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Battle Creek Sanitarium

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Title: Battle Creek Sanitarium  
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Subject: James Springer White, Hart-Dole-Inouye Federal Center, John Harvey Kellogg, Battle Creek, Michigan, Seventh-day Adventist Church Pioneers
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Battle Creek Sanitarium

Battle Creek Sanitarium
Turn-of-the-20th-century breathing exercises
Battle Creek Sanitarium is located in Michigan
Battle Creek Sanitarium
Location within the state of Michigan
Location 74 N. Washington St.
Battle Creek, Michigan
Built 1903
Architect Frank M. Andrews
Architectural style Renaissance, Other
Governing body General Services Administration
NRHP Reference # 74000980[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHP July 30, 1974
Designated MSHS September 7, 1989[2]
Sanitarium circa 1915

The Battle Creek Sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan, United States, was a health resort based on the health principles advocated by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, most notably associated with John Harvey Kellogg. The complex was purchased by the U.S. Army during World War II and converted into the Percy Jones Army Hospital. The facility later became the Hart-Dole-Inouye Federal Center.


  • History 1
  • The sanitarium system 2
    • Guests, staff, and buildings 2.1
    • Therapeutic system 2.2
      • Hydrotherapy 2.2.1
      • Phototherapy, Thermotherapy, and Electrotherapy 2.2.2
      • Physical training 2.2.3
      • Open-air and cold-air methods 2.2.4
      • Dietetics 2.2.5
  • Decline of the Battle Creek Sanitarium 3
  • Listing and dedication 4
  • Notable patients 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9


It first opened on September 5, 1866, as the Western Health Reform Institute. In 1876, John Harvey Kellogg became the superintendent, and his brother, W. K. Kellogg, worked as the bookkeeper. In 1878, a new structure was built on the site, but it burned down in 1902. The following year, it was rebuilt, enlarged and renamed The Battle Creek Sanitarium. As Kellogg put it, they took the word "sanatorium", which back then was defined as an English term designating a health resort for invalid soldiers. "A change of two letters transformed 'sanatorium' to 'sanitarium', and a new word was added to the English language". Kellogg states the number of patients grew from 106 in 1866, to 7,006 patrons during the year 1906.[3] "The San" and Kellogg were lampooned in T. Coraghessan Boyle's 1993 novel The Road to Wellville, and the 1994 film adaptation. In 1928, Battle Creek Sanitarium expanded with a fourteen story tower, built across the street from the main sanitarium. This tower went into receivership in 1933, while the sanitarium continued to operate from its main facility. In 1942, the U. S. Army purchased the tower and established the Percy Jones General Hospital;[4] the hospital closed permanently in 1953 and one year later became the Battle Creek Federal Center. Owned by the Seventh Day Adventists, the Battle Creek Sanitarium continued to operate as a psychiatric facility through the 1970s but closed its doors by the end of the decade. In 1986, the main building was officially razed, ending the final chapter in the history of the Battle Creek Sanitarium.[5] Medical records have since been microfiched and are now kept by the nearby Fieldstone Center, in Battle Creek, Michigan.

The sanitarium system

The Sanitarium, now Hart-Dole-Inouye Federal Center

Guests, staff, and buildings

Along with high numbers of patrons, there were a large number of staff at Battle Creek. Kellogg stated that "at the Battle Creek Sanitarium, the number of persons employed is never less than eight hundred, and often rises in the busiest season to more than one thousand".[6] They comprised "physicians, nurses, helpers etc".[7] (There were 30 physicians on staff).[8] The main buildings comprised four large buildings, chief of which was the central structure, "which affords rooming accommodations for about 400 guests...(and)...treatment rooms capable of handling more than 1,000 patients"[9]

The sanitarium became a destination for both prominent and middle-class American citizens. Celebrated American figures who visited the sanitarium (including Mary Todd Lincoln and Sojourner Truth) would influence and encourage enthusiasm for health and wellness among the general population. "Battle Creek Sanitarium was world renowned and became the 'in' place for the rich and famous to seek their lost health, to listen to health lectures and to learn and practice the principles of a healthy lifestyle".[10]

Therapeutic system

At the sanitarium, Kellogg explored various treatments for his patients, including diet reform and frequent enemas. He encouraged a low-fat, low-protein diet with an emphasis on whole grains, fiber-rich foods, and most importantly, nuts. Kellogg also recommended a daily intake of fresh air, exercise, and the importance of hygiene. Many of the theories of John Harvey Kellogg were later published in his book The Road to Wellness. Charles W. Post or "CW" as he preferred also worked with John Harvey Kellogg ( Dr.Kellogg)

Kellogg described the Sanitarium system as "a composite physiologic method comprising hydrotherapy, phototherapy, thermotherapy, electrotherapy, mechanotherapy, dietetics, physical culture, cold-air cure, and health training". To assist with diagnostics and evaluation of therapeutic efficacy, various measures of physiological integrity were utilised to obtain numerous vital coefficients "especially in relation to the integrity and efficiency of the blood, the heart, the lungs, the liver, the kidneys, stomach, intestines, brain, nerves and muscles".[11][a]


Hydrotherapy was widely utilized. Two three-story buildings, for men and women respectively, were devoted to hydrotherapy. Each building had a basement, "devoted to rectal and bowel applications and classrooms". Both buildings were connected to the main building and the 'great gymnasium'. Kellogg noted "That hydrotherapy has won a definite and permanent place in modern rational therapeutics can no longer be questioned, and the Battle Creek Sanitarium claims recognition as the pioneer in scientific hydrotherapy" in America.[12] Indeed, while some therapies from the 19th century and early 20th century have fallen by the wayside, or remain controversial, hydrotherapy remains widely used.

Kellogg's use of hydrotherapy was a more sophisticated development of the system that was utilized in the early 19th century by [13] The Battle Creek system utilized both hot and cold, and correlated the use of hydrotherapy with other therapeutic modalities. Amongst the physiologic tonics used were douches, sitz baths, cold mitten frictions, salt glows, towel rubs, wet sheet rubs, wet and dry packings, compresses, "full baths of various sorts, including Nauheim baths,[b] electro-hydric baths, shallow and neutral baths". The use of hot and cold applications was to produce "profound reflex effects", including vasodilation and vasoconstriction.[14] These physiological mechanisms now seem fairly well understood, and underpin the contemporary use of hydrotherapy,[15] with the reflex reactions described by some as the 'rebound phenomenon'[16]

Phototherapy, Thermotherapy, and Electrotherapy

This department employed both solar and electric light, with the latter used chiefly during winter. Phototherapy held a prominent place at Battle Creek, where the first electric light bath was constructed.[17] Regarding the application of electricity, Kellogg noted that "electricity is not capable of accomplishing half the marvels that are claimed for it by many enthusiastic electrotherapists". Nevertheless, he considered it valuable when used in conjunction with hydrotherapy, thermotherapy, and other methods.[18]

Physical training

Physical exercise was an important part of the Battle Creek system, facilitating not just the improvement of muscle tone, but also of posture, respiration, and of circulation and the facilitation of anabolic and catabolic functions enabled by circulatory processes. Exercise included such components as postural, calisthetics, gymnastics, swimming, and passive methods such as mechanotherapy, vibrotherapy, mechanical massage.[19]

Open-air and cold-air methods

Exposure to the sun and open air were regarded as fundamentally important for health, including stimulation of the skin. Battle Creek had a large outdoor gymnasium. Again, the use of temperature differentials facilitated by water was a component, with exercise followed by a plunge into a fresh water swimming pool "just cool enough to be refreshing and invigorating".[20] Patients were encouraged to sleep in the open air, and a range of outdoor activities were facilitated, from wood-chopping, to basketball and other games, walking trotting, swimming lessons. Also available were skating, tobogganing, skiing, and other outdoor sports (p. 111). "Thus all the best advantages of the seashore, camping out, 'going fishing', and other forms of recreation are secured, while the patient is protected from excess by the careful guidance of his physician, and has the advantages of medical care, dietetic regulation, etc".[21]


Battle Creek utilised information as known at that time to provide nutritional requirements for health and well-being relative to each person's requirements. Food required careful prescriptive preparation, with care also taken to ensure appetiveness and palatability were recognised. The diet lists included "scores of special dishes and hundreds of special food preparations, each of which has been carefully studied in relation to its nutritive and therapeutic properties", with the diet lists used "by the physicians in arranging the diet prescriptions of individual patients".[22] Also, "all the so-called Sanitarium health foods" were "regularly found on the Sanitarium bill of fare, having been originally devised solely for this use".[23]

Decline of the Battle Creek Sanitarium

After the Wall Street Crash of 1929 few previously well-to-do patients came to the sanitarium. Finances became very difficult for the "San" and the complex was put under receivership in 1933. The sanitarium stayed in business until after the beginning of WWII. The U.S. Army, needing a hospital, paid $2,341,000 and moved in creating Percy Jones Army Hospital. The complex was later converted into a federal center and is currently named the Hart-Dole-Inouye Federal Center.

Listing and dedication

The Battle Creek Sanitarium was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.[24]

Notable patients


a.' ^ A persual of the main body of the text reveals an impressive use of the available scientific methods of the day. However, the synopsis from the contents page is hard to beat for succinctness, hence the quotations.

b.' ^ A Nauheim or 'effervescent' bath is a type of spa bath through which carbon dioxide is bubbled. It is named after the German spa town[25][26]


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places.  
  2. ^ State of Michigan (2009). "Battle Creek Sanitarium". Retrieved June 26, 2010. 
  3. ^ Kellogg, J.H., M.D., Superintendent (1908). The Battle Creek Sanitarium System. History, Organisation, Methods. Michigan: Battle Creek. p. 13. Retrieved October 30, 2009.  Full text at Internet Archive (
  4. ^ "Battle Creek Sanitarium / Percy Jones Hospital|Michigan Historical Marker Web Site|accessdate=April 5, 2014 |url=
  5. ^ "Photos From Battle Creek History: Battle Creek Sanitarium"|Willard Library |location=Battle Creek, Michigan |accessdate=April 5, 2014 |url=
  6. ^ Kellogg, J.H. (1908), pp.21–23 (p.22 contains photographs)
  7. ^ Kellogg, J.H. (1908), p.29
  8. ^ Kellogg, J.H. (1908), p.37
  9. ^ Kellogg, J.H. (1908), p.23
  10. ^ "Sanitarium – Our History". Retrieved December 22, 2010. 
  11. ^ Kellogg, J.H. (1908), p.8
  12. ^ Kellogg, J.H. (1908), p.77
  13. ^ a b Kellogg, J.H. (1908), p.73
  14. ^ a b Kellogg, J.H. (1908), p.79
  15. ^ Thrash, Agatha; Calvin Thrash (1981). Home Remedies: Hydrotherapy, Massage, Charcoal and Other Simple Treatments. Seale, Alabama: Thrash Publications.  
  16. ^ Kozier, Barbara; Erb, Glenora; Olivieri, Rita (1991), Fundamentals of Nursing: Concepts, Process and Practice (4th ed.), Redwood City, California: Addison-Wesley, pp. 1335–1336,  
  17. ^ Kellogg, J.H. (1908), p.85
  18. ^ Kellogg, J.H. (1908), p.87
  19. ^ Kellogg, J.H. (1908), pp.93–106
  20. ^ Kellogg, J.H. (1908), p.107
  21. ^ Kellogg, J.H. (1908), p.109
  22. ^ Kellogg, J.H. (1908), p.125
  23. ^ Kellogg, J.H. (1908), p.137
  24. ^ "Battle Creek Sanitarium". Michigan Center for Geographic Information. Retrieved April 13, 2006. 
  25. ^ Glanze, W.D., Anderson, K.N., & Anderson, L.E, ed. (1990).   p.797
  26. ^ Kellogg, J.H. (1908) pp.79,81,83,170,175,187

Further reading

  • Schwarz, Richard W. John Harvey Kellogg: Pioneering Health Reformer. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 2006
  • Wilson, Brian C. Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and the Religion of Biologic Living. Indianapolis, IN; Indiana University Press, 2014

External links

  • Photo Gallery (1000+ images) related to Battle Creek Sanitarium and Dr. John Harvey Kellogg
  • The Road to Wellville at the Internet Movie Database
  • PDF of BCS Massage
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