The Firland Foundation can trace its beginnings to the Firland Tuberculosis Sanitarium, which first opened in 1911 in Shoreline. Started by the Anti-Tuberculosis League of King County (which later became the American Lung Association) for the care of tuberculosis patients, Firland Sanitarium was turned over to the City of Seattle in 1912. Seattle administration continued until 1945 when the State Legislature combined Seattle and King County tuberculosis institutions into one administration, governed by a board of managers from various state and local offices. In 1947, the Seattle/King County Health Department acquired the surplus Naval Hospital in north Seattle, and the Firland Sanitarium moved to this new site. During this era, the patient census in the hospital was as high as 1,230. In addition to caring for the tuberculosis patients, an agreement was made with the University of Washington Medical School to provide resident training opportunities at the hospital, and over 400 resident physicians were trained at the facility as well.
Original Firland Sanitarium
The Firland Sheltered Workshop evolved due to the nature of patient life in the Sanitarium. At first, the period of confinement in a sanitarium was indefinite. The availability of new drug therapies in the early 1950’s decreased the duration of hospitalization for many patients, but a two-year stay was not uncommon. As a result, patients needed ways to cope with confinement and boredom. An exchange store, run by patients, and serving patient customers, was started by the Seattle Lions Club as a means to enhance the patient experience. Later, the store expanded its activities and became a patient workshop. Sanitarium patients made arts and crafts items for sale, and earned income from their sales at a time when they could not otherwise work. Over time, the Firland workshop evolved into its current status as a precision machine shop, and the Foundation and governing Board of Directors were established to provide ongoing policy direction.
Origins of Firland Foundation Grant Making
By the late 1960’s, inpatient tuberculosis census was at an all-time low, due to the success of new medical treatments for tuberculosis. The Firland Sanitarium was finally closed in 1973 for lack of patients, but the Firland Foundation has continued to operate the sheltered workshop and fund grants related to tuberculosis and other chronic respiratory disease. The Firland Foundation is a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization.
The Firland Workshop completed its new facility in 1993. The new shop provided increased floor space, greater production capacity, and an improved working environment for our employees.
Boeing has been the principal customer for the machined products of the workshop and has been a gracious and faithful provider of work since 1955. We continue to see a bright future for this cooperative venture. Profits generated by the Firland Workshop fund grants by the Firland Foundation for the study, control, and elimination of TB and other chronic respiratory diseases worldwide.
For more about Firland Foundation’s history, download our PowerPoint Presentation.