New York Hospital  1872

New York continued for many years without any adequate accommodations for its sick and disabled citizens. Though its original city charter was granted in 1686, no serious effort appears to have been made toward providing a public hospital until 1770. The population of the city at that time amounted to over twenty thousand. In that year a number of enterprising citizens liberally signed and circulated a subscription for this purpose. On the 13th of June, 1771, the governor of the colony, under George III., granted a charter, in which he named the mayor, the recorder, the aldermen and their assistants of the city, the rector of Trinity Church, one minister from each of the other denominations then in the city, the* president of King (afterwards Columbia) College, and several other prominent citizens, as members of the corporation. Twenty-six governors were also named for the management of the business of the society. The original charter title was- the " Society of the Hospital in the City of New York in America," but by an act in 1810 the name was changed to the " Society of the New York Hospital' Through the efforts of two eminent English physicians, Drs. Fothergill and Duncan, numerous contributions to the funds of the society were made by persons of London and elsewhere.

The following year the provincial Legislature granted it an allowance of 800 ($2,000) per annum for twenty years. Highly encouraged with these prospects of revenue, the governors, in 1773, purchased five acres of ground in the outskirts of the city, and began the erection of the edifice. On the 27th of July, 1773, the foundation stone was laid; but on the 28th of February, 1775, when the structure was nearly completed, it was accidentally destroyed by fire. This sudden misfortune inflicted upon the society a loss of over seventeen thousand dollars, and would have entirely paralyzed its efforts had not the Legislature come to its assistance with a grant of $10,000. The toil of rebuilding began amid the outbursts of the Revolutionary war, and continued until the capture of New York by the British, September 15, 1776. For seven years it was, in its half-finished condition, occupied by British and Hessian troops as barracks, and occasionally used as a hospital. Independence having been secured, work was resumed, and on January 3, 1791, it was so far completed that eighteen patients were admitted.' Its colonial revenue, of course, ceased with the breaking out of hostilities, but in 1788 the Legislature directed that $2,000 per annum for four years be paid to it from the excise funds. The funds of the society were now rapidly increased by donations from private citizens, and liberal grants from the Legislature. By an act of 1792, $5,000 per annum were granted; in 1795 the sum was increased to $10,000, and the following year to $15,000; subsequently it was made $22,500, which amount was paid annually until 1857. An act of 1822 exempted all the property of the society from taxation. Arrangement was made with the United States Government in 1799, which continued until recently, whereby sick and disabled seamen in this port were received, and paid for by the Collector of Customs, at the rate of seven dollars per week.

The Hospital stood until recently on its original site, which is the most elevated and eligible one on the lower part of the island. Its grounds, which were handsomely laid out and ornamented with choice shrubbery, covered an entire block. They are bounded by Broadway on the east, Church street on the west, on the north by Worth, and on the south by Duane streets.

The central Hospital was a large convenient building of gray stone in the Doric order, with accommodations for two hundred patients, besides the numerous rooms appropriated to business, visitors, surgery, medicine, the resident officers, and servants. In 1806, in answer to a growing and general desire, a new building termed the South Hospital was erected for the treatment of insane patients, and devoted to this use until 1821, when this branch was removed to Bloomingdale. After the removal of the insane patients, this building was devoted to the treatment of seamen, and termed the Marine Department] In 1853 it was torn down, and a splendid hospital erected on its site at a cost of $140,000, with accommodations for 250 patients. In 1841, on the opposite extreme of the grounds, had been reared the North Hospital, with accommodations for 100 patients. From the time of opening this Institution, in 1792, to 1856, it is said that 106,111 patients were admitted, of whom 77,390 were cured, 4,768 relieved, and 10,893 died. The majority of the latter were brought in from the streets in a dying condition.

In 1857 the annual State appropriation of $22,500 ceased by statute limitation, after which the Legislature occasionally responded to the urgent appeals of the governors with greatly reduced appropriations, nothing being granted after 1866. The city government refused any aid, and private donations and bequests were also withheld, through a determination to force the governors to lease or sell the valuable grounds around the Hospital. During these years, with the rapid increase of our population, the number of casualty patients correspondingly multiplied. This Hospital, situated so near the crowded centers of the metropolis, had always had the larger number of these unfortunates, no one of whom was ever rejected, and but few of whom were able to pay, however long and expensive might be their treatment. The pay patients were also received at little more than half the expense of their support. The result was that after the withdrawal of the State annuity the governors found their finances continually embarrassed and annually growing worse and worse. In 1864, with much effort $80,000 were raised by subscription to relieve the overburdened treasury, but 1868 left it still in debt about $100,000. About that time the governors decided to lease the grounds and remove the Hospital.

 In March, 1869, the grounds occupied by the main building and North Hospital were leased, and in May the patients were removed to the South Hospital, where operations were continued until February 1st, 1870, when the old New York Hospital entirely suspended. A line of majestic business houses already covers most of the premises. The rent of these grounds, when all are leased, will probably amount to $200,000 per annum; yet it is saddening to see this time-honored Institution, where Dr. Yalentine Mott devoted his best attentions forty-eight years, and where a hundred and fifty thousand patients have been treated, crowded into obscurity, when the suffering population needs its accommodations more than ever, because more numerous than in bygone years. It is probable that another hospital will be opened by the society somewhere, but no plan has yet been agreed upon. The hospital library and pathological cabinet rank among the finest of the world, and are annually receiving valuable additions. The library contains 8,431 volumes. The office of the society is at No. 13 West Eleventh street.


Website: The History
Article Name: New York Hospital 1872
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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