The fact that tuberculosis was once a major health crisis in Maryland became apparent to me after a column I wrote last week about the old Eudowood Sanatorium.
The private TB hospital moved in 1899 to a large tract of land east of Towson, which is now the location of Towson Place, a sprawling shopping center.
Phone calls, emails and letters began arriving at my desk, with many readers recalling family members who had been treated there and others offering painful recollections of those who had died there.
Other correspondents recalled its rather lugubrious-looking collection of shingled wooden buildings, with the children’s building having a novel system of chutes that could be used for evacuation in the event of fire.
Eudowood is clearly capable of reviving powerful memories, even 50 years after its closing.
Dick Weatherby grew up a mile or so down Loch Raven Boulevard from the sanitarium.
“As I drove across Hillen Road in the late ’50s, you could see the front of Eudowood, which was a large imposing building with dark brown cedar shingle siding and white windows,” he wrote.
“I specifically remember seeing the east-side fire escape, which was a large metal spiral tube coming down from the third floor. It is similar to today’s water slides. I always thought it would be fun to try it,” he wrote.
Another who recalled that fire escape was Linda Tanton, a Baltimore lawyer.
“I was told that in case of fire, the children would go down the chute. Now whether it was an enclosed stairway, I don’t know but, that was very fascinating to me,” Tanton wrote in an email.
It was Weatherby who explained the origin of Eudowood’s name.
The property had once been the home of Thomas Stansbury, and after his death in 1856, the estate passed to his wife, Eudocia.
In return for her granting rights in 1882 to the Baltimore & Delta Railway to place its line across her property, it erected a flag-stop station on the site and, combining her name with the word “wood,” arrived at the eventual name of the sanitarium.
Paul Denton, who grew up nearby on East Joppa Road, recalled seeing patients working on the farm. They would harvest the corn, tying it into shocks that “looked like sentinels across the field,” he recalled.
“Each Christmas they would decorate one of the big pine trees near the hospital and cottages with multicolored lights which could be seen readily from our house a mile or so away,” he wrote.
Phil Oliver, who lives in Glen Burnie, wrote to say he had been a patient at Eudowood in the late 1940s and into the early 1950s, and is trying to write a memoir of his life for his family.
“I was wondering that in your research for your article did you happen to find out where the old records would be now if they do exist?” he wrote.
For the answer, I turned to my friend Andrew M. Mirabole of Southland Hills, who headed the American Lung Association until stepping down in 1987.
“When I was executive director,” recalled Mirabole the other day, “I had boxes of all of the records from Eudowood, which I gave to the University of Baltimore.”
“My mother died at Eudowood in Towson at the age of 33, in 1934,” Jean Harmon of Baldwin wrote in a letter.
“The doctors always told my mother that she would be there only for a month. She hated to go because the month always turned into a year. She did learn to do beautiful needlework while there, and I still have the things she made.”
Joan Smith, who lives in Perry Hall, wrote in a letter that her mother, who had been a patient at Eudowood, was eventually confined to the TB unit in the D Building at the old Baltimore City Hospitals.
She recalled going to the hospital with her grandmother on the day of her first Communion.
“We stood on the lawn, and my mother waved to me from the building. She wanted to see me in my beautiful dress and veil, but we were not allowed to have any contact,” she wrote.
Her mother died at 46.
“I cannot shop at Eudowood without thinking of my mother. I’m 80 now, but the memories still hurt,” she wrote.