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Crandall’s Health School in East York a little mysterious

Crandall’s Health School in the 1920s

A good many people seem to have heard of Crandall’s Health School, a sanitarium located east of Stony Brook on what was then the Lincoln Highway, now Pa. route 462. There are stories about the institution, started in about 1923 by Lewis M. Crandall, allegedly an osteopathic physician, and his brother George C. Crandall.

Facts about Crandall’s sanitarium are a little more difficult to come by. We know it was located in the imposing mansion built in 1906 by patent medicine maker C. Robert Kopp, and we know that it was destroyed by a quick-moving fire in November 1949.

Was it just a convalescent home? Were the patients suffering from addictions and/or mental health issues in an era when it was less socially acceptable to admit to such afflictions? If George C. Crandall was a Dr., as printed on his letterhead (see below), why did he serve 60 days in York County jail in 1941 for unlawfully practicing medicine and surgery, also paying a $1,000 fine for operating an unlicensed hospital and nursing home? Was the faulty chimney repaired after an earlier 1949 fire?

See below for my recent York Sunday News column on Crandall’s. It recaps much of what we do know about the Health School, largely gleaned from news clippings and other documents in the Crandall file at York County Heritage Trust. Any additional information would be appreciated.

York’s Crandall Health School had a checkered past
Inquiries concerning the Crandall Health School keep coming up–about the converted East York mansion in which it was located and the spectacular fire that destroyed it in 1949, as well as the medical credentials of its proprietors. The information below, pieced together from the manuscript files and city directories at York County Heritage Trust, gives us a peek at the somewhat elusive establishment.

The “health school” was located on the south side of the Lincoln Highway (now route 462) just east of Stony Brook, right past the Sheetz. The mansion would have been slightly east of the small brick building that still stands on the property. The two and a half story, gambrel-roofed house was 97 feet wide and 62 feet deep. It was built in 1906 for C. Robert Kopp, who made his fortune with Kopp’s Baby’s Friend. (Kopp was later found to be in violation of federal food and drug laws when it was discovered that his baby-soothing patent medicine contained alcohol and opium, but that’s another story.)

The first entry I can find of a health facility on the site is in the 1921 directory, with a listing of the Pennsylvania Osteopathic Sanatorium. It was also pictured on a contemporary post card under that name, and there is a record of one of the World War I memorial trees being placed on the POS ground about the same time.

There were no Crandalls involved with the sanatorium in the 1921 directory listing, but by the 1923 directory, Dr. Louis M. Crandall, an osteopath, was listed at that site. His brother, George C. Crandall, was soon involved–his 1949 obituary lists him as a founder–and George was the one associated with the facility for years. The name was evidently changed around 1923 to reflect Crandall ownership. Louis later moved to the Pittsburgh area, where he continued to practice as an osteopathic physician.

Even though he is listed on an existing Crandall’s Health School letterhead as Dr. George C. Crandall, George’s medical background is rather sketchy at best. His April 1949 obituary says he was a “Graduate of Philadelphia School of Osteogeny and Chicago Medical School and the last living disciple of Dr. J. H. Tilden, Denver, Co., who believed natural methods are more important than medication.” A Gazette and Daily article after the November 1949 fire, however, recounts that in 1941, George Crandall served 60 days in the York County jail after being convicted on two counts of unlawfully practicing medicine and surgery and fined $1,000 for operating an unlicensed hospital and nursing home.

The institution is said to have housed up to 45 residents at a time, but there were only four people on the premises when the chimney caught on fire on the morning of November 23, 1949. There were two guests: the wife of “a prominent Philadelphia attorney,” who had been a resident for 12 years and a Lancaster County man who had stayed there twice before, as well as housekeeper Mrs. Sarah Brenneman and Captain Jonathan Jeremiah Joshua Jenks, caretaker and Crandall’s long-time secretary.

George Crandall’s son John, who lived in Florida, had been the administrator of his father’s estate since George died in April 1949 after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage at Grandview golf club. The property reportedly had been offered for sale at $70,000 in October 1949, to both the
York County Lutheran Ministerium and to Dr. J. Maurice Westerman, a Lancaster osteopath. Both declined, because it was estimated that it would cost $50,000 to repair the structure and $15,000 more to convert it to convalescent home.

The fire was discovered on that cold windy morning by motorists passing by and by neighbors, who called Springetts Fire Company. The passersby quickly assisted the residents out of the house. It was soon evident that the fire was major, and responding fire companies included Springetts, Spring Grove, Jacobus, Naval Ordnance plant, Yorkana, Columbia, Hallam, Wrightsville, Windsor Park, Pleasureville, Grantley and Victory, as well as Laurel and Goodwill from York city. Miles of hose were laid to obtain two water lines, one stretching two miles to a water main near the Stony Brook garage and another to the J.E. Baker quarry about a mile away. Apparatus with booster pumps were stationed along the lines, but the wind and raging fire proved too much for the efforts to be effective.

At 10 a.m., about three hours after discovery, the building was almost completely burned. Loss was estimated by the fire marshal at $75,000 for the building and $10,000 for its contents. It was only insured for $20,000, and that only since May, by John Crandall. The state police fire marshal ruled the fire accidental. He hoped to determine if the chimney had been fixed, as the Springetts fire chief had advised after a chimney fire in the spring, but I could not find if that was ever ascertained.

The original property may have extended from Stonewood Road to Campbell Road. It has been somewhat subdivided–the Sheetz and Sovereign Bank probably anchor two corners. York County tax maps show several other parcels, including one of about six and a quarter acres, which contains the small brick building. The mansion, and its extensive gardens, stood on an adjacent 10 acre plot, which seems to be currently for sale.

During the short 43 years it stood, the impressive C. Robert Kopp mansion/Crandall Health School and its owners created 20th century history that is still remembered by York County citizens.

Fellow blogger Stephen Smith has found magazine ads and more on the Crandall Health School. Click here for his post.