The society for the founding of this Institution was organized in 1849, and the
Hospital opened the following year. On the 13th of April, 1857, it was duly
incorporated by act of Legislature, under the legal title of the Sisters of
Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. It was first established in Thirteenth street,
in a three-story brick building so arranged as to accommodate thirty beds. It
needed but a short time to make known the existence of such an institution; and
very soon these accommodations became insufficient to meet the increasing
demand. The building adjoining was then rented and fitted up, and room was
thereby secured for seventy beds. For a few years this proved sufficient, but as
the Institution became more widely known, even this was found inadequate, and a
larger building became a necessity.
Accordingly, the present Hospital, situated on the corner of Eleventh street
and Seventh avenue, then known as the Half-Orphan Asylum, was rented and fitted
up. This building required extensive alterations and repairs, and was also soon
found too small. In 1856 the Sisters held a fair in the Crystal Palace and
realized the handsome sum of thirty- four thousand dollars. Their treasury being
thus replenished, they purchased two adjoining lots, and erected a large wing to
their building. In 1860 a Floral Festival was held in the Palace Gardens, and a
sum of nearly twelve thousand dollars was realized. The same year an adjoining
lot on the opposite side of the main building was purchased, and another wing
erected. The Hospital is situated on high and dry ground, in a comparatively
retired and quiet portion of that thickly- populated part of the city. It is
three stories high, with basement, presenting a front of one hundred and fifty
feet on Eleventh street, the grounds extending through to Twelfth, furnishing an
ample rear yard for the exercise of convalescents. The Hospital now contains one
hundred and fifty beds, with space for more if circumstances should so require.
It is divided into five well-regulated wards, besides which there are several
well-furnished private apartments for the use of persons who require special
accommodations or care.
To clergymen or other persons stopping at hotels, or to strangers of means,
overtaken suddenly with disease, these rooms offer peculiar advantages,
combining the comforts of a home with the advice and treatment of the Hospital.
The operating theatre connected with the surgical ward is on the third floor of
the left wing, the room being furnished with a fine skylight in addition to the
ordinary windows. The entire management of the Institution is conducted by
fifteen of the Sisters, no female help being employed, and no male except the
Board of Physicians, and a nurse in each of the male wards. The entire edifice
is heated with steam, and watched over with scrupulous tidiness in every part,
though on account of its piecemeal construction it is sadly wanting in that
general design which facilitates labor in its management.
The design of the society at its organization was to make it a self-supporting
Institution; hence it existed several years without any legal incorporation, or
asking any grants from the city or State. But the multitude of charity patients
that annually knocked at its doors induced the managers to reconsider and
finally change the nature of their enterprise.
In 1863 the Common Council granted the Hospital $1,000, in 1864, $1,000, in
1865, $2,000, in 1867, $2,000, in 1868, $3,000. The Board of Public Charities,
in 1867, also gave it $1,000. The last Legislature gave it $5,000. In 1868 the
Sisters purchased the main building of their Hospital, which up to this had been
leased. The entire expense of their buildings and grounds has exceeded seventy
thousand dollars, upon which there remains an indebtedness of $25,000 secured by
bond and mortgage.
Mr. Charles Gibbons, several years since, generously presented the society with
an endowment contribution of $5,000, and it is quite remarkable that no wealthy
Roman Catholic of the country has undertaken to increase the amount.
The Institution is, of course, distinctly Roman Catholic in its management; pay
patients are, however, taken from any denomination, and allowed to receive the
visits of their own spiritual advisee, though the stated services are always
conducted by a Romish priest.
Patients were admitted for many years at three dollars per week, always paying
one month's board in advance, and free beds were granted associations and clubs
for $120 per annum. But the greatly augmented cost of carrying on the
Institution, occasioned by the war, led them to increase the price to six
dollars for males, and five for females per week, and the cost of a free bed to
$175 per annum. Many charity patients are still admitted. In 1859 and 1860 over
two hundred of this class were admitted, whose average sojourn was six months,
at an expense of over twelve thousand dollars to the Institution. During 1869
nearly two hundred and fifty were treated gratuitously. Since the founding of
the Hospital, twenty-two years ago, over thirteen thousand patients have
received treatment within its walls. The larger portion of those who have died
have been afflicted with pulmonary complaints.
It may be doubted whether any hospital in the land is conducted on more strictly
economical principles. The Sisters serve for life, with no expense to the
Institution save board, the mother house, St. Vincent's Convent, furnishing
their apparel. The dispensary is even conducted by one of the Sisters, thus
saving the usual salary of an apothecary. The published report of 1860 showed
the amount of wages paid for the year to have been $894, and the year closing
with 1870 to have been $2,420.24. The self-imposed penury and patient
continuance in unrequited, life-long toil, and sleepless vigilance for the
advancement of the interests of ''Mother Church," by many Roman Catholics,
notwithstanding all their errors of faith and practice, present a sublime
anomaly in the history of the world, and are eminently worthy of imitation.