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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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Undated postcard. Photo courtesy: Mike Larkin

SUNNYCREST SANITORIUM. Sunnycrest was opened on August 13, 1921, as a means of treating patients with tuberculosis. (1) Once called "white plague" or "consumption," tuberculosis had afflicted civilization for thousands of years. (2) In 1906 a meeting was held in Dubuque to consider the establishment of a tent colony for patients. This followed the practice of the time of reducing exposure to the rest of the family by having the patient live in a small building or tent in yard where they were treated with better nutrition and rest. (3)

In 1916 informational meetings with local charitable organizations and social clubs led to a public vote to approve a bond issue of $75,000 and a two mill levy for payment of bonds and maintenance of the building. (4)

A twenty-seven acre site on the north end of town was purchased at $100.00 per acre. Prior to the start of construction, observations of similar facilities were made in Davenport, at the Oakdale institution in Iowa City, and at sites in Illinois and Wisconsin. Further work on the institution was halted until the end of WORLD WAR I at the request of the federal government. When work resumed, Anton Zwack was awarded the construction contract for $89,000. In most instances local firms were the low bidders for additional work. Dr. J. C. Painter was placed in charge of the hospital and served in the position for twenty-five years. (5)

In 1928 entertainment included croquet, card games, walks, and motion pictures. Those unable to leave their beds could listen through earphones. Religious services from Catholic and Protestant churches were broadcast weekly. Visitors were welcome three times daily. (6)

Prior to his retirement in 1957, Painter was able to announce the closing of the facility as a tuberculosis sanatorium. Once filled nearly to capacity, Sunnycrest had been nearly empty since WORLD WAR II and the development of better methods to cure the disease. The remaining patients were transferred to Oakdale Sanatorium near Iowa City. (7)

Within two and one-half years of its closing, the facility was reopened as the Dubuque County Nursing Home whose primary responsibility was the care of indigents. Those who could make partial payments were given secondary priority. Private patients were admitted with the understanding that they would move out if room for the other two categories of patients became unavailable. An addition to the facility was constructed in 1968; in 1976 the name of the facility was changed to SUNNYCREST MANOR. (8)



1. Kruse, Len. My Old Dubuque, Dubuque, Iowa: Center for Dubuque History, Loras College, 2000, p. 56

2. "History of Tuberculosis," News-Medical.net. Online: http://www.news-medical.net/health/History-of-Tuberculosis.aspx

3. Ibid.

4. "Sunnycrest Manor." http://www.dubuquecounty.org/SunnycrestManor/tabid/137/Default.aspx

5. Ibid.

6. "Sunnycrest Has Ideal Location," Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal, May 8, 1927, p. 7

7. "Sunnycrest Manor."

8. Ibid.