Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Location - Fort Qu’Appelle Sanatorium
"Fort San was a medical purgatory where hundreds died and thousands suffered. Isolation, loneliness and pain were a way of life for its citizens; some of whom lost years of their lives, if not life itself.”
Consumption, The White Plague, TB, Tuberculosis - known by many names, was feared by all. This communicable disease can be traced back through the ages and affected many communities in epidemic proportions.
At the turn of the century, Tuberculosis was a concern in Saskatchewan as the number of cases were gradually increasing. To address this problem, the Province of Saskatchewan created the Saskatchewan Anti-Tuberculosis League in 1911. The Anti-Tuberculosis League proceeded with plans to build Saskatchewan’s first Sanatorium to isolate and treat patients. The location was nestled in the Valley near Fort Qu’Appelle and was purchased for a sum of $8,250. Below are a few facts about the History of Fort San.
With the outbreak of war, construction was halted in 1914. As ex-servicemen returned to the prairies, many were affected with TB, the government provided the needed funds to complete the facility. The Fort Qu’Appelle Sanatorium (known as The San or Fort San) opened its doors October 10, 1917. The facility consisted of a 60 bed unit (Main Lodge) on 230 sprawling acres.
With a high demand for beds, the facility expanded to 260 beds in 1918. Construction continued at the facility.
In 1918, World War I Veterans created an extensive library at the facility. Books on TB were purchased so patients could educate themselves. This literary enlightenment led to the creation of The Sanatorium Journal composed of poems and musings that eventually turned into The Valley Echo.
The Red Cross Lodge, a guest lodge, was built in 1919 near the entrance to the facility. The guest book for the Lodge contains over 37,200 names of people who have stayed in the 14 room lodge.
The Recreation Hall was built in 1919. The upper level consisted of an auditorium, stage and movie picture box. The lower level had a barber shop, canteen, card room, reading room, pool room and library.
The Children’s Pavilion was constructed in 1919. It was torn down in 1944 and replaced with a new Children’s Pavilion in 1945. This pavilion better accommodated the patients.
The facility had a school on the grounds for the patients from 1921 to 1967.
A Nurses Residence was built on the grounds of The San in 1922. The facility had expanded to accommodate 300 patients, and almost 2,000 people had been admitted to the facility since its opening a mere 5 years previous.
A Post Office was constructed at the facility in 1926 to manage the large volumes of mail.
At its peak, Fort San could accommodate 358 patients and a vibrant community emerged through activities such as the drama club, jazz band, and internal radio programs.
The numbers of TB patients were dropping greatly. With the end to the battle against TB in sight, a small Medical Research Lab was constructed in 1952. The lab remained open until 1967.
By 1960, only 126 of the 300 beds were being utilized at the facility. The Prince Albert Sanatorium closed in 1961, sending the patients to Fort San.
In 1967, with a small portion of the facility in use for patients, an unused portion of The San housed the Qu’Appelle School of the Arts.
As Tuberculosis had been beaten, the need for a Sanatorium ceased. The Fort Qu’Appelle Sanitarium closed its doors April 1, 1971, and the facility was handed over to the Department of Public Works.
In the 80’s, the facility housed a summer school for the arts and the occasional convention. Fort San was beginning to fall in disrepair and remained a financial burden. The Government began looking for a solution.
The name of the facility was changed to the Echo Valley Conference Centre and in 1992 an agreement was made with Saskatchewan Property Management Corporation (SPMC) and the Department of National Defense (DND) to utilize the facility. SPMC closed the facility September 30, 2004. It is to be leveled to make way for new condos.
On average, since 1917, forty people died here of tuberculosis every year the place was open. Lots of times people died here, and they had no family. If nobody claimed the body, they’d get buried back there in the hills, with no marker.
From the doctor’s house on the hill, to the morgue in Pasqua Lodge, spirits have made their presence known. Be it sightings of Nurse Jane or some nameless apparition, lights flickering, furniture moving, or sounds coming from the children’s ward, these sightings and stories are legendary.
One of the first stories came from a man who had attended a summer music camp. On this day, the band members had gathered outside for practice. The young man forgot his music in his room and returned to retrieve it. As he was going through his baggage, he heard the sound of a woman singing.
The woman's voice was loud and clear and surprising, since this lodge was assigned to the men. The singing was accompanied with the sounds of running water. The young man walked over to the doorway and saw a woman, young and pretty in a conservative dark dress that fell past her knees. The taps were running, and as she washed, she was looking at her reflection in the mirror. The young man called out to her.
"Excuse me? Lady? I think you are in the wrong lodge." She gave no indication she had heard him. Instead of turning towards him, the woman backed away from the sink and out of his range of vision. He then entered the bathroom and she had vanished.
The young man was not frightened at first. He had been trying to figure out how she could have left the room without him noticing. Walking to the sinks he checked them for wetness, they were dry. Now he became frightened!
He ran out and rejoined his band mates and refused to go back to the lodge until later when it was filled with people.
One very common apparition is known as "Nurse Jane," or "Jane, the folding ghost". She had been called the folding ghost as she was often seen folding linens. On other occasions, she seems content to push a wheelchair around the premises. According to folklore, Jane was a distraught nurse who committed suicide while working at the sanatorium. On a doorway at the end of a long hallway, a shadow of a wheelchair can be seen. The ghostly shadow is so distinct that it always draws someone down to investigate. By the time they reach the end of the hallway, the shadow would disappear.
“In the middle of the night, we heard what sounded like a bed being dragged down the hallway above us. The loud noise continued down the stairwell towards the Main Lodge.”
“Late in the night, we heard little girls laughing and playing down the hallway. We went out in the hallway and looked around to see who was out there, but there was no one there.”
"They were all awakened at three o'clock in the morning by a noise. It was as if someone was dragging heavy chains and slamming heavy doors while walking up and down the hallways."
Site Background & History care of the Memories of Fort San website. http://www.freewebs.com/fortsan/ Thanks Linda! :)