The Centro de Patrimonio is taking steps to close up the Sanatorio Carlos Durán Cartín while plans are made to restore the complex.
This is the former tuberculosis clinic on the skirt of the Volcán Irazú. The structure is approaching 100 years of age, and now it lacks doors and windows. So the building is exposed to the elements.
The location is Potrero Cerrado, Oreamuno, Cartago. When restored, the facility might become a tourist attraction, but those who visit should bring a sweater or jacket because the 2080-meter altitude was picked for the chilly temperatures. The elevation is more than 6,800 feet. That was the way to treat tuberculosis before antibiotics.
The Centro de Investigación y Conservación del Patrimonio Cultura, expects to spend much of this year drawing up restoration plans, officials there said.
The chore is a big one, even though much of the timber used in construction is of the long-lasting variety, such as cedar and pochote. However, the acidic emissions from the nearby volcano have taken their toll.
There is another consideration. Ileana Vives, director of Patrimonio, said that a use must be found for the restored structure.
She did not say it, but the restoration projects around the country have come under criticism because some of the structures remain empty, particularly if they are government sites. The Centro de Patrimonio itself has a headquarters in the old Banco Anglo on the Avenida Central peatonal in downtown San José. Although there sometimes are exhibitions in the front lobby, there still is enough unused room for a full-court basketball game.
Among the first parts of the complex to be restored will be the chapel, said the Centro. Right now the main concern is to protect the site from vandals, officials said.
The tuberculosis situation that faced Costa Rican physicians and one-time acting president Carlos Durán Cartín was complicated because his daughter also suffered from the disease. This bacterial infection of the lungs was widespread, particularly in areas of poverty where malnourished individuals lived in close quarters. 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. There were 300 beds, and it was completed the following year.
Modern medicine caught up with the facility in the early 1970s, and it was closed.
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.