Part 1: The Beginnings of the Barlow Sanatorium
The Barlow Sanatorium, now the Barlow Respiratory Hospital that is affiliated with the USC Medical School, has an intimate connection with the history of Solano Canyon. This is what the main building at the Barlow Respiratory Hospital looks like today:
But this is today; so some history is in order.
Sometime between 1875 and 1880, a young widow, Ella Brooks, and her two daughters, Marian and Jessie, then younger than 8 and 5 years old, respectively, moved to Los Angeles. Ella, no older than 28 herself, along with her two sisters, Jessie and Hattie, were the daughters and heirs to the fortune of Horatio and Julia Brooks. Horatio Brooks founded the Brooks Locomotive Works of Dunkirk, New York, manufacturers of steam locomotives from 1869 until its merger with several other companies to form the American Locomotive Company in 1901. Horatio Brooks, Ella's father, died in 1887; her mother, Julia, died in 1896.
Not long after her arrival in Los Angeles, Ella Brooks met Alfredo Solano, son of the founders of Solano Canyon, Francisco Solano and Rosa Casanova. Alfred and Ella married in New York on November 4, 1886 and returned to Los Angeles shortly thereafter.
Meanwhile, in 1895, a young, Princeton-educated physician (M.D., 1892) learned that he had contracted tuberculosis, Which was then known as consumption or the white plague. Determined to cure himself of this often-fatal disease, he came to Los Angeles in search of a warmer, drier climate than that of his native New York.
In 1897, Alfred and Ella Brooks Solano built a house at 2302 South Figueroa Street in Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles Herald described the mansion thusly:
During the year some very beautiful homes have been erected in various parts of the city ... The home of Alfred Solano, at the southeast corner of Figueroa and Twenty-third streets, is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful, not only of the year, but in the city. [Los Angeles Herald, 26 December 1897]
The Herald goes on to describe the elegant home in great detail.
Meanwhile, 30-year-old Dr. Walter Jarvis Barlow, having recovered from his bout with tuberculosis and established himself in a growing medical practice in Los Angeles, met 26-year-old Marian Brooks Patterson, Ella's daughter, and the two were married in 1898. Eventually, the newlywed Barlows bought a house at 2329 South Figueroa Street, thereby living close to Alfred and Ella Brooks Solano. The Barlows were Ella Brooks Solano's daughter and son-in-law, and, by virtue of his marriage to Ella, they were the same to Alfred.
Dr. Jarvis Barlow (he was always called 'Jarvis') began treating tubercular patients in Los Angeles as early as 1898. He had dreamed, since his own recovery from tuberculosis, of opening a free respiratory clinic to treat such patients, especially those who were poor and indigent, because, although tuberculosis, being an airborne disease, can strike anyone, it took a particular toll on those who lived in less sanitary conditions and could not afford to pay for professional care.
Dr. Barlow located a 25-acre plot of land on Chavez Ravine Road that was owned by businessman and large landowner J. B. Lankershim. The land was away from the city and possessed, in addition to rural views, a continuous movement of fresh air that would be beneficial to patients with tuberculosis.
Alfred Solano took up Dr. Barlow's cause. He knew Lankershim from earlier business dealings and arranged to purchase the land for $7,300. Dr. Barlow paid $5,000, Alfred and Ella contributed $1,300, and Lankershim himself put up the remaining $1,000.
Architects Hudson & Mansell donated their services for drawing up the plans, and building permits were issued on April 13, 1902 for the hospital and administration buildings.
Incredibly, the infirmary opened in 1902. This is a view of the complex circa 1915; the view is looking across Chavez Ravine Road.
The layout is a so-called cottage plan, with the main hospital (left) and administration (second from left) buildings adjacent to patient cottages. In the early years, funds to construct the cottages were donated by prominent residents of Los Angeles. The first cottage was built with money donated by Alfred and Ella Brooks Solano, and it was known as Solano Cottage.
In keeping with Dr. Barlow's desire to care for those who could not afford to pay for their care, patients were charged no fees.
Next: Part 2: 113 Years of the Barlow Sanatorium
About the Author
Lawrence Bouett is a retired research scientist and registered professional engineer who now conducts historical and genealogical research full-time. A ninth-generation Californian, his primary historical research interests are Los Angeles in general and the Stone Quarry Hills in particular. His ancestors arrived in California with Portolá in 1769 and came to Los Angeles from Mission San Gabriel with the pobladores on September 4, 1781.
Lawrence Bouett may be contacted directly here.