On the second day of January, 1868, Mr. James Lenox, a distinguished member
of the Presbyterian Church of New York, addressed a circular letter to a number
of gentlemen of his own denomination, setting forth the fact that while the
Jews, the Germans, the Roman Catholics, and the Episcopalians had each
established a hospital for themselves, the large and influential body of
Presbyterians had undertaken nothing of the kind. The envelope contained the
draft of an act of incorporation, and of a constitution. The circular further
declared that a large and eligible plot of ground, and funds to the amount of
$100,000, would be made over to the managers if the enterprise were undertaken.
The gentlemen addressed were severally invited to act as managers, and informed
that a public meeting would be called to fully inaugurate the movement as soon
as their concurrence was secured. The letter, with its munificent proposals,
received prompt and encouraging replies, and on the 13th of January, 1868, a
meeting of these gentlemen was held in the lecture room of the First
Presbyterian church, when a temporary organization was effected.
On the 28th of February, 1868, the Legislature passed the act of
incorporation, authorizing the Institution to hold real estate and personal
property to any amount, free from taxation. On the 26th day of March, the board
of managers maturely considered and accepted the charter, elected their
officers, Mr. Lenox being chosen President, and the Presbyterian Hospital became
a corporate Institution. On the 17th of June, Mr. Lenox conveyed in due form to
the board of managers, for Hospital uses, the block of ground lying between
Seventieth and Seventy-first streets, Fourth and Madison avenues, valued at two
hundred and fifty thousand dollars, to which he added the princely sum of two
hundred and fifty thousand dollars in money, paying the exorbitant governmental
succession tax on the transfer of the property of twelve thousand dollars. The
site so generously contributed is ample in extent, in the vicinity of Central
Park, and is considered one of the most salubrious and eligible on the island.
The recent developments in medical science and hospital hygiene have so greatly
modified former theories that, by protracted consideration of the subject, the
managers hope to avoid the mistakes into which others have fallen. The sum of
$1,300 was expended in obtaining designs from several distinguished architects,
and the one adopted it is believed will secure all known advantages. The
Hospital, which is nearly completed, consists of three pavilions, an
administration building, and a boiler-house, all connected in the basement,
first and second stories, by corridors of light construction. All the buildings
(except the boiler-house) are three stories high, and attic in Mansard roof,
with accommodations for three hundred patients.
The first story and attic will be twelve feet high, respectively ; the height of
the second and third stories will be tour- teen feet and six inches in the
clear. The basement story of pavilions will be devoted to the accommodation of
hot-air chambers, engine-rooms, fan-rooms, etc. The first floors of pavilions
will be occupied by private wards, with all their necessary accessories, while
the three upper stories will contain the public wards.
A spacious and well-lighted amphitheater (for surgical operations) will occupy
the third and fourth stories of the middle portion of the north pavilion in the
rear. The dead-rooms will be located in vaulted chambers, just outside, and in
the rear of this pavilion. The administration building, one of the three central
buildings, fifty feet by ninety-two feet, has the middle portion projecting, in
order to gain a carriage- porch to main entrance, above which is located the
chapel with its spire. Side-entrance porches are also provided. The basement of
this building contain the kitchen (which extends through to the second floor),
the bakery, scullery, larder, ice, bread, and store rooms.
Special care has been given to the subjects of heating and ventilation. The
wards are heated by indirect radiation ; the remainder by direct radiation. The
outer walls of pavilions are double, with an air-space between them. The
ventilating and heating flues of glazed earthen-pipe are built in the inner
wall, having openings provided with controlling registers at the top, bottom,
and midway between the floor and the ceiling of the rooms. The fresh air is
conducted through shafts from the top of the buildings to the fan-room in the
basement, whence it is driven to the coil-chambers, which supply the air to
rooms above. Other flues conduct the foul air to the lofts above attic stories,
where they all unite in spacious ventilating lanterns, heated by steam-coils.
The windows, extending from three feet above the floor to the ceiling, are
provided with double sashes, for direct ventilation, without exposing the
patients to currents of air.
As regards the exterior elevations, the architectural effect is the result
obtained by accentuating certain prominent features existing in the plan, in a
quiet manner, and in using the materials, Philadelphia brick and Lockport
limestone, according to sound rules of construction.
To the princely liberality of Mr. Lenox many large and small subscriptions have
been added by the friends of the enterprise in New York, Messrs. Robert L. & A.
Stewart contributing fully $50,000. The Hospital will probably be dedicated free
from debt, but with inadequate endowment, leaving ample scope for the further
exercise of large liberality.
The Presbyterian Hospital is one of the grandest benevolent enterprises of our
times, and eminently worthy of the enlightened and generous denomination that
has established it. The annual reports of the Institution, replete with historic
learning, are model publications of their kind, and worthy of permanent