COBWEB CORNERS: Those odd-shaped buildings

By Mel McFarland

       Recently, several of us sat at Bon Ton's over coffee and talked about local things that somehow have been forgotten. One of these is a series of odd-shaped buildings, each with an octagonal base and a conical sort of roof. Two of these are not far from here, sitting side by side in downtown Manitou. Ever seen them? Ever seen any others?
       Well, they are all over, from Denver to Pueblo and Canon City, but where did this type of building come from? Did you know it is technically a Gardiner Tent?
       A hundred years ago, people all over the country were suffering from tuberculosis. It was thought that the cool, dry air we have would cure it. There were dozens of sanitariums set up in the West, including Colorado Springs, to provide cures for the disease. People at first lived in Indian-style tents. Then a doctor came up with a little round building that had a canvas roof, then a solid roof, open at the top, for people to get plenty of fresh air. It was the idea of Dr. Charles F. Gardiner. The little buildings were sleeping rooms only. At places such as the Woodman Sanitarium, they filled acres of open land.
       What amazes me is how the TB patients survived in them. In the winter they only had a tiny little heater.
       In the 1940s and '50s, the discovery of a "real" treatment for tuberculosis brought a closing of the camps. In the early 1950s, Gardiner Tents were being sold off, usually at a nominal $25, and moved away.
       There are still many around, even though they are being lost all the time. I'm told they are even found on ranches as far away as Kansas! Another one that's very visible nearby is the ticket hut at the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site, near the Garden of the Gods. Others are in people's backyards.
       If you would like more information on Gardiner Tents, the Pioneers Museum in Colorado Springs has an excellent display.