Photographs show makeshift emergency hospital in Lykens, Pennsylvania during 1918 pandemic

The photographs show a schoolyard turned into a field hospital during the deadliest month in American history. Hundreds of patients were treated for pandemic influenza and pneumonia adjacent to the Lykens Public School on North 2nd Street in Lykens, Pennsylvania in October and November 1918. The situation grew so dire that US Army medical personnel were called in to aid in the care of desperately ill patients. Local leaders and businesses pleaded with residents to volunteer their time and resources as the worst public health crisis of the 20th century struck.

Lykens Flu Ad
An advertisement from a Lykens business encouraging local residents to volunteer at the emergency hospital on 2nd Street in October 1918

The photographs were recently published on a local history Facebook group by Marlin Umberger, a collector and historian of all things northern Dauphin County, but specifically with Lykens and Wiconisco Township.

We’ve previously published stories about the 1918 influenza pandemic in the Coal Region, and several stories about the pandemic’s impact in Williams Valley (HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE). This story focused on the US Army reassuring local residents that care in the emergency hospital at the public school would be treated free of charge. 

The makeshift hospital at the public school in Lykens opened on October 14 as dozens of people fell ill with influenza each day. Several hundred patients from nearby communities were treated in the emergency hospital in the month it was in operation.

Here are the remarkable photographs:

Flu Hospital Lykens 4Flu Hospital Lykens 3Flu Hospital Lykens 2Flu Hospital Lykens 1

From the photographs, it becomes clear that the hospital was situated in the schoolyard on the east side of the school.

We’ve outlined the hospital location in the photographs on this 1911 fire insurance map of Lykens, PA.

Lykens Hospital Map Red Outline

A special thank you to “Shorty” Umberger for sharing the photographs and allowing me to share them here.


Featured Image: A close-up of medical personnel and patients at the Emergency Hospital at Lykens in the fall of 1918 (Marlin Umberger) 


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