Historical Society of 

Mount Airy, Maryland, Inc.

The Robert Garrett Sanatorium

The Garrett Sanatorium was a project of Mary Garrett (1851-1936).  She was the wife of Robert Garrett, president of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad  Ms. Garrett was one of the wealthiest and socially prominent women of her time.  She operated the Robert Garrett Hospital for Children on North Carey St. in Baltimore.  In the summer of 1887, Robert Garrett (1847-1896), president of the B&O Railroad, used 7 acres of land where the present day Mount Airy Meat Locker, Mount Airy Volunteer Fire Company, and several private residences are located to be used to construct a seasonal children's hospital.  The intention was to build a sanatorium where children from Baltimore who were sick, or needed surgery, could receive treatment.

It was believed they would recover from illness more quickly by being in the fresh country air, rather than the polluted air in Baltimore.  There were stipulations for which children could be received at the hospital.  Children had to be between the ages of 2-12, suffering any acute disease that was not considered contagious, or suffering from needed surgery that parents were unable to afford.

Mrs. Robert Garrett

The buildings were constructed quickly and at least five buildings were completed by the opening on June 1, 1888.  There were eventually many more buildings completed including a twenty-six bed hospital dormitory for children, nurses’ quarters, doctor’s office, open-air pavilion, kitchen/laundry building, dining hall, and pump house.  All of the main buildings were connected with covered boardwalks.

The Doctors and Nurses Quarters is to the left, the Hospital and Pavilion is in the center and the Laundry and Kitchen in on the right.

Each year, the hospital opened on, or around, June 1st for patients.  Between 50-100 patients were cared for each summer.  Children were transported by train to the Mount Airy station and taken by wagon up the hill to the sanatorium.  In addition, patients' mothers could visit by train at no charge.  As patients were deemed cured, they were sent by train back to Baltimore, and more patients were sent for treatment.  In mid-September, patients were returned back to the Baltimore children's hospital for further care.  Children who died while receiving treatment at Garrett Sanatorium were returned home for burial with their family, buried locally at places such as Pine Grove Cemetery, or a small cemetery located on the hospital grounds (although this has not been located since closing).

The Garrett Sanatorium operated for 35 years, before closing on September 15, 1922.  The vacant buildings were used for various things following closing, including a Lutheran Children’s Home, Homemaker club meetings, a tearoom, and other uses.  The property was broken up and sold in 1937.  The old pavilion was used in construction of a private residence just a few houses down the street across from the present day elementary school.

Doctor John McCrae relaxing while serving as the resident physician at Garrett Sanatorium in 1897.
Photograph courtesy of Guelph Museums, McCrae House

During its operation, there were several well-known names in the medical community who served there.  Dr. John McCrae, who served at Garrett in 1897, is most notably known as the author of a poem entitled, "In Flanders Fields."  His brother, Dr. Thomas McCrae (1896), and Dr. L.F. Barker (1891) were other notable physicians who served there. 

In 1896, Robert Garrett passed away.  Mary Garrett would remarry in 1902 to Dr. Henry Barton Jacobs, who was previously Robert Garrett's personal physician.  Dr. Jacobs was instrumental in opening the Mount Airy Tuberculosis Hospital, which was across the street from the Garrett Sanatorium.  Some old photos of this tuberculosis hospital were confused for years as being of the children's hospital, but have now been identified correctly.

There are hardly any reminders of the Robert Garrett Hospital for Children in Mount Airy, except for some photos, newspaper clippings, and the pavilion roof on the nearby residence.