Beginning with the donation of the land by steel tycoon and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie and prescribed by the Act of Assembly in June 1910, the Cresson Tuberculosis Sanatorium was opened in 1916.
The location was considered as ideal due to the abundance of fresh air and the treatments used to combat the disease. The present administration building was built in the European style with gargoyles on the tower and the crests of Scottish clans cut into the sandstone as a reminder of Mr. Carnegie’s heritage.
With the introduction of new drugs and treatments for tuberculosis, the need for sanatoriums declined. In December of 1956 the facility was incorporated into the Lawrence F. Flick State Hospital being run by the Department of Public Welfare to treat the mentally retarded. The facility remained in operation until December 1982.
In 1983 the facility was converted into a state correctional institution under the Bureau of Corrections. Under Executive Order 1983-1, Governor Dick Thornburgh directed that the Bureau of Correction convert the facility to a state correctional institution. Total allocation for design and renovation was $20.6 million. Construction and renovation began in 1984. Many buildings were renovated with the addition of fire safety, environmental and security equipment. The design for the new housing units for inmates became the prototype for institutions being built across the state.
In the fall of 1986, the SCI Cresson Staff Activation Team was assembled with Jeffrey A. Beard, Ph.D., as superintendent; Martin Dragovich, deputy superintendent for centralized services; Donald Morder, deputy superintendent for operations; David Lewis, business manager; Elizabeth Eckenrode, personnel director; Robert Whitsel, facility maintenance manager; and Lisa (Godish) Beiswenger, superintendent’s secretary. In August, the first inmate work cadre of 10 inmates arrived from SCI Huntingdon. Later, all of these inmates were assigned to SCI Cresson.