Original Document
Original Document
A description of the Lazaretto Quarantine Station, Philadelphia Public Ledger, 1879.

Local Affairs.

The Lazaretto and Quarantine Grounds and Buildings-The Enforcement of the Health Laws-Visits to and Examinations of Arriving Vessels. -On the right bank of the Delaware, about nine miles from the city, almost obscured from view by Tinicum Island in front, and the heavy foliage of the shade trees surrounding it, stands an institution of which every Philadelphian has heard more or less, but the exact location of which is unknown by many, save, perhaps, those who delight in gunning in the fields or sailing or fishing in the waters thereabout, and those who come up from the sea in ships. The institution referred to, the Lazaretto, whith its ground and buildings, occupies an area of about ten acres, and was removed from its formeer site on the SW bank of the Schuylkill, just above the junction of the latter with the Delawware, to the present site, in 1800. Frequent communication is had with the city from Moore's station, two miles in the rear, on the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore RR, and by boat during the non-prevalence of disease of an epidemic nature, as well as by telegraph with the Health Office at 6th & Sansom Sts. The buildings face south, though the uninitiated observer, who knows the Delaware runs north and south directly east of the city and who does not take into account its windings, is constantly betrayed into errors of latitude and longitude by reason of its erratic course at this point.

The grounds and buildings

Are tastefully enclosed on the river front with a high box hedge, and also partly on the east and west,, and were it not for the yellow Quarantine flag on which is painted a large black Q., flying from a tall staff in front, with the American ensign displayed from a small one at the landing, they might be mistaken for those of some wealthy country gentleman. The plateau upon which the buildings are erected is wharfed in from the marshy ground in front, over which a railed platform about 120 feet long and 10 feet wide leads up from the boat landikng to the solid ground. At the head of this platform is an ornamented wooden pavilion, in which a watchman, with glass in hand, is constantly stationed on the lookout for arriving vessels and to see that the quarantine laws are not infringed.

A large bell close at hand summons the Lazaretto Physician, Dr. W.T. Robinson, and the Quarantine Master, Dr. C.C.V. Crawford, whenever their services are required. A tall hedge row borders the inside of the path along the river front, broken only in the centre by the path leading up to the main or hospital building. This walk, like others on the grounds, is smoothly gravelled, and has on either side large square plats containing handsome flowering plants, grape vines, and fruit and shade trees, these plats being separated from each other by narrow paths with small box hedges.

The hospital building

Is a large double brick structure, three and a half stories high and fifty feet wide, with two wings, each 64 feet wide and two and a half stories high. The whole front is a little over 178 feet in length, and has extending along the lower floor an immense portico, supported by 20 wooden columns. The main building contains 16 rooms, a portion of which are used as the residence of the steward and his family, and for offices, committee rooms, and, in case of necessity, as ward rooms for patients. They are large, airy, and well lighted, there being five windows on the second and third and four on the first floor. Above the pent roof forming the attic a frame and glass cupola, enclosed in a square wooden railing, surmounts the structure, upon which is placed a weather vane, ornamented by a gilt design of a ship under full sail.

The wings

Which are also of brick, two and a half stories high, correspond in general appearance with the main building. Each has six large rooms, three on a floor, with painted floors and neatly whitewashed walls, and are used as ward-rooms, when required. At present all are empty, their last occupants, the survivors of the crew of the brig Shasta, having been discharged cured about a week since. On the first floor of the wings there are eight windows and a door running from front to rear, and on the second nine windows. The well kept condition of the white paint of the portico and the green of the window blinds, with the general neatness and taste displayed all about the house and grounds, give the place a comfortable and even beautiful appearance, and serve to make the beholder forget for the time being the uses to which they might be applied.

The dead-house.

A short distance in the rear of the hospital building is what is called the "dead-house," but only a portion of which is ever used as such, the other portion being fitted up with a furnace, for burning the clothing of infected patients. It is of brick, one-story in height, and about 12 feet square, and with its ornamental porch and white columns looks quite attractive. Along the rear of this building runs a neat picket fence,, across the whole width of the grounds, the portion on the other side being used as a a field for the raising of farm products. In this field stands a long two-and-a-half-story brick building, known as

The "Dutch Hospital,"

From the fact of it at one time having been used as such for the treatment of a large number of German immigrants, among whom smallpox had broken out and made great ravages on their passage to this country. Although out of use for a long time, it is kept in the best possible condition.

Residences of the Lazaretto Physician and Quarantine Master.

Half way up the path, 150 feet long, leading from the wharf to the main building, and about ninety feet to the left (or west) is the residence of Dr. Robinson, the Lazaretto Physician, while upon the right (or east) is that of Dr. Crawford, the Quarantine Master. They are each of brick, two stories and a half in height, and conform in general appearance to the main building. They have porches extending along the first floor front, the door being in the centre, with four windows on each side. On the second floor there are five front and in the attic three dormer windows, each house containing six spacious rooms besides comfortable apts. for servants. In the rear of each is a small structure used as a kitchen, laundry, washroom, &c. Bathhouses are embowered in shrubbery, with neat, well dept lawns and shade trees in front and extensive kitchen gardens in the rear.

The Barge Houses.

At each corner of the wharf, on the walk leading from the residence of the Lazaretto Physician to that of the Quarantine Master, is a small, square, rough-cast structure,, built upon piles sunk in the marsh and used as the waiting and sleeping rooms of the bargemen on duty during the quarantineseason, which lasts for four months, from the 1st of June to the the 1st of October. These houses are, apparently, two stories high, but, in reality, they are only one story above the ground, and contain but one room, in which are three cots and the most necessary articles of furniture. The bargemen keep watch during the night and sound the watch bell every half hour, from 9 o'clock until sunrise, and are required to be ready at any moment to put off in a boat in case of accident or alarm on any vessel detained at the Lazaretto, and to render such assistance as may be necessary.

The Government warehouse.

Across the lane from the Lazaretto physician's house stands a large stone structure, about 120 feet front by 30 deep, belonging to the US govt, and during the quarantine season placed at the disposition of the health authorities for the storing of goods and merchandise ordered by them to be unloaded from merchant vessels or vessels of war. In the rear of the warehouse, which is empty at present, and on the same lot, Deputy Inspector Miller, of the Customs service, who is on duty at this point, has his residence in a cosy two-story brick cottage, with porch in front and garden and shrubbery all around.

"The Visitor."

For the convenience of the Lazaretto physician, who is required to hold himself in readiness to visit, without delay, all vessels that come to the Laz, whether in the inner or outer-channel, between sunrise and sunset, a small tug, not inappropriately called the "Visitor," is during that time kept in readiness. She has a crew of six men under the command of Capt Kelly, and no time is lost betw the summons to visit a ship and the arrival of the tug alongside. The channel in front of the Lazaretto station is about three quarters of a mile wide to Tinicum Island, at and below the lower end of which the visitations are generally made. Before reaching this point the signal of the incoming vessel, a flag at the foremast displayed with the lower part of the folds bunched up, is seen, the bell rung, and the tug on her way with the Lazaretto physician and Quarantine Master on board, to visit her. By the time she reaches the point the tug is alongside and the inspection is made without causing stoppage more than the slowing up of steam. No visit is delayed on any account provided the wind and weather will permit it to be made without danger to the boat and its crew.

Examination of the health of vessels and crews.

On boarding a vessel, before administering to the capt the oath or affirmation required by law, the crew and passengers are mustered on deck, examined personally as to the state of their health, such as may be sick being visited below. In this manner it is ascertained who are sick and who are well, and the number examined must correspond with the number in the capt's statement, which he has to swear or affirm to after having numerous searching interrogatories put to him by the Lazaretto physician.

Health fees on American and foreign vessels.

By the act of Jan 29 1818, it is provided that all Am. vessels sailing under coasting documents, arriving at Phila, from any port or place in the US, betw the river St Croix and the river St Mary, shall pay $1 for each arrival during quarantinemonths, but the vessels, druing that time, are not required to stop at the Laz, but will pay the fee to the inspector of vessels.

All Am. vessels arriving from any port or place in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Canada, or the islands or ports adjacent the river St Mary's, the coast of Florida, Bay of Mexico, including New Orleans and ports adjacent, and from thence along the Bay of Honduras and coast of Terra Firma as far as the river Amazon, including all the islands generally denominated West India, Bahamas, or Bermudas, shall pay on arrival $5.

All Am vessels arriving from any place in Europe, in the Western, Madeira, Canary, or Cape Verde Islands, the west coast of Africa as far as latitude 34 degrees south, and from any place in the Mediterranean or straits thereof, or from any place from the river Amazon inclusive, and round the coast of Brazil, as far as latitude 34 degrees south, shall pay $10 each.

All Am vessels arriving from any place beyond latitude 34 degrees south, or round Cape Horn or the Cape of Good Hope, shall pay $20 each.

All foreign vessels arriving as aforesaid (except prizes to Am vessels),, shall pay 25 per cent. each, additional, unless otherwise regulated by any treaty, and prize vessels taken by foreign armed vessels shall pay 25 per cent. each more than is paid by Am vessels.

Prize vessels taken by Am vessels shall pay, on arrival, $10 each, and public armed vessels and privateers shall pay $6 each.

No outer channel fee is charged on any vessel below 150 tons burthen, when the Lazaretto physician is making or about making an outside visit.

Quarantine laws and the penalties for infractions.

By the act of Jan 29 1818 every vessel bound to Philadelphia from a foreign port during the quarantine season, which extends from the first of June to the first of October, in every year, is required to come to anchor as near the Lazaretto as possible, and undergo an examination before any part of the cargo or baggage, or any passenger, is permitted to be landed. If any master shall leave the station, or permit anything to be taken from his vessel, or suffer any person except the pilot to come on board or to go ashore before a certificate of freedom from infectious or malignant disease is granted, upon conviction he shall pay a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars. This certificate is either granted or withheld, as the case may be, after the Lazaretto Physician and Quarantine Master, or either of them, has examined all parties under oath as to the health of the passengers and crew during the voyage, the ports which they left and touched at, and the nature and state of the ship and cargo. If found free from pestilential or contagious disease, mesles excepted, and not coming from or touching at an infected port, the vessel is "permitted up," the capt presenting his certificate at the Health Office withing twenty-four hours after his arrival at the wharf. If otherwise the vessel is detained at the Lazaretto for such time as the Board of Health shall deem necessary, not exceeding twenty days. In the meantime the work of purification, when necessary, is carried on by the Lazaretto Physician, under the direction of the Bd of Health, at the expense of the master, owners and consignees of the vessel and goods respectively.

Non-infectious articles.

Such commodities as salt, sugar, lime, rum, spirits, molasses, mahogany, manufactured tobacco, dye woods, preserved fruits and such articles as the Bd of Health shall by its general regulations specify and permit, are allowed to be conveyed immediately to the city in lighters; but if disease appear while the vessel, cargo and baggage are being cleansed or afterwards, she may be detained for a further period, in the discretion of the Health authorities, and no person on board be suffered to enter the city until the 1st of October, unless permission to that effect be first obtained. If no disease make its appearance after cleansing the vessel may take in cargo from the Lazaretto in lighters, and proceed thence to sea.
The penalty for making false answers to or attempting to deceive the Health authorities as to the condition of the vessel, cargo, crew and passengers, is $500; for failure of the capt to present his certificate at the Health Office within the time prescribed is $300, and for neglect or refusal to comply with the directions of the Lazaretto Physician and Quarantine Master relative to the detention of the vessel, cargo, crew, passengers, baggage, bedding, &c., not less than $200, nor more than $500.

Touching at home ports.

Any vessel coming from any port of place within the United States, at which port of place she had called in or touched upon her arrival from a foreign port, is subject to all the rules and restrictions above noted, the same as if she had directly arrived at the Lazaretto from such foreign port, with heavy penalties for non-compliance with the orders of the health authorities. Vessels of war as well as merchant vessels are included in this regulation.

Vessels from the Mediterranean.

Every vessel coming from the Mediterranean is subject to a strict examination, and if it appears that she has come from any place where the plague existed at the time of her departure, or has spoken with any vessel on board of which was any person affected with the plague, or if any person is affected with the said disease on his arrival at the Laz, the vessel is not suffered to proceed to the city, but must be unloaded of cargo and baggage, which are thoroughly cleansed and purified and not permitted to enter the city without license. The crew and passengers must undergo a quarantine of not less than twenty nor more than forty days, at the discretion of the Bd of Health, but the vessel may, after purification, take in freight from lighters at the Lazaretto and proceed thence to sea.

Bringing goods to the city.

The penalty for bringing goods, merchandise, bedding or clothing into any part of the city or county (except Tinicum township), during the quarantine season, from any infected vessel, without permission, is $500 and a forfeiture of the goods for every such offence. Similar articles landed from on board any Phila vessel at any other port of the US are subject to twenty days' quarantine previous to entering the city.

Functions of the Lazaretto physician.

Such vessels as upon a close examination, made in conjunction with the Quarantine Master, the Lazaretto Physician ascertains to have arrived from healthy ports, with healthy crews, to be in a perfectly clean condition, to have a sound cargo, not liable to produce infections should it be allowed to enter the city, and that no person had died on board during the voyage of any malignant,, contagioius or otherwise suspicious disease, he permits up, giving to the master thereof a certificate of the facts directed to the Health Officer. In every case, previously to permitting a vessel to pass up, he is required to ascertain that the bilge water has been changed by pouring fresh water in to the pumps and continuing to work them until nothing but pure water is discharged. No vessel whatever is permitted up until the bilge water is entirely pure.

All vessels not answering to the above description he detains at the lazaretto and awaits the orders of the Bd in relation to them.

Sick persons, however, are unloaded without delay; ventilation of the hold, cabin and forecastle at once commenced, and all articles of an offensive nature taken from on board.

Whenever the Lazaretto Physician has any doubt as to the propriety of permitting up a vessel, he may detain her until he receives orders from the Bd.

All vessels coming from ports in the US, north of Sandy Hook, and which have for their cargoes plaster, salt, brimstone and iron only, and no other articles of foreign produce and manufacture, are allowed to proceed to the city without being subjected to a visit from the Lazaretto Physician, as in the opinion of the Bd these articles are not capable of containing contagion. In conjunction with the Quarantine Master, he is required to visit and inspect, daily, every vessel under quarantine, or undergoing purification.

Vessels sent down from the city by order of the Bd, or for purification, are proceeded with in the same manner as though they had stopped at the Lazaretto in their passage up.

The Quarantine Master

Is required to visit, in conjunction with the Lazaretto Physician, all vessels coming to at the Lazaretto betw sunrise and sunset, to examine carefully into the condition as to cleanliness of the hold, cabin and forecastle, to have the bilge water pumped out, and to purify, by the introduction of fresh water, the run and limbers of the vessels, and also to ascertain whether any part of the cargo is in a damaged or infectious condition, and to report the result of his examination to the Lazaretto Physician. He also has charge of the watch set in front of the station during the night, and generally preserves order in and about the grounds, and enforces obedience to and prevents any neglect, evasion or violation of the health laws. During the quarantine season he strictly enforces the law against the admission of any person to the grounds without special permission from the Bd of Health. He also has charge of vessels under quarantine, their letter bags, boat, &c., and clothing of the crew, the removal of the sick, and the purification of the ship. He is required to visit daily every vessel under quarantine or purification, which, when completed, he certifies to in conjunction with the Lazaretto Physician, as also when the latter decides that a vessel stopping at the Lazaretto on her way up is in a clean condition.

The Steward's duties.

When a patient is discharged from or dies at the Lazaretto the steward makes out and sends to the Bd of Health a bill agst the owner,, capt, or consignee of the vessel from which the patient was landed, for board and attendance, at the rate of 75 cents for each day the patient has remained at the Laz, and, in the case of death, an additional three dollars for funeral expenses. He is also allowed to furnish vessels and passengers detained whatever supplies they may require, at such charge as my be allowed by the Lazaretto Committee. Whenever the Quarantine Master deems the same necessary, the steward takes charge of the ventilation, washing and ironing of the clothing of passengers and crews of infected vessels, for which he is allowed to charge 37-1/2 cents per dozen, provided the same cannot promptly be done by the passengers and crew themselves.

The Quarantine Station.

The inside channel in front of the Lazaretto is about three quarters of a mile wide to Tinicum Island, and about four miles long-the length of the latter. In front of the hospital, or about half way, there is considerable depth of water, but above it gradually lessens, causing the channel to be avoided by vessels of heavy draught. It is, however, generally used by sail boats and the lighter class of coasting vessels, except during the quarantine season, when there is but little difficulty in keeping it at all times free. The quarantine grounds proper extend from the Govt wharf, along side of the Lazaretto Physician's residence, to the upper end of Tinicum, near which

The Brig Shasta

Is now lying. This vessel, it will be remembered, arrived here from Port-au-Prince on the 17thof July, with only three men able to do duty. These had been taken on board at Port de Paix, San Domingo, on consequence of the yellow fever breaking out on board after leaving the former place, and from which the capt and three men had died on the voyage, the remainder of the regular crew being subsequently taken down with the same illness. All of the men upon arrival here were placed in the hospital, from which they were discharged cured about a week since. The cargo, logwood, consigned to parties in Chester, still remains intact, but the vessel, which is in charge of a watchman, has undergone great changes in her appearance. When she arrived she was in a dirty, dilapidated condition, owing to the sickness of her crew, but has since been put into good shape, the men, while undergoing isolation at the station, being set to work in making things tidy above deck. These have been well scrubbed, ventilation secured to every part of the brig possible, and her upper works cleaned and painted. Her cargo is one of those not considered infectious by the Bd of Health and will possibly be discharged as soon as a proper place can be secured for its deposit and distribution.

Fumigation and Disinfection.

The process of fumigation consists in generating gas by acting on dry chloride of lime with dilute sulphuric acid, and also in burning sulphur over water and confining the fumes to the hold of the vessel by battening down the hatches. Chloride of zinc, carbolic acid and permanganate of potassa are used for disinfecting clothing and for sprinkling or thoroughly washing the floors and sides of the compartments of vessels.

Work of the season.

Up to sunset on Tuesday evening, 476 vessels had been visited and examined by the Lazaretto Physician and Quarantine Master, only 13 of which had been detained for fumigation and cleaning. Most of the detentions were not longer than three days, the longest period being five days, except in the case of the Shasta, above mentioned. Bills of health are imperative from West India ports, but this is not the case with transatlantic ports, though they are desirable, as they are sometimes the first means of communicating information of sickness at the place from which the arriving vessel hails or has touched on her way hither.

Credit: Philadelphia Public Ledger, August 14, 1879.
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