Arequipa Sanatorium (Fairfax, Calif.)

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Organizational History

The Arequipa Sanatorium was founded by San Francisco physician, Philip King Brown. In his work with patients in the City after the 1906 earthquake and fire, Dr. Brown discovered that the TB rate for women was twice that of men; appalled by this statistic, he made plans to build a sanatorium to treat women exclusively, and called on many of his influential Bay Area friends to help.

Henry Bothin, a Marin County philanthropist, donated land in Fairfax in western Marin County—a tract which had once belonged to Phoebe Apperson Hearst, a Brown family friend. The property adjoined Hill Farm, a home for convalescent women and children. Managed by the Telegraph Hill Neighborhoood Center and its founder Elizabeth Ashe, this land had also been donated by Bothin. John Bakewell, prominent San Francisco architect, donated his services and designed the graceful sanatorium, and Phoebe Apperson Hearst donated the money for a laundry. With the gift of $10,000 by an anonymous donor, Dr. Brown was able to open Arequipa—a Peruvian word meaning Place of Rest —in 1911.

Conceived as a school where patients would learn how to cure themselves through fresh air and bed rest, the sanatorium featured large wards that were screened from floor to ceiling, even in winter. Whenever possible, locally grown food was served, and members of many Bay Area families donated money and goods. Arequipa eventually had three wards, a small library, living room, dining room, bathrooms, and examining rooms. Patients read, slept, wrote and published in-house magazines, and enjoyed the various entertainers who came to visit the sanatorium.

Dr. Brown believed that if the patients had something to occupy themselves, they would spend less time worrying about their disease and would heal more quickly. He began to experiment with various types of occupational therapy, and in 1911, decided to open a pottery. He secured the services of Frederick Rhead, a prominent English ceramist, to run Arequipa Pottery, which was in operation from 1911 to 1919. Patients made pottery that was sold in stores throughout the country; profits helped pay the cost of their treatment. In 1915, Arequipa had a booth at the Panama Pacific International Exposition, where discharged patients demonstrated pottery-making and sold examples of the product. There were three Pottery Directors before the operation closed at the end of World War I: Frederick Rhead, Albert Solon, and Fred Wilde, all of whom went on to even greater fame in the field of ceramics. Arequipa Pottery is a prized collectible today, and fine examples can be seen at The Oakland Museum and the Smithsonian Institution.

With the discovery of antibiotics in the 1940s and their use in the fight against TB in the 1950s, it became possible to treat patients at home, and admissions to the sanatorium dwindled. By the end of the decade it was apparent that Arequipa was no longer needed and was closed in 1957. The property was leased to the Girl Scouts in the 1960s for use as a camp. The sanatorium, damaged by the heavy rains of the early 1980s, was torn down in 1984. The San Francisco Bay Girl Scout Council owns the property, as well as the adjoining tract which used to be Hill Farm. Both locations are administered as the Bothin Youth Center.


Philip King Brown was born in Napa, California in 1869. His mother was Dr. Charlotte Blake Brown, the founder of San Francisco's Children's Hospital and an outstanding physician and surgeon. He received his M.D. from Harvard in 1893 and, after studying in Germany, returned to the Bay Area to begin his practice. He was a co-founder of the San Francisco Boys Club, and was active in the Tuberculosis Polyclinic, designed to help people recognize the symptoms of tuberculosis and to cure themselves once they had contracted the disease.

In 1900, Brown married Helen Hillyer, and the couple had four children: Hillyer, Cabot, Phoebe, and Bruce. Many San Francisco notables were counted as friends of the Brown family, including Phoebe Apperson Hearst, Bruce Porter, and John Bakewell.

Although Dr. Brown considered himself a general practicioner, he was well-known for his work with the tuberculous at the Polyclinic. He was incensed by the attitude of most municipal authorities toward the treatment of tuberculosis; this led him to found the Arequipa Sanatorium in 1911, financed and built almost entirely by donations.

Except for a brief stint with the Red Cross in France during World War I, Dr. Brown continued as Medical Director of Arequipa until the early 1930s. Dr. Ethel Owen succeeded him in this position, followed by Dr. Brown's son, Cabot, as the final Medical Director.

Dr. Philip King Brown died in October of 1940, having remained active in many charities and worthy causes in the Bay Area.

From the guide to the Arequipa Sanatorium Records, 1911-1958, (The Bancroft Library)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Arequipa Sanatorium Records, 1911-1958 Bancroft Library
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Relation Name
correspondedWith College of Marin corporateBody
correspondedWith Harnden, Nora person
correspondedWith Marin Country Day School corporateBody
correspondedWith Pacific Gas & Electric Company corporateBody
associatedWith The Arequipa Pottery corporateBody
associatedWith Veterans' Administration corporateBody
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Ark ID: w6p10cd9

SNAC ID: 26390133