Well-known doctor, York, Pa.’s Edmund Meisenhelder, beat back Spanish flu


An underground passage connected buildings at the old West Side Sanitarium, an antecedent of Memorial Hospital. Food and patients were shuttled through this passageway. Ruth Kammer wrote in “Inside West Side” that the tunnel occasionally served as home to an “unfriendly, nocturnal inhabitant which caused some consternation to employees and patients.” Background post: East side Memorial Hospital formerly on west side and West Side Sanitarium, later West Side Osteopathic and later Memorial Hospital born in The Avenues in York and Pioneering York doctor slighted: ‘She felt … her professional status was well established’.

In his day, many people knew Dr. Edmund K. Meisenhelder, owner of West Side Sanitarium.
In fact, many still remember the surgeon who operated the private hospital, forerunner to Memorial Hospital, from 1913 until he retired and sold it in 1945. It then became West Side Osteopathic Hospital… .

Many more people know his son, York attorney Sam Meisenhelder. Ruth Kammer wrote in her book “Inside West Side” that young Sam remembers sleeping at the tall hospital the day before the circus came to town. He could then have a good seat in viewing the circus at the nearby fairgrounds.
But few probably know that Dr. Meisenhelder was himself a patient after his induction into the military in World War I.
Kammer writes that it was common in those days for the government to induct doctors, which caused hospitals to close.
Before he could serve, he contracted the Spanish flu. In those days, osteopathic practices used lymph pumps, which enabled the chest wall to raise and lower itself.
The author conjectures that this pump may have aided Dr. Meisenhelder’s recovery, and he went on for another 25 years as respected chief surgeon at his own hospital.
For all those York Town Square posts relating to the Spanish flu, see influenza.
Dr. Meisenhelder's West Side Sanitarium as it looked in 1945. SubmittedWest Side Sanitarium, 1945.

For posts on the Memorial Hospital-owned Elmwood Mansion, see:
‘… A shadowy figure of a hoop-skirted woman…’
In new book, former resident profiles Elmwood Mansion.
When mules moved a York County mansion.

About Jim McClure

Editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, ydr.com and its many digital products. Journalism/history blogger: yorktownsquare.com. Author or co-author of seven York County, Pa., history books.
This entry was posted in Archives, all posts, Books & reading, Events, Local landmarks, People, Small-town life, Unsung/obscure sites, War and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Well-known doctor, York, Pa.’s Edmund Meisenhelder, beat back Spanish flu

  1. Stephanie says:

    I currently live in the building that used to be the west side sanitarium. I’m looking for more information about it. Please feel free to e-mail with any info and/or photos you may have. Thank you. Lalalaspeph@yahoo.com

  2. Jim McClure says:

    In case you missed other blog posts, some with photos, that touch on the sanitarium, you can click on this link: http://www.yorkblog.com/mt/mt-search.cgi?search=sanitarium&IncludeBlogs=7.
    Also, check out Ruth Kammer’s “Inside West Side,” which is available at York’s libraries: http://millennium.yorklibraries.org/search~S23?/aKammer/akammer/1%2C3%2C8%2CB/frameset&FF=akammer+ruth+l&1%2C1%2C.
    Hope this helps!
    Jim McClure

  3. Britney Fritz says:

    My grandpa owned those buildings until he passed! I grew up running in those halls after it was no longer a hospital of course! Rip Alexander Thompson!

  4. Margie Seitz says:

    I was the born in West Side Ost. in 1960.. out of all my siblings, im the middle child.. and only one born there… weird cause i was the only one born out of my siblings with Serious medical Conditions… makes me wonder….Kind of cool they have preserved this bldg. not much of history left in York County!

  5. S Meisenhelder says:

    I hope you can clarify something for me. I had thought the Spanish flu hit US as our men returned from WWI.
    This article made me wonder if I had that incorrect as Dr. E Meisenhelder recovered in time to serve. Please advise.

  6. S Meisenhelder says:

    Did Spanish flu preceded Dr E Meisenhelder’s service in WWI?

    • Jim McClure says:

      Ruth Kammer writes: ‘The West Side was temporarily closed during World War I when Dr. Meisenhelder was called into the army. It was the usual practice in those days to close small hospitals and induct the doctors. Unfortunately, or fortunately, Dr. Meisenhelder contracted influenza and the Armistice was signed before he was sufficiently recovered to report for duty.’ So all of this makes sense. The Spanish flu was raging late in the war when the doctor was inducted./Jim

  7. Gary says:

    My friends family owned this and both adjacent properties when we were kids. They have all since been renovated. However, there is much more history to them than you might find here. In fact at about 14 years old we were granted our own small room in the building. The only thing seperating the neighbors was a bedroom door. Long story short. We heard them fighting, and the women yelled and left. Not long after we heard a loud bang, which we attributed to the large door at the end of the hall. Only to find out the following morning, that the man took his own life with a shotgun. Now my friends family owning it, meant them cleaning up the mess as well.. Not a great sight for us at 14 years old.

    Whats worse is how these properties were basically stolen from them. I wont get into that on here though.

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