“Lest We Forget”
The Sanitarium (Prison) Buildings –
Repurpose Use Options
By Jonathan Duda and Melissa Trombley-Prosch
The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company built a road from the Town of Wilton to the
top of Mt. McGregor. Its terminus was the administration building. The main driveway
in front of the refectory was covered with a terrace which connected the five central
buildings (administration, refectory, infirmary, Wards 1 & 2). A concrete promenade
allowed for a dry outdoor walk in stormy weather and provided a panoramic view of the
Hudson Valley in fair weather.
The first building of the site reached by the drive up the mountain was the
administration building. It provided offices for the Physician in Charge, the assistant
physicians, accounting and clerical staff. The sanitarium's hydrotherapy department,
pharmacy, dental office, and staff living quarters were also located in this building.
The old Metropolitan Life Insurance Company sanitarium buildings were built in the
Arts and Crafts architectural style which was most popular from 1910 to 1925 but seen
into the 1930's. The project's architect was D. Everett Waid. The buildings' foundation
work began in October 1911. Foundation walls were composed of rubble stone
(gneiss) quarried on the mountain. Superimposed walls were of hollow tile and
stuccoed. Roofs were made of reinforced concrete and covered with red tile. By 1918,
twenty buildings had been constructed.
The sanitarium consisted of a group of three head buildings – administration, refectory
and infirmary – six open wards, rest house, recreation building and chapel. The
buildings were sited on the southern slope of Mt. McGregor in order to expose them to
the prevailing southerly breezes and to protect them with the mountain and forest
from northerly winter storms. Open-air, covered passages were designed to connect all
the main buildings.
The largest and most central building on the site was the refectory. It
contained the post office, library, recreation rooms, patient work rooms and storage.
The main portion of the building, however, was devoted to the dining room.
The dining room space was almost 33 feet wide, 132 feet long, with a vaulted ceiling 24
feet 6 inches high, commanding a view of the Hudson River Valley and Saratoga Lake
directly to the south. The north side of the main dining room contained the nurses' and
staff dining rooms.
The refectory contained a kitchen, back serving room, butcher shop, grocery, cold
storage rooms, employee dining room, and female employee bedrooms were also
located in the building.
Across the drive from the refectory’s cold storage rooms was the ice house.
It had a 500 ton capacity and was built into the embankment
on the southern edge of Artist Lake.
The chapel, built in the Mission architectural style, was completed in 1916 with a
250 seat capacity. The chapel was connected by a glass enclosed passage to the
infirmary to allow bed patients to attend services.
The chapel's historic organ is an Austin Opus 690. It has 783 pipes and was built in
1916 in Harford, CT, by the Austin Company. It was restored in 2006. The chapel
contains period stained glass windows and a large painting by American artist Elliot
The infirmary was located just west of the refectory. A distinctive feature of the building
was a method of opening the entire exterior end of each room to the outer air, protecting
it with fixed shutters which permitted free air access and keeping out the outdoor
elements to a degree. The x-ray department, small laboratory, diet kitchen, surgical
dressing-room, patient storage rooms, and autopsy room were located in this building.
The dormitory was built to house male employees and had a capacity for 38 persons.
Social rooms and a basement bowling alley provided recreational opportunities.
Ward buildings had a “shack” or “lean to” design – patient beds and reclining chairs were
always out of doors but sheltered by the roof. Each bed alcove was designed with its own
The building used as the residence of the physician in charge
was located northeast of Artist Lake.
The residence was equipped with tennis courts and a landscaped garden.
The rest house was designed to care for the Metropolitan Life employees who suffered
from diseases other than tuberculosis. It had an 80 person capacity. Aside from patient
bedrooms, large social rooms, diet kitchen and open porches added to patient comfort.
There are 3 lakes on the prison grounds: Artist's Lake (19th century man-made, 1046 feet
above sea level), Lake Anne, and Lake Bonita (water reservoir for the property).
The nurses' home building was located northwest of Artist Lake. It was designed for a
40 person capacity and provided a communal living room for the resident nurses. The
building also featured individual bedrooms, sitting rooms and heated dressing rooms
for the nursing staff.
The water supply is taken from Lake Bonita. The old stone tower supported a 50,000
gallon reinforced concrete storage tank. Water was pumped by gasoline and electric
motors to the water tower from the lake and from there was fed by gravity to the
sanitarium buildings. Artist Lake was used only as an emergency water source.
The farm was located in the valley in the Town of Wilton. It was 2 miles from the
sanitarium and comprised 540 acres of tillable soil. A stream ran through the property.
In 1918, the farm was supplying milk, eggs and vegetables to the sanitarium. Later meat
and poultry from the farm were also supplied.
A closed passage led from the laundry 750 feet uphill to the refectory. An electric
railway carried laundry and supplies back and forth. The tunnel was also used to
remove deceased patients discreetly.
A theater is located in this building with a 400 seat capacity (including gallery
space). The theater features a stage and projection booth. Recreation and
occupational therapy space was also designed for this building.
Auditorium interior view, circa 1930 - of patients watching a movie.
Photo courtesy of the Orton Collection
The bequest of Metropolitan President John Rogers Hegeman provided funding for
the Hegeman Memorial Laboratory in 1923. Built of stone, the laboratory was the
site for clinical and research work in the field of tuberculosis.
Grant Cottage was still owned by the Mt. McGregor Memorial Association (along with 50
feet of grounds on each side of the Cottage) at the time that the Metropolitan Life
Insurance Company sanitarium was built and operating.
However, during this time period, Metropolitan Life erected the memorial to Grant
at the Eastern Overlook. It is still at that location and consists of a marble slab,
inscribed plaque and enclosed by iron fencing.
Repurposing the old Sanitarium (Prison)
Buildings on Mt. McGregor
Note: In 2013, The New York State Department of Corrections spent $2.8 million to
replace windows and repair masonry in 8 of the old sanitarium (prison) buildings.
The New York State Department of Corrections has announced that the Mt.
McGregor Correctional Facility will be closed in July of 2014. With that in mind,
some ideas for repurposing the old sanitarium buildings and grounds would
• Theater building – arts center for plays, recitals, film festivals (See
www.workhousearts.org for the arts center repurpose of the Lorton Reformatory
in Laurel Hill, Virginia)
• Ward and dormitory buildings – hotel, conference center, condominiums, shops,
N.Y.S. satellite museum(s)/Grant research center, spa facility
• Chapel – weddings, recitals
• Dining hall – restaurant
• Old stone laboratory – art gallery, shop or restaurant
• Administration building – shops
Repurposing the old Sanitarium (Prison) Buildings on Mt. McGregor
Cross country skiing
Swimming Snow shoeing
Golf course Tobogganing
View from overlook
Additional project options for
the Eastern Overlook area
Reconstruct the rustic pavilion.
Additional project options for
the Eastern Overlook area
Restore a narrow gauge coach car
(one has become available) and
place on a short span of reconstructed
railroad track at the site
Reconstruct the Mt. McGregor train
station and arcade. Visitor
restrooms could be included in the
The Metropolitan Life Insurance sanitarium on Mt. McGregor, N.Y., had for its architect the widely known American architect D. Everett
Waid. Daniel Everett Waid was born in Gouverneur, N.Y., on March 31, 1864. He graduated from Monmouth College in Illinois in 1887 and
completed his post-graduate work in architecture at Columbia University.
From 1884 to 1894 Waid was associated with the architectural firm of Jenney & Mundie. William
LeBaron Jenney was considered the dean of Chicago architects, master of architectural engineering
and widely recognized as the “Father of the Skyscraper.”
Waid practiced architecture in Chicago from 1894 until 1898 when he began to work in New York. He
was co-architect for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower building on Madison Avenue in
New York City. Opened in 1909, the tower building would remain the world's tallest until 1913, and
its design won critical acclaim within the American architectural profession. The building featured
the latest ideas in ventilation, air conditioning, sound deadening, artificial lighting,
intercommunicating, telephones, pneumatic tubes, unit operating clock systems, as well as special
elevator and escalator installations.
Smaller projects included the restoration of the Grand Army Plaza fountain in 1916 (which had been
donated by the estate of Joseph Pulitzer), the 1927 Wellington Building of Ottawa, Ontario (built in a
colonnaded Beaux-Arts style), and Babcock Hall at Wooster College (Ohio) in 1935.
Waid was a fellow, treasurer and president of the American Institute of Architects, and president of
the Architectural League of New York. During World War I, he was deputy director of housing for the
Emergency Fleet Corporation. The New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects awarded
a medal to Waid in 1929 for “distinguished work.”
Daniel Everett Waid
(1864 – 1939)
In addition to his New York City residence on Lexington Avenue, Waid had a home in Greenwich,
Connecticut, and was a founder of the Greenwich Historical Society. Waid died in Greenwich on
October 31, 1939, at the age of 75.
Credit: Thanks to Christopher Shields, Archivist, at the Greenwich Historical Society in Connecticut for the photo of D. Everett Waid.
The altar painting of the Madonna and child in the Mt. McGregor chapel is the work of the artist, Elliot Daingerfield. Daingerfield was one of
the best known and most respected American artists of the 20th century. His most famous painting titled “The Genius of the Canyon” sold
for $15,000 in 1920 ($174,450 in 2014 dollars) – the highest price known to date for the work of a living artist.
Daingerfield was born in Harper's Ferry, Virginia, the son of John and Matilda Daingerfield in 1859. That
same year found John Daingerfield working as a clerk at the Harper's Ferry arsenal at the time of John
Brown's raid.* The elder Daingerfield enlisted in the Confederate army as an officer in June of 1861 and
was a friend of Robert E. Lee.
The Daingerfield family moved to Fayetteville, North Carolina, after the war. Here the younger
Daingerfield studied art to the extent he could in post-Civil War Fayetteville, working among others with
an itinerant sign painter and a china painter.
Seeking further knowledge and exposure to the art world, Daingerfield moved to New York City in 1880 at
the age of 21. He studied at the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League. Daingerfield
discovered the work of French Barbizon painters who would influence his work for the rest of his career.
He became friends with such notable painters as George Inness, Kenyon Cox and Walter Satterlee.
(1859 – 1932)
Through the 1880's and 1890's, Daingerfield's work, which had always had a tendency to contain elements
of mysticism, became more overtly symbolic as he discovered the art and philosophy of the Symbolists.
Symbolism was an international movement which encompassed art, poetry and philosophy – attempting
to capture individual and personal feelings and moods, particularly as they concerned mysticism and the
spiritual. He began to write poems to accompany his important paintings and became drawn to religious
imagery. Around 1900, he created two monumental church murals for the chapel at St. Mary the Virgin in
New York City.
Daingerfield was one of five artists commissioned by the Santa Fe Railway to paint the Grand Canyon in 1910. His trip west deeply affected
him, and many of his best works date from this trip. After his travels in the American west and Europe, Daingerfield began to spend more
time in North Carolina, painting from life and memory. He died in 1932 following a long illness at his home in Blowing Rock.
*Note: Captain John Daingerfield wrote an account of John Brown's raid at Harper's Ferry, from his standpoint as Brown's prisoner, and of
his rescue by federal troops under the command of Col. Robert E. Lee. It was published by Century Magazine in 1885 – the same year that
Grant's first Civil War article (Vicksburg) was published. Both articles appear in Volume XXX of the magazine (May 1885 – October 1885).
Early 20th Century tinted sanitarium postcards and 19th Century photo of Lake
Bonita from the Trombley-Prosch Collection.
Saratoga, Mt. McGregor & Lake George Railroad train coach car photo
courtesy of the Saratoga Springs History Museum.
The photo of the Eastern Overlook from the Upham Collection.
The Gilman photograph of the Mt. McGregor Railroad station arcade is from
the Stiles Collection.
The 1914 photo of the interior of the sanitarium's dining room at Christmas is
from the Orton Collection.
Thanks also to Jarrod Prescott, Michael Prosch and Matt Trombley for their