At the turn of the 20th century there were many more ways to become ill and die.
In Costa Rica and the rest of the western world, a big killer was tuberculosis. This bacterial infection of the lungs was widespread, particularly in areas of poverty where malnourished individuals lived in close quarters.
TB, as it is known, still is a killer, but there is effective antibiotic treatment in modern nations.
The situation that faced Costa Rican physician and one-time president Carlos Durán Cartín was complicated because his daughter also suffered from the disease. The treatment then was prolonged rest in clean air.
So after spending time at famous sanatoriums elsewhere, the doctor founded in 1915 the first such facility in Central America. The site is north of Cartago and within sight of the Volcán Irazú. There were 300 beds.
Modern medicine caught up with the facility in the early 1970s, and it was closed.
The sanatorium that now bears the doctor’s name is considered a national heritage site and restoration will begin this year. Cartago lawmakers hope the refurbished complex becomes a tourism draw.
That there are claims of a ghostly presence certainly will not hurt tourism. Roman Catholic medical sisters made up much of the facility’s staff, and the local myths say that one still is there, patrolling the third floor. There even was a Costa Rican movie, similar to the “Blair Witch Project,” called “El Sanatorio.” Actors played the parts of student filmmakers doing a documentary on the complex with predictable paranormal activity.
Restoration will be under the eye of the Centro de Investigación y Conservación del Patrimonio Cultura.