The idea of retreating from the world in search of health is alive and well today. People imagine that holidays from everyday routine will renew their health and vigor, and specialised retreats, involving meditation and yoga, offer a more introspective way of achieving health. As Jocelyn Harris’s post about Jane Austen’s unfinished novel Sanditon notes, seaside resorts and spas towns as places to seek health have a fascinating history. While pondering the alienation of the working class, Karl Marx, for example, treated his ailments (and perhaps his hypochondria) by visits to the spa at Karlsbad in Central Europe in the 1870s.
I’m currently working on the American idea of a ‘sanitarium’, a word coined by John Harvey Kellogg, MD. Today the name Kellogg is synonymous with cornflakes but the Seventh Day Adventist Dr Kellogg built his career as the man in charge of the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan.
Ellen White (founder of the Seventh Day Adventists) and her husband helped support James Harvey Kellogg through a medical education so that he could provide leadership at their Health Institute, which, from 1876, he did. He chose the name ‘sanitarium’ (as distinct from ‘sanatorium’) to emphasise that Battle Creek provided a sanitary ‘place where people learn to stay well’. By 1877, over 300 patients had been drawn to the Battle Creek Sanitarium in search of health. The number kept growing. Here was a unique medical innovation ‘which combined the comforts of the home and the hotel with the medical advantages of the hospital and the added facilities and equipment requisite for the administration of baths of every description, electricity in its different forms, medical gymnastics, and other rational agencies, with careful regulation of diet.’
As the railroad crossed America, California, with its equitable climate, free of the cold and snow that dogged the East in winter, appeared as the ideal place to build health resorts. The climate of San Diego, in particular, was said to be ‘wonderfully soothing to the lesions of the lungs’ as well as helpful in overcoming ‘rheumatic proclivities’. Not only was the climate ideal, the absence of mosquitoes, the possibility of sea bathing, and the beautiful scenery were said to restore the health of suffering invalids.
In 1882, the attractions of National City San Diego led Dr Anna Longshore Potts to build her Medical Institute and Sanitarium there, investing funds she earned from lecturing. While the doctor toured New Zealand, Australia and Great Britain giving lectures to ladies from 1883 to 1887, work proceeded on the three story building, with was set in a landscape of olive groves and fruit trees and fitted out with every modern convenience: ‘Turkish and electric baths, electric lights and telephone bells’.
After it opened in 1888, an apparently satisfied customer, Mrs M.A. Baldwin of Atchison, Kansas, wrote Dr Longshore Potts:
I do rejoice that I was induced to come here. I am as much as ever charmed with this lovely resting place for the afflicted, as also with the occupants. Who can long be ill where the elements are love and harmony? I can say I am improving rapidly. Every treatment Mrs. Dr. Sawyer gives me tells for itself. The dear doctor is so kind to me. Every hour I call God’s blessing on her and you, and also on all the good people here: they are all very kind to me.
I think that I plainly see God’s work in this, but with no less gratitude for the agents He employs or the means provided to accomplish the great end in view, the help of poor suffering humanity. May your work be blessed with much fruit.” 
Mrs Baldwin’s blessing was not enough. The San Diego climate of sunshine and warmth also brought drought, and the Sanitarium failed through lack of an adequate water supply. Dr Longshore Potts never stayed there long, believing that her true calling lay in lecturing, a pursuit that brought her back to New Zealand in 1893. But her Sanitarium was destined to take on a new life. Bought by Seventh Day Adventists in 1904, who dug a new and productive well, the Paradise Valley Sanitarium thrived. It offered sunlight, ‘a cuisine in harmony with nature’ and physicians ‘trained in the science of hydrotherapy’ to assist sufferers back to health. No doubt a change of routine, then as now, provided a tonic to the weary.
Barbara Brookes is co-editor of Corpus.
 David Clay Large, The Grand Spas of Central Europe: A History of Intrigue, Politics, Art, and Healing, Rowman and Littlefield, Lanham, Maryland, 2015, p.258.
 The Battle Creek Idea
 The Battle Creek Idea
 ‘Oneonta! By the sea!’; ‘Carlsbad! The Most Beautiful Health Resort of the World,’ The Golden Era, 36, no4, April 1888, Advertisement Section, San Diego History Centre.
 Leslie Trook, National City: Kimball’s Dream, National City Chamber of Commerce and the City of National City, 1992, p.69.
 San Diego Union, 17 March 1889, p.5.
 Trook, p.69.