Seeking connections to Sharon Sanitorium’s past
REMEMBERING SHARON SANATORIUM: James Lawless of Norwood contacted The Trustees of Reservations in September, asking if he and his sister, 81-year-old Ann Lawless of Newton, could visit the former Sharon Sanatorium on Everett Street.
The sanitorium was founded in 1891 for treating respiratory diseases, and in 1941, then 10-year-old Ann Lawless, suffering from rheumatic fever, spent months at the sanitorium’s children’s pavilion, where patients slept on open-air porches.
The Trustees of Reservations, which has owned the property since 2008, was eager to have the Lawlesses visit, said Alison Bassett, manager of group’s archives and research center in Sharon. It fit in nicely with the nonprofit organization’s mission of documenting the lives of people who are connected to its properties.
“Our hope is that these memories and mementos will help bring the history of the children’s pavilion at the Sharon Sanatorium to life through the people who once convalesced within its walls,” Bassett said.
Ann Lawless recalled sleeping in footie pajamas and cap, and the red-and-white blankets she used during her eight-month stay, Bassett said. James Lawless recalled his parents riding a train called “The Comet” to visit every Sunday from their home in Roxbury.
“Part of what we’re here to do is to make sure people know the history of the places they visit,” Bassett said of the Trustees’ 100-plus properties around the state, including many south of Boston. “It creates a bond stronger than just the land. We want to tell the human history of people who’ve lived on the land.”
The Lawlesses have a unique double connection to the old sanatorium and the trustees: Ann Lawless’s stay was paid for by Ellen Paine, daughter of trustees’ founder Charles Eliot. The Lawlesses’ mother, Julia Gavin Lawless, was a nursemaid for Paine.
“When Ann visited us, more and more came back to her,” Bassett said. “The building has changed a lot, but it stirred up some of those memories. And that speaks to the importance of bringing people to a place and connecting to them, connecting people to stories.”
Former patients or anyone connected with the sanatorium are encouraged to contact Bassett at 781-784-8200, or by e-mailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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