Bellevue Hospital 1872

(Twenty-sixth street, East river)
Bellevue Hospital is one of the largest Institutions of its kind in the United States, and one of the noblest monuments of municipal charity in the whole world. In 1816 a stone building fifty feet by one hundred and fifty was erected at Bellevue, as a penitentiary for minor offenders. The same year the new alms- house was erected in close proximity to the latter, and in 1826 the Hospital was established near the two just described. The three Institutions, and over twenty acres of land, were enclosed with a stone wall, and became known as the Bellevue establishment. The opening of the House of Refuge in 1825, and the prison at Sing-Sing in 1828, furnished accommodations for criminals, so that at the removal of the inmates of the almshouse to Blackwell's Island, in 1848, the Hospital interest naturally took the entire possession of Bellevue. The old almshouse, constructed of blue-stone, is now the central edifice of the Hospital. Various changes and additions have been made from time to time, until the buildings now present a continuous line of three hundred and fifty feet, all four stories high, the central one crowned with a lofty observatory. The Hospital contains thirty-five wards, and has space for about twelve hundred patients. The ceilings are now considered too low and the ventilation quite defective, yet every improvement possible for the comfort of the patients is made. The Hospital is heated throughout with steam, the cooking and washing being performed by the same agent, and the apartments are all lighted with gas. Each building has a piazza with external iron staircases, affording pleasant exercise to convalescents, and ample means of escape in case of fire.

In the basement of the main building are kept the drugs, the Hospital clothing, and much of the provision stores. Here is also the printing office of the commissioners. The side walls of the wide entrance was of the first floor present on the one hand the stone on which George Washington stood when he took the oath of office as first President of the United States. The stone is appropriately inscribed. On the opposite side the commissioners have placed a beautiful inscription in white marble, to the memory of Dr. Valentine Mott, so long regarded as the chief ornament of the medical fraternity of New York. The office of the warden and the business room of the commissioners are found on the first floor, and on the second are private apartments for the warden, engineer, apothecary, and matron. The third floor contains similar apartments for the resident physicians and surgeons; while the fourth contains the operating theater, surrounded with circular seats raised in the form of an amphitheater, with space for several hundred students. This floor contains also the library, and the consultation room. The surgical instruments formerly kept here have been removed to the first floor, and placed with other curiosities in a large room adjoining the entrance hall. They are all placed in charge of one person, who is held responsible for their condition. The attic contains the tanks from which hot and cold water is distributed through the building. The Hospital has recently been furnished with spring beds, which, besides lessening the labor, adds greatly to the comfort of the patients. The museum is being steadily enriched with specimens of morbid anatomy, illustrating nearly every variety of disease. The Hospital is placed under a medical committee of inspection, who examine it weekly, making such recommendations as they think proper.

This Hospital, as all know, is a municipal institution, controlled by the Commissioners of Charities and Correction. Hence all sick poor are entitled to treatment free of charge.

A surgeon is detailed to examine all applicants, and if they require continuous medical treatment he assigns them to their appropriate ward in the Hospital; if the illness is slight, they are sent to the Bureau of Out-door Sick. An average of seven or eight thousand are treated annually in this Hospital, about ten per cent, of whom die; a large part of the deaths occur, however, among infants and casualty patients. Though the patients are nearly all paupers, the surgeons employed are second to none, and the treatment throughout is the best science can afford.

The bodies of the dead, unless taken away by their friends, are interred in the City Cemetery on Hart Island.

As a school of clinical instruction, Bellevue ranks among the first in the world. The students of all medical schools in the city are granted admission tickets, and several hundred are in constant attendance.

In 1866 the commissioners added the Medical and Surgical Bureau for the Relief of the Out-door Poor, which is manned by a large corps of physicians, who treated over 17,000 patients the last year. During the same year a building, similar to the famous Morgue of Paris, was constructed, as a temporary receptacle for the exhibition and identification of the unknown dead. The body is stretched upon a table so that it can be viewed through a glass ceiling day and night for seventy-two hours. If not identified, a minute description of the person is recorded, a picture taken, and the garments worn are still kept on exhibition for twenty or more days. A convenient room has been added to this building for the deliberations of the coroners. During 1869 there were received at the Morgue 149 bodies, 70 of whom were recognized by friends, and 79 not identified.

Several acres of ground are still connected with the Hospital. The yards are finely cultivated and add greatly to me beauty and healthfulness of the Institution.


Website: The History
Article Name: Bellevue Hospital
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: New York and its Institutions, 1609-1873 by Rev. J.F. Richmond; publisher: E.B. Treat, 805 Broadway-New York (1872)
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