New York Charity Institutions, Part I

  Article Tools

Print This Page

E-mail This Page To A Friend

There are very few of the million people in New York who have even a vague idea of the provisions that have been made, from time to time, in the city, by public and private charity, for the relief of human suffering, in whatever form it may present itself. No one of any age, creed, or race, need suffer in New York from want of proper medical treatment, careful nursing, or suitable food.

The various hospitals, asylums, homes, nurseries, and dispensaries, distributed throughout the city, provide with a liberal hand alike for helpless infancy and decrepit senility. It is doubtful whether there is any city in the world, the benevolent institutions of which are of greater capacity in proportion to the population. To become well acquainted with these various charities, their objects, workings, and resources, would require as much time as the Continental tourist usually devotes to "doing" Paris, and even then one would be compelled to rise early and to keep going till late. A complete history and description of these evidences of the advanced state of our civilization would fill a large volume. The limits of the Journal admit of our presenting only very brief notices of some of the more notable, together with the accompanying views.

St. Luke's Hospital: Fifth Avenue, between 54th and 55th Streets.

Incorporated in 1850, is one of the largest and most admirably appointed of these institutions. The object of this corporation is "the establishment, support, and management of an institution for the purpose of affording medical and surgical aid and nursing to sick and disabled persons, and further, to instruct and train suitable persons in the art of nursing and attending upon the sick.

The existence of the hospital is largely due to the philanthropic exertions of the Rev. Dr. W.A. Muhlenberg, who, impressed with the neglect of the Episcopal Church t make adequate provision for her sick poor, in 1846, on the occasion of the festival of St. Luke, addressed his congregation briefly on the subject, and proposed, with their leave, to devote a part of their contributions on that day toward the beginning of a church hospital. Thirty dollars were, therefore, laid aside for that purpose.

Nothing more than a parochial institution was contemplated at first, but, as the enterprise became known, it met with such encouragement, that it was determined to appeal to the Episcopalians of the city at large.

The managers of the hospital, after becoming a corporation, were so encouraged by the general sympathy in their undertaking, that they felt justified in enlarging their original plan, and accordingly decided to solicit the sum of one hundred thousand dollars. A meeting of Episcopalians was held, committees of collection were appointed, and, in the course of a few months, the amount was obtained.

Of the grounds occupied by the hospital, twenty-four lots were obtained from the Church of St. George the Martyr, without any outlay in money, but on certain conditions, in regard tot he support of patients. Soon afterward, eight additional lots were purchased for one thousand five hundred dollars each.

In May, 1854, the cornerstone of the building was laid. At this time, the intention was to erect only the chapel and one of the wings. This plan was, however, soon abandoned, and the managers ordered the whole building to be proceeded with. The chapel, being finished, was opened on Ascension Day, 1857. For a year, St. Luke's appeared before the public as a church, but, on the next anniversary of the Ascension, May 13, 1858 the hospital was opened with appropriate religious services.

The hospital building is on the northern part of a plot of ground two hundred feet wide and four hundred feet long, leaving a large space in front for a lawn and ornamental shrubbery. The principal front is on Fifty-fourth Street, facing south, and extends, from east to west, two hundred and eighty feet. The general plan of the edifice is an oblong parallelogram, with wings at each end and a central chapel flanked with towers.

The basement, except the air-chambers, is principally devoted to domestic purposes, store-rooms, offices, apothecary's shop, servants' dining-hall, etc.

The first story of the central building contains the reception-hall, examination room, office, apartments for the resident physician, superintendent, etc. The wards on either side of the central building, in the second and third stories, are one hundred and nine feet long, twenty-six feet wide, and fourteen feet high. In the first story, besides two common wards, there are eight separate apartments, having exclusive bathrooms, closets, etc. On the north side, a spacious, lofty, well-lighted, and ventilated corridor, or sanatorium, extends from the centre to the wings on either side of each story. This hall is for convalescing patients.

The remaining portion of the second and third stories is devoted to the chapel, with the large common wards on either side. This chapel is the distinctive feature of the hospital. It is rectangular in shape, eighty-four feet long, by thirty-four feet wide, and forty feet high, with a gallery around three sides, on a level with the third floor. It will accommodate about four hundred persons. This central chapel, with its volumes of fresh air circulating through the wards and corridors, is the great ventilator of the house in the second and third stories.

The building is supplied with the most approved contrivances for warming and ventilating all the various apartments.

Indeed, the requisites of a hospital are fully obtained at St. Luke's, which can accommodate about two hundred and twenty patients. Application for admission may be made at any time at the hospital. The charge is seven dollars a week for adults, and four dollars for children, payable four weeks in advance. Cases of sudden injury are received at once, and, if need be, without charge. Patients are admitted without regard to religious creed.

The total number treated, from the opening of the hospital, in May, 1858, to the present time, is something over seven thousand, not more than a fourth of whom have been able to pay for themselves. A great number have been maintained on charity-beds, of which there are fifty-five; still more have been the beneficiaries of the hospital associations in several of the Episcopal churches, while many have been supported by the charity of individuals, and others by the floating income of the house so that St. Luke's may be considered almost a charity hospital.

Emigrants Hospital: Ward's island

The headquarters of the Commission of Emigration are at Castle Garden, where all emigrants arriving at this port are landed, the commission receiving two dollars and fifty cents from each individual, which sum has been found sufficient to defray all the expenditures of the commission during its existence, now some twenty-one or twenty-two years. This commutation money gives the emigrant a claim on the commission, in the event of his being sick or destitute, during the first five years he is in the country.

The farm and hospital buildings of the commission are located on Ward's island, East River, where it holds one hundred and twenty-one acres, being more than one-half of the island, and including the whole of the water-front facing New York City.

The buildings on the island consist of the hospital proper, reserved exclusively for non-contagious diseases and surgical cases; the fever hospitals, situated near the water, and isolated from the other wards; the lunatic asylum, dispensary, refuge, barracks, nursery, surgical wards, and residences for the officers.

The Verplanck State Emigrant Hospital is the chief building of interest. it is of brick and was built in 1864, upon the most approved plans for promoting perfect ventilation and all necessary comforts for the sick. it consists of a corridor four hundred and fifty feet long and two stories high, and has five wings one hundred and thirty feet long and twenty-five feet wide, each two stories high, except the middle wing, which is three stories. The corridor affords ample room for exercise for convalescing patients as well as a connection for the wings. The corners of each wing are flanked with towers which have upon their tops tanks of water. Below and attached to each ward are bath-rooms and water-closets. The rooms are heated by hot air, which is forced through registers by a large fan-wheel. The same power is used in summer to secure a cool current of air through the wards. Projecting from the corridor, in an opposite direction from the wings, is a fire-proof building, which contains the boilers, three in number, the engines, etc., the cook-room with eighteen steam-kettles and ranges, where the cooking for the entire island is done. Above is the bakery with four ovens of a capacity each of three hundred loaves, also the washing-room with sixty-three wash-tubs, and machinery for washing and wringing the clothing. On the upper floor are the drying and ironing rooms. The basement contains a store-room, coal-vaults, and dummies for hoisting purposes. The hospital proper accommodates three hundred and fifty patients.

The Nursery, the home of the children, is a frame building, three stories and basement, with Mansard roof, one hundred and twenty by ninety feet. The basement contains the dining-room. The first floor, matron's and sleeping-rooms; the second floor has sleeping rooms, schoolroom and recitation-rooms. The third floor is mostly occupied by the Catholic chapel. The building was completed last year. The school is conducted by teachers from the city, under the supervision of the Board of Education. The chapel is neat and commodious, and will seat about five hundred persons.

The Refuge is a brick building, three stories and basement, with three wings. Total size one hundred by ninety-eight feet. The basement is used for wash and bath rooms and storage. The first floor for Steward's department, with store for Island supplies, matron's rooms, cutting-rooms, and sleeping-rooms; the second and third floors are used entirely for sleeping-rooms. This building is a refuge for destitute cases, chiefly women and children, and will accommodate four hundred and fifty persons.

The New Barracks consist of a plain brick building, three stories and basement, one hundred and sixty by forty-four feet, with a projection in the rear for boiler-rooms, bath-rooms, etc., devoted entirely to destitute male emigrants. The basement is used for exercise and protection in cold weather; the other floors form three vast sleeping-rooms. The building is heated by steam, and will accommodate four hundred and fifty persons.

The Dispensary Building is the same in size and appearance as the Nursery Building. The basement is used for storage, kitchen, etc; the first floor for the dispensary, apothecary, and clerk's apartments, dining-room for officers, etc. The upper floors furnish sleeping-rooms for officers, and wards for chronic diseases, with beds for two hundred and fifty patients.

The New Dining-hall contains four large rooms. It is used as a dining-room for Refuge and destitute persons, and will seat very comfortably from a thousand to twelve hundred people.

Fever Wards for males. Four brick buildings, one story and basement, each twenty-five by a hundred and fifty feet, with bath-rooms, kitchens, etc., attached. Each building will hold forty-five patients.

Surgical Ward for males. This is a three-story brick building, twenty-five by a hundred and twenty-five feet, and has beds for one hundred and twenty patients.

The Protestant Chapel Building is a two-story brick, twenty-five by a hundred and twenty-five feet. The first floor is used as a medical ward for women. The upper floor is a Protestant Chapel and reading-room. The chapel, in general design, is like the Catholic chapel.

The Boys' Barracks is a two-story brick and will accommodate eighty persons.

The Fever Wards for Females, a three-story brick, thirty-five by a hundred and twenty-five feet, and has room for one hundred and twenty patients.

The Lunatic Asylum is a three-story brick, with a basement, which is divided into close rooms for men and women, while the upper rooms are sleeping apartments for each sex. On each side there is a yard for exercise. The building will accommodate one hundred and twenty-five persons, and is at the present time full of patients in all stages of lunacy.

Besides these buildings there are the residences of the physician-in-chief, the superintendent, and deputy superintendent, also a storehouse and a boat-house on the dock.

In short, the Commission have on Ward's Island every facility for administering to the physical wants of about four thousand sick or destitute emigrants.

The number of aliens landed at the port of new York, from May 5, 1847, to December 31, 1868, from whom commutation and hospital moneys were received, was four million thirty-eight thousand nine hundred and eighty-one.

The number treated, cared for, relieved, forwarded, etc., at the expense of the Commission, was one million one hundred and seventy-six thousand one hundred and twenty-six.

(Continue on Page: 2)


Website: The History
Article Name: New York Charity Institutions, Part I
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY:  Appletons' Journal: a magazine of general literature. New York: D. Appleton and Company Volume 2, Issue: 32, Nov 6, 1869 (MOA)
Time & Date Stamp: