Met Life Insurance Co

  • Jeannine Woutersz - Town Historian

Picture: The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company sanatorium is pictured in an aerial photograph. The first patient was admitted on July 25, 1913.

The Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. bought approximately 1500 acres on Mt. McGregor in December of 1910 with the intention of building a Tuberculosis sanatorium. They planned to treat their “ailing” employees from the New York City home office. Tuberculosis was a serious health threat in the early twentieth century. “TB”, as it was known, is an infectious disease that affects the lungs and was deadly before modern medications were brought into the treatment plan.

Mt. McGregor became the location of choice because of the clean, crisp Adirondack mountain air. Patients slept in well ventilated, unheated porches, had plenty of rest and enjoyed a completely healthy diet. The doctors of this period credited this treatment in regaining the health of the patients.

Kate McDermott was a Wilton resident, among many, who worked for the “Met” on the mountain. Kate remembered the patients sleeping on the open porches with piles of blankets on top of them. Sometimes they would use a rubber sheet on top to protect them from the snow that might come through the screens. Kate’s father worked on the Mountain” when she was young and he spoke of the patients sleeping outdoors with “Pigs”. Do you mean, father that they actually sleep with pigs? He explained that “Pigs” were three sided crockery jugs with cork-stoppers, which were filled with hot water and placed in bed to warm them. (No one can tell us why they called them “Pigs”.) Kate donated one of these to the Wilton Heritage Society and may be viewed together with a sleeping chair at the Museum on Parkhurst Road at the bottom of the “Mountain”.

The “Met” farm was on Northern Pines Road. The present location of the Ace Hardware complex. The farm supplied fresh vegetables, milk, eggs and meat for the healthy diet that helped some patients to a complete recovery. “By 1937, a total of 8,523 workers had been treated at the Sanatorium and 8,342 discharged, many of them returning to work at the “Met” New York City office” according to the “Mets” 25th annual report.

Most of the employees on the “Mountain” were Wilton residents and the town people still feel a close attachment to Mt. McGregor, although most of the buildings are in the town of Moreau. The complex on the mountain has 30 or so stone and stucco buildings, mostly original and registered by the State of New York as historic. The close neighbor, Grant Cottage, also holds a special place in the heart of Wilton.

The number of patients decreased in 1945, due to medical advancement, and the Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. closed the facility in December of that year. During that year New York State appropriated $2,825,000 to finance a NYS Division of Veterans Affairs campsite at Mt. McGregor. New York State acquired the Sanatorium and the “Met” farm for $350,000.

Since the Veterans facility, the Mountain has been home to the Rome State School Annex and presently, The Mt. McGregor Corrections Facility.