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Battle Creek Sanitarium

The History

Since the 1880's, Battle Creek has been known as the "Health City," due to the world-wide reputation of the Battle Creek Sanitarium (the "San"). Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, the director of the "San" and brother of cereal-maker, W.K. Kellogg, developed specialized equipment, such as a mechanical "horse" to simulate riding (one of which found its way into the White House of Calvin Coolidge).

This equipment was designed to help patients improve health as part of the institution's regimen of exercise, healthy diet and exposure to fresh air and sunshine - ideas that were considered "radical" at the time! In the late 1800's and early 1900's, the San's visitors included Presidents, politicians, captains of industry and literary and theatrical stars.

Battle Creek Sanitarium first opened on September 5, 1866, as the Western Health Reform Institute. In 1876, John Harvey Kellogg became the superintendent, and his brother, W. K. Kellogg, worked as the bookkeeper. In 1878, a new structure was built on the site, but it burned down in 1902. The following year, it was rebuilt, enlarged and renamed The Battle Creek Sanitarium. As Kellogg put it, they took the word "sanatorium", which back then was defined as an English term designating a health resort for invalid soldiers. "A change of two letters transformed 'sanatorium' to 'sanitarium', and a new word was added to the English language".

Kellogg states the number of patients grew from 106 in 1866, to 7,006 patrons during the year of 1906. In 1928, Battle Creek Sanitarium expanded with a fourteen story tower, built across the street from the main sanitarium. This tower went into receivership in 1933, while the sanitarium continued to operate from its main facility.

In 1942, the U. S. Army purchased the tower and established the Percy Jones General Hospital; the hospital closed permanently in 1953 and one year later became the Battle Creek Federal Center. Owned by the Seventh Day Adventists, the Battle Creek Sanitarium continued to operate as a psychiatric facility through the 1970s but closed its doors by the end of the decade.

In 1986, the main building was officially razed, ending the final chapter in the history of the Battle Creek Sanitarium. Medical records have since been microfilmed and are now kept by the nearby Fieldstone Center, in Battle Creek, Michigan.