on Marilyn Casserino and her mother Vivian Casserino who died at Iola in 1940. Marilyn was 6 at the time.

  30. Marilyn Murphree says:

    Thank you so much for your effort. I may just have live with the fact that I will never know that part of my past. We are moving Oct 2 to Arizona. Soon after while unpacking I will find the picture of us children on the roof of Iola and send you a copy.

  31. Francis Hirsch says:

    Hi Marylin,
    I am a man and don’t think we could of had a picture together because the girls ward was down the hall. We will be leaving for FL soon but won’t arrive until 5th of October. Would still like to see the photo. The laundry chute was in the hall right across from the door of the boys ward.

    Mr Fran Hirsch

  32. marilyn Murphree says:

    Sorry, Mr. Hirsch…I didn’t know your gender. As for being in Iola there is very, very little I remember about it.

  33. Francis Hirsch says:

    Hi Marilyn I wish we could get something in the paper or on the internet somehow so we all could communicate.

  34. DIANA FOSTER says:


  35. PMChefalo says:

    Drove by today. Almost everything is down. Thirty years of delay, two weeks of destruction.

  36. Jon says:

    Thank you for the photos and history. I have driven by the area so many times and always wondered about it’s past. I was saddened to learn it was torn down to make room for a Costco. Seems like a waste of our history for retail when Jefferson Road is a commercial boulevard that would have welcomed Costco. Thank you again.

  37. Jay Perez says:


    Thank you very much for taking the time and the risk to capture these wonderful images before it was too late.

    I’m the 10th of 11 children (9 girls, 2 boys) and now 60 years old. Both of my parents, Stephen and Laura Perez, spent time in Iola probably in the late 50s and early 60s. Seems like my father was there about 3 years and my mother was there with him for maybe 1 1/2 years. Both survived and returned home but while they were gone our older sisters who were stilling living home took care of us younger kids.

    We were pretty poor and I have no idea how my sisters managed to pay the rent and keep us fed with our parents gone. We lived right across from Freeman Clark School #15 (behind Monroe High School) and I do remember coming home for lunch every day and eating a lot of fried bologna and hostess Twinkies.

    When our father first went in we weren’t allowed to be in close contact. I believe his room was up on the 3rd floor to the left of the main entrance of the big building and I vaguely recall going to visit and sitting in the grass waving up to him in his window.

    He was a commercial artist and did a couple of oil paintings when he was there. The one I remember best is a view from the main building looking at the circular walkway with the concrete benches and cast iron light posts and the stairway up to the vine covered building at the top. (I don’t believe that building was still there when you took your pictures.) At that time the whole complex was very much alive and nicely landscaped and well maintained and his picture captures it in its full heyday. (Hey! it’s almost identical to the view in the last picture Mark Hosier submitted in your “elusive-memories-of-iola-part-2” story but from a higher and closer perspective !!! http://www.rochestersubway.com/topics/2013/11/elusive-memories-of-iola-part-2/)

    Dad was also a cartoonist of sorts and did editorial cartoons for the Army’s Fort Dix newspaper during World War 1. (He would be 120 years old if he were still alive today.) While he was at Iola he drew and captioned a pen & ink story of the “Pneumo” treatment they apparently used at the time where they pumped air into the patient’s abdominal cavity. It features a very shapely buxom blonde nurse with a very large needle and a Dr. Martinez. If the story is based on fact the patients must have gotten bored and would occasionally put their thermometers under their hot water bottles and then watch the staff start running around in a panic.

    They must have had a decent machine shop at Iola for the patients to use. Our father was also a tinkerer and he built a number of contraptions while he was there. One was a precursor to the Etch-a-Sketch. It had two revolving platters with sprockets and chains and a cam driven arm that held colored pens. One platter had a series of holes for the cam and the other held the paper to draw on. By moving the arm and cam to different positions it would create all the patterns as the Etch-a-Sketch. Boy, I wish I still had that today !

    He also built a wooden box with a self-tripping trigger mechanism consisting of three sticks leaning against each other that he used to catch a crow out on the large lawn while I was there. 30+ years later I would use his design to catch and release a bird that had gotten into our machine shop at Kodak’s Elmgrove plant and couldn’t find its way out.

    Thanks again Sarah for allowing me and others to remember back to those long-ago days. Life was so different then !

    I also stopped out at Iola earlier this year and walked around the site. (There were a lot of feral cats and woodchucks and rabbits all sunning themselves on the sidewalks within one foot of each other so the place really wasn’t abandoned at all.) I couldn’t get into the buildings as the contractors were already there getting ready to start the demo and had signs and fences up along the driveways saying to keep out. (I ignored them and drove around the barriers. It’s one of the advantages of getting old 😉 It was truly sad to see how these beautiful buildings and grounds had been let go. It was a testament to our city’s leaders of the day that they built these facilities to take care of its people. I doubt today’s politicians would have the courage and compassion to undertake such a place of healing and hope. They’re too busy closing these types of services down and building jails.

    Change is good but not all change is good …

    Jay Perez

  38. Janus Mary Jones says:

    Thanks ever so much for sharing your photos of Iola. I am a mail carrier in the area and have always been fascinated by the buildings and had hoped someone would fix them. I must admit that just before the buildings were demolished I found them EXTREMELY creepy. Nevertheless, reading the accounts of former patients there and the deaths of their parents was very touching to me. Thanks again. You went in the buildings and brought them to us all.

  39. Urban Adventurer says:

    Janus Mary Jones,

    When did the building get demolished? Quite a shame, as I would have liked to see it!

  40. Just a few months ago.

  41. Jack Lamphier says:

    Marvelous work, but highly depressing

  42. Dolores Stafford says:

    My grandmother, Ethel Robbins Freece, died @ Iola in June of 1941. She was just 27 years old, and left behind three small children. I am fascinated by historical and abandoned buildings/houses in general, but these particular are wonderful and personal to me. Thank you for the great photo’s.

  43. Me Fran Hirsch says:

    Still trying to find other families or friends that may have been in Iola when I wase 5 or 6 1941 or 1942 for only about 9 months to a year my mother Dorthy Hirsch went in I was 4 years old and died there when when I was 14 I now live in St Pete Beach Fl in the winter and Canandaigua Ny in the summer Also any old Friends

  44. Jan says:

    In comment #5 (that’s a number sign….not a hashtag!!), Jerry Wolf mentioned a book that the developer said he might put together with photos. Does anyone know if such a book was ever published? Thanks.

  45. Jack Lamphier says:

    Do people intentionally visit old abandoned buildings armed with cans of spray paint ? I hate it. Cant they just leave them to die naturally ? Can you imagine visitors armed with spray paint visiting funeral homes, its horrendous.

  46. Dan Cragg says:

    Very interesting article! I was an outpatient at the Iola during the late 1940s. My mother died there in 1947 so I was sent to Iola for X-rays to see if I’d contracted the disease from her. I did, TB of the supra-renal area but it went undiagnosed for many years until it was found that my immune system had fought it off, encapsulating the bacteria in nodules of calcium. X-rays of that area resemble a picture of the Crab Nebula. I remember my grandmother taking me out there for X-rays, sitting outside the X-ray department in a long corridor with people lined up waiting for their names to be called. One young man in particular really looked sick to me, dark patches under his eyes, skin the pallor of death. Grandma leaned over and whispered to me, “That boy has it!” Little did I realize at the time that I had it too.

  47. Janis Wheaton says:

    I had often heard about a great aunt who was in the TB Clinic. Just today, 10/17, I found an old photo with her name. I would love to find out anything I could about her as the family does not seem to have had an surviving information.
    Thank you to everyone who has done so much to preserve this piece of history that impacted so many of us.

    Great Niece of Margaret (Sissy)O’Bolger

  48. Janice McKinley says:

    My mother was in Iola for 8 months in 1928. She said while she hated being away from her family, her grandfather Andrew (MAC) McAvinney was one of the craftsman carpenters there who was created much of the cabinets and shelving. Your pictures were special for me to see. My mom had a chance to see these as well before she passed, it meant a great deal to her.

    Thank you.

  49. PMC says:

    And: CityGate is crap.

  50. Judy valerio says:

    Interesting that one of the posts stated that it was bad [karma] to build over a place where so many died. And sadly, despite the plans, so much of City gate has not developed as planned. Along with Mr Costello’s development, The Reserve… this just was too much too fast for Rochester. Maybe in time.
    My question re Iola is… were people hospitalized for other reasons aside from TB?? Doing research on Ancestry, and my grandfather’s brother died there in 1930.

  51. kathleen whelan says:

    Yes people were there for other reasons. My great grandmother spent time off and on in her earlier life and eventually lived in one of the cottages on the campus until her death. She suffered from clinical depression. It’s unclear as to whether her daughter who we are not sure whether she died in Rochester or back in England not sure what she died of perhaps tuberculosis? We think she was around 3 to 5. My grandfather’s name was George Henry Thompson he was born in 1905 in England and his sister was born several years later, his mother was Dora Annie Thompson. I would love any information or documents or advertisements ephemera really related to the sanitarium. I wish we had more family information to share but that’s what I’m looking for.

  52. Dan A says:

    Thanks very much. I stumbled across your site while investigating a relative’s occupation for our family tree. Your knowledge and detail are excellent. I will explore more of your site.

  53. My aunt, Adaline Fisher died at Iola October 23, 1947. She was 21 years old. I am wondering what daily life was like there and I am happy to see photos here of people having some fun and friendship if they were well enough to be out of bed. Nobody in the family could bear to talk about her.

  54. Vickie Chapman says:

    How can you find out the patience that was in this hospital in 1950

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