A research project is never finished as new materials constantly come to light. After writing about Dr. Rachel Swain’s Sanatorium last April, I found a booklet about the hospital.  The fragile, sixteen-page booklet is carefully preserved at the Indiana State Library. It supplements what we already know about the sanatorium’s purpose and conception. Although it is undated, I believe the pamphlet was published shortly after the new home was built in 1898 since the old address of “73 Woodruff Place” is used (a large address renumbering project occurred in 1898 and after that time the sanatorium was listed as 608 Middle Drive).

Photograph by Joan Hostetler, March 2011

Photograph by Joan Hostetler, March 2011

Here are three of the interior photographs included in the booklet, contrasted with current photographs. The home is remarkably intact and as of February 2012 is on the market for $190,000.

The booklet reveals these tidbits about the thought that went into constructing the sanatorium with up-to-date ideas about health:

-Unusual care has been taken to exclude the ground air from the cellar which underlies the entire house. The building is of brick and frame construction, which, with a tile roof, insures superior protection from the extremes of temperature to which Indiana is subject.

-Adequate attention has been given to ventilation, while hardwood floors and tinted walls guard against infection by germs in carpet and wall paper.

-Three cisterns, with a total capacity of 500 barrels, afford rain water for domestic and hydrotherapeutic purposes. It is piped to each floor under pressure.

-An elevator facilitates access to the upper stories, while four balconies enable patients on the second and third stories to enjoy outings without descending.

-Expense and pains have not been spared to make the building healthful, convenient and attractive. The grounds were already so.

Dr. Rachel Swain welcomed a small number of patients into her home for daily observation and treatment. She believed that it was not best for physicians to have an unduly large number of patients. With twenty-three years of practice at her old sanatorium on N. New Jersey Street, she was proud to boast that Swain’s had “never suffered a fatality of the premises.”

Patients with maladies ranging from pleurisy, pneumonia, constipation, gall-stones, asthma, eczema, varicose veins, cramping toes, noises in head, and barrenness were evaluated by Dr. Swain, along with her son Fremont. Treatment included diet, exercise, rest, recreation and psychical influences, electricity, hydrotherapy, and osteopathy. Drugs and surgical operations were only used as a last resort.

Dr. Swain, as an author of several healthful cookbooks, stressed proper diet. “In most chronic and nervous diseases, perversion of nutrition is a leading symptom. Improvement in nutrition is usually the measure of recovery. Intelligent supervision of the diet is as desirable as it is difficult. We aim to have our table supplied with the best that the excellent markets of this fertile region afford, so prepared as to retain the full food value, so selected as to avoid the derangements arising from improper combinations, and yet afford a well-balanced dietary, and so varied as to avoid the monotony of the average table.”

The current photographs are courtesy of Doreen Tatnall, Carpenter realtors. Is anyone is need of a twenty-two-room, 7,200 square foot home with lots of great history?

[Would you like to see your old photographs featured in this Then and Now column? If so, attach a high resolution jpeg or png and any details about the building within our “Say Hi” link in the footer of our website.]


14 responses to “Indianapolis Then and Now: Swain Sanatorium 608 Middle Drive, Woodruff Place”

  1. Shawn says:

    I thought it was 22 rooms? 🙂

  2. Joan Hostetler says:

    Shawn: You’re right! Thanks for catching my typo. I’ll ask Tiffany to correct this.

  3. Shawn says:

    No problem, we actually went to see the house on Friday afternoon, as we are thinking about buying it. There has been a contract on it for almost a month, but seems the group is having trouble with financing. Not to wish ill-will, but I really hope they (buyers) can’t rectify that situation…lol

  4. Shawn says:

    …As beautiful as it is (could be), there IS a ton of work that needs to be done, along with lots of ongoing maintenance on a house of this size.

  5. Tiffany Benedict Berkson says:

    How did you find out about the house Shawn? Please keep us posted if you get it!

  6. Shawn says:

    ‘@Tiffany – I’ve been browsing the MLS, every few days, for about 2 years… loooking 🙂 Certainly let everyone know if it works out for us. Hopefully, the last few pieces of the puzzle can be put into place.

  7. Shawn says:

    ….to add, the articles here were very helpful with my wife, who was not sure about the woodruff place “area.”

  8. Craig says:

    Shawn, just wanted you to know that Woodruff has its share of neighbors who could help you in fixing up the house if you decide to buy it.
    And if you do buy it, PLEASE remove the fence and open the porch back up!!!

  9. Shawn says:


    Thanks for the advance offer of help 🙂 The fence would definitley come down, sooner than soon. We would open the porch back up for sure, but with a 2 year old & an 8 month old… it might be nice to have their play area out there for awhile, while working inside.

  10. Shawn says:

    Looks like this property is going to closing next week. It pains me GREATLY to say that we aren’t the one’s purchasing it right now. Grrrrrr. 🙂

  11. Tiffany Benedict Berkson says:

    We wish the buyers well, whatever the case! I’m sure there’s another vintage beauty out there with your name on it! And of course, I’m dying to know who’s buying the house! I know a couple of our readers were looking into it!

  12. Shawn says:

    I believe the owner of the Saffron Cafe purchased it.

  13. Shawn says:

    Looks like it is for sale again, sans any pictures on the realty sites (yet.) Wonder if they got in over their head, intended to flip from the get go, or just decided on other avenues? Too bad we already purchased, gutted, and are putting back together in a different area…grrrrrr

  14. Anonymous says:


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