The Adirondack wilderness had already acquired a reputation for its health giving properties, and although Trudeau was convinced that the fresh air, isolation, and plenty of rest and wholesome food had helped him, he had no real proof that it would help others. But after reading about Koch's discovery, he decided to build a sanatorium in the Adirondacks, starting with "Little Red."
In Europe, huge sanatoriums had been built in the Swiss Alps and other places catering to the privileged classes with sophisticated treatments and gourmet meals. Trudeau's Adirondack Cottage Sanitarium would be different - it would consist of a number of segregated cottages, and it would be a place for people "who come with a short purse," who could not afford treatment otherwise.
In spite of his illness, Dr. Trudeau was energetic and curious. Following Koch's method, he taught himself how to stain and isolate the tubercle bacillus, and in hopes of finding a cure, conducted experiments from a small laboratory attached to his house. Later he moved it to a brick building on Church Street, still standing in Saranac Lake, establishing the first laboratory in the United States devoted entirely to the study of tuberculosis.
He conducted his most famous experiment in 1885 when he inoculated five rabbits with tubercle bacilli and "turned them loose on a little island where they ran wild all summer in fresh air and sunshine," and had abundant food. All but one survived. He similarly inoculated five less lucky rabbits and put them into "the worst environment I could devise - a dark, damp place where the air was bad, confined in a small box and fed insufficiently." Four died of tuberculosis within three months. If a good, healthy environment did not necessarily cure the disease, at least it seemed to arrest it.