Western North Carolina’s fresh mountain air enjoyed a national reputation in 1900. Physicians, faced with an epidemic of tuberculosis and lacking effective drug treatments, recommended that patients move to the mountains in hopes that breathing pure mountain air would cure them. Sanitariums sprang up all over the region, especially in Asheville.
Thousands of sufferers came hoping to be cured, sleeping with their windows open, pursuing outdoor activities and just sitting outside. As more effective medical treatments were developed in the 1920s, the region’s sanitariums began to close. But belief in the curative properties of fresh mountain air still survives, despite the growing awareness that even the mountains face serious air quality issues today.
Digital Heritage Moments are produced at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee. To learn more, visit DigitalHeritage.org. You may also hear Digital Heritage Moments each weekday on radio stations WKSF-FM, WWCU-FM, WMXF-AM, WPEK-AM and WWNC-AM.