Visiting the Cresson Sanatorium in Cambria County

Approaching the front door of the former Cresson Tuberculosis Sanatorium in Cambria County.
Approaching the main entrance.

The former Cresson Sanatorium in Cambria County is without a doubt one of the coolest places I had a chance to explore in 2021!

Aerial view of the abandoned Cresson State Prison complex.
Aerial view of the former Cresson Sanatorium and SCI Cresson state prison complex.

I was among the first groups of people to able to LEGALLY tour the massive compound back in June (you can read my trip report and see my gallery of photos from that visit here).

An exit of Grace Chapel at the former SCI Cresson in Cambria County.
An exit of Grace Chapel at the former SCI Cresson in Cambria County.

When I heard some additional areas of the complex had been opened to visitors (including tunnels BENEATH the facility), I simply had to make a return trip!

Rounding a curve in one of the utility tunnels beneath the former Cresson Sanatorium.
Rounding a curve in one of the utility tunnels.

Brief History of the Cresson Sanatorium

The Cresson Tuberculosis Sanatorium treated more than 40,000 patients suffering from tuberculosis between 1913 and 1964.

Cresson Tuberculosis Sanatorium historical marker near the entrance to the complex.
Cresson Tuberculosis Sanatorium historical marker.

As new medications became available to treat TB in the 1960s, the sanatorium morphed into a state hospital to care for the mentally-challenged.

Exam room in the medical building at the former Cresson Sanatorium.
Exam room in medical building.

In the early 1980s, the purpose of the facility once again changed.

SCI Cresson guard station.
SCI Cresson guard station.

SCI Cresson opened in 1987 as a medium-security correctional facility for male inmates.

A quiet afternoon in a cell block at the former Cresson Sanatorium in Cambria County PA.
A quiet afternoon in one of the cell blocks.

SCI Cresson closed June 30, 2013, with the State citing the antiquity of the prison and rising costs of maintaining it as the primary reasons for the closure.

Abandoned Department of Corrections van at the former Cresson Sanatorium.
Abandoned Department of Corrections van.

Hydroponic Life took over the SCI Cresson campus in late 2019 with plans to build hydroponic equipment, grow hydroponic produce and hemp, and develop sustainable energy projects on the property.

Hydroponic Life sign reflecting the name of the current tenants of the abandoned Cresson State Prison.
Hydroponic Life sign reflecting the name of the current tenants of the fromer Cresson Sanatorium.

Hydroponic Life / Big House Produce is also who now hosts the tours of the former sanatorium/state hospital/prison, and you can check on the latest tour dates and events being offered at their official ticketing site.

Building J at the former Cresson Sanatorium and later SCI Cresson.
Approaching Building J.

What’s New on the Cresson Sanatorium Tour

The recently-opened tunnels beneath the former sanatorium were one of the main reasons I wanted to revisit the property.

Inside one of the utility tunnels at the Cresson Sanatorium.
Utility tunnel, illuminated by flashlight.

Running between the chapel and several of the older buildings at the complex, the tunnels at the former Cresson Sanatorium are easy enough to navigate but PITCH BLACK inside, so definitely bring a flashlight if you plan to visit and explore them.

Tunnels beneath the Cresson Sanatorium
Tunnels beneath the former Cresson Sanatorium.

The power plant at the former sanatorium and prison was another new sight to see.

Inside the power station at the former Cresson Sanatorium in Cambria County.
The power station.

The complexity of the power plant was beyond my comprehension, but if this sort of industrial operation is of interest to you, then there’s plenty here to geek out over!

The power generating station at the former Cresson Sanatorium.
Power generation station.

Exploring the Older Buildings at the Cresson Sanatorium

On my first visit to the former Cresson Sanatorium and SCI Cresson back in June, I spent a great deal of time exploring the various cell blocks.

Common area inside one of the cell blocks at the former Cresson Sanatorium.
Common area in one of the cell blocks at the former SCI Cresson.

This time around I wanted to spend more time exploring the oldest buildings at the complex, namely the stately, Tudor-style buildings.

The original Cresson Sanatorium Building in Cambria County Pennsylvania.
A beautiful blue-sky afternoon at the former Cresson Tuberculosis Sanatorium in Cambria County.

Aside from their historical significance, they’re simply beautiful buildings to look at and appreciate.

Cell block near the chapel at the Cresson Sanatorium.
Cell block near the chapel.

If it weren’t for the bars on the windows, the older buildings at the former Cresson Sanatorium could be mistaken for college dorms, at least from the outside.

Building 5 at the former Cresson Sanatorium in Cambria County.
Building 5.

Classrooms at the Cresson Sanatorium

The original Cresson Sanatorium and the later SCI Cresson offered various classes to patients, employees, and inmates.

A classroom and overhead projector at the abandoned Cresson Sanatorium in Cambria County PA.
An overhead projector in a former classroom at the sanatorium.

Many of these classrooms have survived, albeit in various states of disrepair.

Old classroom at the former Cresson Sanatorium.
Class dismissed.

Judging from the number of classrooms with maps, geography was apparently an emphasis at the former Cresson Sanatorium and SCI Cresson!

Geography classroom at the former Cresson Sanatorium.
Geography class.

As with classrooms and workplaces today, motivational posters found their way into the former Cresson Sanatorium.

Motivational poster at the former Cresson Sanatorium in Cambria County.
Achievement.

The Body Shop at SCI Cresson

During the SCI Cresson era at the property, the prison ran an auto body repair training program for inmates.

SCI Cresson auto body shop.
SCI Cresson auto body shop.

Since the program would have ended less than a decade ago, it’s likely that some alumni of this school are working in the field of auto body repair even today.

The auto shop at the Cresson Sanatorium.
The auto shop.

Next to the auto body shop you’ll find the former SCI Cresson auto mechanics school.

SCI Cresson auto mechanics school.
SCI Cresson auto mechanics school.

Only the silhouettes of the tools remain today, along with some miscellaneous small parts scattered about.

Tool room in the auto shop at the former Cresson Sanatorium.
Tool room in the auto shop.

The garage at the SCI Cresson auto mechanics school would have been a bustling place in its prime.

Garage at the auto mechanics school inside the former Cresson Sanatorium in Blair County.
Have a nice day!

Today, it’s the final resting place for a lone engine block.

Engine block inside the auto mechanic school at the former Cresson Sanatorium.
Engine block.

And this sweet wolf painting on a cabinet that I’m guessing was done by someone from the neighboring auto body shop.

Wolf painting inside the auto shop at the former Cresson Sanatorium.
Wolf painting.

Medical Facilities at the Cresson Sanatorium

For a facility that started as a hospital, it’s not surprising to find various medical devices and healthcare-related offices scattered around the Cresson Sanatorium and SCI Cresson campus.

Audiology testing equipment at the former Cresson Sanatorium in Cambria County PA.
Audiology testing equipment.

If you already have a fear of visiting the dentist, this scene at the former Cresson Sanatorium isn’t going to help matters much!

Dentist office inside the former Cresson Sanatorium.
Dentist office.

This abandoned X-ray table is one of the more interesting pieces of medical paraphernalia the state apparently just walked away from when the prison closed down.

X-ray table at the former Cresson Sanatorium.
X-ray table.

The line for medications formed outside Building 4 at the former SCI Cresson.

Medication Lines at the former Cresson Sanatorium.
Medication lines.

While inside, those inmates who needed more care would have been housed in one of these cells.

Cell in the medical building at the former Cresson Sanatorium.
Cell in the medical building.

Recreational Facilities at the Cresson Sanatorium

Basketball was apparently a big deal at the former TB sanatorium and state prison, as 2 large indoor basketball courts can be found on the grounds.

Basketball court beneath the Cresson Sanatorium.
Basketball court beneath the former Cresson Sanatorium.

Both courts appear to have been beautiful in their prime, probably nicer than the one at my high school growing up.

Basketball court at the former SCI Cresson in Cambria County.
Basketball court at the former SCI Cresson in Cambria County.

There are also an abundance of outdoor basketball hoops scattered around the complex.

outdoor basketball court at the former Cresson Sanatorium.
Hoop dreams at the former SCI Cresson.

If you needed to work on your physical strength, this old Universal machine would have come in handy.

Universal gym inside the former Cresson Sanatorium.
Universal gym.

Prison Scenes

Since the final official use of this property (prior to Hydroponic Life coming on the scene) was as a state prison, there are plenty of reminders of what that life must have been like, both for inmates and staff.

One of the more modern cellblocks at the abandoned Cresson Sanatorium in Cambria County Pennsylvania.
One of the more modern cell blocks at the former SCI Cresson.

Relics of the “tools of the trade” abound.

Handcuff storage inside the Cresson Sanatorium.
Handcuff storage.

Plenty of training manuals and miscellaneous paper work are strewn about abandoned offices.

Reinforcing Positive Inmate Behavior handbook inside the former Cresson Sanitorium and later Cresson State Prison.
Reinforcing Positive Inmate Behavior.

The entrance to this office was painted with a flair for the outdoors.

Office in the former Cresson Sanatorium in Cambria County Pennsylvania.
Office space.

While this wall mural conjures up images of New Orleans.

Mural at the former Cresson Sanatorium in Cambria County PA
Cajun mural.

It’s hard to imagine how many steel bars went into converting this former sanatorium and hospital into a prison.

Entering one of the buildings at the former Cresson Sanatorium in Cambria County PA
Entrance to a former cell block.

Or how many miles of razor wire.

Building A at the former Cresson Sanatorium.
Building A.

The chapel is one of the very few reminders of “life outside” to be found inside the fences of the former SCI Cresson.

Interior of Grace Chapel at the former Cresson Sanatorium.
Interior of Grace Chapel at the former Cresson Sanatorium.

While this shoe shine stand just seems totally out of place.

Show shine stand inside the former Cresson Sanatorium.
Shoe shine stand.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I got a LOT out of my second visit to the Cresson Sanatorium.

Prison gates at the former Cresson Sanatorium which later became Cresson State Prison.
Prison gates.

Not only did I get to see a bunch of new things, but being more familiar with the grounds I was able to relax and enjoy the experience and exploration even more.

Approaching the Tudor-style Cresson Sanatorium in Cambria County PA.
Approaching the Tudor-style Cresson Sanatorium.

If you want to schedule you own visit to the former Cresson Sanatorium and SCI Cresson, check out the Hydroponic Life/Big House Produce official ticketing page for details on upcoming events.

A cell block and common area at the abandoned Cresson Sanatorium and state prison in Cambria County PA.
A cell block and common area.

If the old and abandoned is your cup of tea, then you MUST check out 26 Abandoned Places in PA You Can Legally Explore!

Sideling Hill Tunnel on the Abandoned PA Turnpike in September 2020.
Sideling Hill Tunnel on the Abandoned PA Turnpike in September 2020.

From abandoned superhighways to forgotten cities, you’re sure to find something amazing to experience and enjoy!

A burned-out truck resting on a road in Concrete City.
A burned-out truck resting on a road in Concrete City.

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Rusty Glessner is an award-winning photographer, lifelong Pennsylvanian, and creator of the PA Bucket List travel blog.

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