History in our Midst

Imagine living in this octagonal hut for months, if not years at a time, with only a bed, a nightstand, a closet, a washbasin, and a desk. If you were lucky, you might have had electricity and a small stove, but this was not guaranteed. If you had been among those seeking a cure for tuberculosis in the Pikes Peak region in the late 19th or early 20th century, this type of domicile might have been your home away from home.

Stell Dir vor, in dieser achteckigen Hütte, die nur mit einem Bett, einem Nachttisch, einem Kleiderschrank, einem Waschlavoir sowie einem Schreibtisch ausgestattet war, monate-, wenn nicht jahrelang leben zu müssen. Vielleicht gab es Elektrizität und einen kleinen Ofen, doch das war nicht garantiert. Wenn Du eine(r) derjenigen gewesen wärst, die Ende des 19. oder Anfang des 20. Jahrhunderts in der Pikes Peak Region nach Heilung für ihre Tuberkulose suchten, wäre diese Art Domizil Deine zweite Heimat gewesen.

Entrance to Rock Ledge Ranch (adjacent to Garden of the Gods)/Eingang zur Rock Ledge Ranch

These structures were frequent sights in our region when it served as a major destination for sufferers of what was historically referred to as consumption, phthisis, or “White Plague,” named in contrast to the Black Death. Tuberculosis, this old scourge of humanity, had no known cause until 1882, when German bacteriologist Robert Koch proved that it was caused by an infection with Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

Even after the disease could be attributed to a specific germ, no targeted treatment existed until antibiotics became commercially available in the 1940s. This dilemma spawned multiple popular therapies, among them the climate cure. Travel or a move to a healthier climate was deemed beneficial for the afflicted, especially in combination with good nutrition and plenty of rest. After the founding of Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs in the early 1870s, local boosters were quick in advertising our climate as therapeutic to invalids “chasing the cure,” in the jargon of the time. Our dry air, high altitude, and more than three hundred days of sunshine were major selling points and attracted countless number of tuberculars, consumptives, lungers or chasers, as they were known.

Diese Gebäude waren oft in unserer Region anzutreffen, als sie ein Hauptreisziel derer war, die unter der Krankheit litten, die lange als Schwindsucht, Phthisis oder weiße Pest bekannt war (im Unterschied zum schwarzen Tod). Die Ursache dieser alten Geißel der Menschheit war unbekannt, bis der deutsche Bakteriologe Robert Koch 1882 bewieß, daß eine Infektion mit „Mycobacterium tuberculosis” für Tuberkulose verantwortlich war.

Doch selbst, nachdem die Krankheit einem spezifischen Erreger zugewiesen werden konnte, existierte keine gezielte Behandlung, bis Antibiotika in den 1940er Jahren kommerziell auf den Markt kamen. Dieses Dilemma resultierte in allerlei volkstümlichen Therapien, unter anderem der Klimakur. Man ging davon aus, daß eine Reise oder ein Umzug in ein gesünderes Klima für die Betroffenen nutzbringend war, besonders in Kombination mit reichhaltiger Nahrung und körperlicher Schonung. Nach der Gründung von Colorado Springs und Manitou Springs Anfang der 1870er Jahre machten beide Orte Reklame, und priesen unser Klima als therapeutisch für alle diejenigen an, die nach Heilung strebten. Unsere trockene Luft, hohe Lage und mehr als 300 Sonnentage pro Jahr waren wichtige Werbeargumente, und lockten zahllose Tuberkulöse, Schwindsüchtige oder sonstige Lungenkranke an.

Twin TB Huts along Manitou Avenue in Manitou Springs/Zwillingshütten in Manitou Springs

Tuberculosis sanatoria became widespread in the shadow of Pikes Peak and most of them had free-standing tuberculosis huts on their property. These huts’ architecture was conceived by one of the local pioneer physicians, Dr. Charles Fox Gardiner, and was inspired by the form and function of American Indian teepees. Originally built of canvas, they were called Gardiner sanatory tents, until more permanent wooden models became en vogue. Their design exposed the sick to as much air as possible by circulating it constantly. It entered through open spaces around the floor and escaped through a vent in the roof.

Tuberkulosesanatorien waren im Schatten von Pikes Peak weitverbreitet und die meisten hatten freistehende Tuberkulose Hütten. Deren Architektur wurde von einem der frühen Ärzte entworfen. Dr. Charles Fox Gardiner war von der Form und Funktion der indianischen Tipis inspiriert worden. Die ursprünglichen Konstruktionen bestanden aus Segeltuch und hießen Gardiner-Zelte, bis stabilere Holzmodelle in Mode kamen. Ihr Design setzte die Kranken so viel frischer Luft wie möglich aus, indem sie sie zirkulierte. Sie drang durch Öffnungen oberhalb des Bodens ein, und entwich durch einen Schlot im Dach.

Interior of TB hut at the former Woodmen of America Sanatorium/Inneres einer ehemaligen TB-Hütte

Several surviving specimens stand scattered throughout the region and if you live in, or have visited Colorado Springs, chances are that you, too, have come across one of them—perhaps at the Pioneers Museum, at Penrose Hospital, in some Old North End Neighborhood backyard, in Manitou Springs, or at Mount St. Francis on West Woodmen Avenue (the former Woodmen of America Sanatorium, where I took the uppermost photo). A few cabins display the interior décor as it might have appeared during their heyday, but many more have been repurposed into garden sheds, gift shops, museums, or entrance booths. Others are simply fading away, being gnawed on by the tooth of time. But all serve as reminders of an important chapter in the annals of Colorado Springs which defined the first seven decades of the city’s life.

Einige erhaltene Exemplare sind noch in der Gegend verstreut, und wenn Du in Colorado Springs lebst oder die Stadt schon mal besucht hast, ist es gut möglich, daß Du auf eins gestoßen bist—vielleicht im Pioneers Museum, am Penrose Krankenhaus, in einem der älteren Stadtviertel, in Manitou Springs oder auf dem Gelände von St. Francis (einem ehemaligen Sanatorium, wo das oberste Photo herstammt). Einige der Hütten demonstrieren die ursprüngliche Innenausstattung, doch die meisten wurden umfunktioniert, und dienen heute als Gartenhäuschen, Geschenkeläden, Museen oder Eintrittskabinen. Andere schwinden dahin, angenagt vom Zahn der Zeit. Aber alle dienen der Erinnerung an ein wichtiges Kapitel in den Annalen von Colorado Springs, das die ersten sieben Jahrzehnte der Stadt bestimmte.

Another Amazing Einstein

My current hometown, Colorado Springs, once was home to a third degree cousin of Albert Einstein. Dr. Otto Einstein was born in Hechingen, Germany in 1876, graduated from high school in Ulm in 1895, and from medical school in Tübingen in 1900. He practiced pediatrics in Stuttgart for thirty-five years, before he escaped Hitler’s anti-Semitic genocide at the last minute, in April 1939. Most of his children left Germany in the early 1930s, but Dr. Einstein opted to stay, caring for his Jewish patients as long as possible. Like other Jewish physicians, he had volunteered during WWI, and as late as 1935 was awarded a Medal of Honor, which likely conferred a degree of protection, even though he was demoted to Krankenpfleger (male nurse) and expelled from the German Society of Pediatricians in 1938.

After fleeing from the dinner table with his wife Jenny, the Einsteins’ first refuge was Nicaragua. Dr. Einstein worked at a missionary hospital of the Moravian church for nine months, while awaiting a visa to enter the United States. Albert Einstein pleaded with the authorities in a handwritten note for permission for his cousin to enter the country. Once granted, the Einsteins arrived in New Orleans by steamship in 1940. They lived in Denver for two years, where Dr. Einstein’s eldest son was a doctor. Otto found employment as a resident physician at National Jewish Hospital, a center for the treatment of tuberculosis. Colorado was among the premiere destinations for consumptives, on account of its purported beneficial climate, and Dr. Einstein started a new career as a tuberculosis specialist at sixty-four – an age when most individuals at least ponder retirement.

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Memorial Plaque at the site of the former Modern Woodmen of America Sanatorium

In 1942, Dr. Einstein moved to Colorado Springs and was hired by the Modern Woodmen of America Sanatorium, the city’s largest. After 1947, he dedicated the remaining years of his life to the care of patients at Cragmor Sanatorium. This establishment for well-heeled patients opened in 1905/06. In 1952, it was leased by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs as a treatment center for Navajo (Diné) women from Arizona, with the goal to cure their disease with newly discovered antibiotics. Patients and staff described him as a caring, gentle individual who tried to ease his charges’ physical and emotional pain. Despite communication barriers created by his heavily accented English, he and his American Indian patients were able to comprehend one another.

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The former Cragmor Sanatorium, now Main Hall of the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS)

A principled man, Dr. Einstein insisted on paying for medications taken from the pharmacy for personal use, and on tearing up uncanceled stamps. A lifelong scholar, he studied subjects as diverse as medicine and comparative religion. He worshiped at Temple Beth El, the Reform Jewish congregation in Colorado Springs. It was there that he eulogized Albert’s life after the Nobel Laureate’s death in 1955. Five years earlier, the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph had printed an interview in which he reminisced about their childhood friendship in Germany and several stays at Princeton with the famous physicist and his wife Elsa, who also happened to be a cousin of Jenny. After Dr. Einstein’s death of myocardial infarction in 1959, a few days shy of his 83rd birthday, he was buried at the Sons of Israel Cemetery, adjacent to Evergreen Cemetery.

Dr. Einstein was survived by his wife Jenny, their two sons, Robert and Georg, two daughters, Lisa and Eva, and a son, Hans, from Jenny’s first marriage. While all have passed in the interim, numerous grandchildren and their offspring are alive today.

I first learned about Dr. Einstein in a book about Cragmor Sanatorium, Asylum of the Gilded Pill, by retired UCCS Professor Douglas R. McKay. During an exploration of our local cemeteries, I stumbled across Dr. Einstein’s distinctive gravestone which heightened my curiosity. When I found the eulogy given by his rabbi, I called several synagogues to find more information about him. One obliging secretary put me in touch with Dr. Perry Bach who is working on the completion of a series of books, Jewish Colorado Springs. He was most gracious, shared his knowledge, and put me in touch with a family member of Dr. Einstein, architect Alan Gass of Denver, the designer of the tombstone, who filled in additional gaps. While visiting Stuttgart last fall, I discovered more archival sources about Dr. Einstein’s life in Germany.

This short biographical sketch is my attempt to shed a little more light on a remarkable person whose extraordinary life is too little known.

Click here for the German version/klicken Sie bitte hier für die deutsche Version:

https://tanjaschimmel.wordpress.com/2017/02/22/noch-ein-besonderer-einstein/