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Rare vintage photographs show Boston City Hospital during the early years

David Goran

The Boston City Hospital (1864–1996) in Boston, Massachusetts, was a public hospital located in the city’s South End. As a municipal institution, the hospital began to provide much-needed health care to both the urban poor of Boston and the ever-increasing number of Irish Immigrants entering the city during the mid-19th century.

Operating room in dome of first administration building, 1889

Operating room in dome of first administration building, 1889

 

Ward “H“, 1892

Ward “H“, 1892

 

Hospital bed, 1890-1910

Hospital bed, 1890-1910

About one-third of the patients were natives of Massachusetts, but patients born in 61 other countries spent time in the hospital over the course of the year. The largest number of those came from Ireland, but the annual report lists patients born in Syria (25), Barbados (5), the Fiji Islands (1), and New Zealand (2), as well as many other locations. From February 1, 1912, through January 31, 1913, the hospital treated almost 13,000 people with an average of 550 residents per day. As early as 1868 the facility was using tents to house a small number of patients. The air and the hygiene were probably better for them than that found in the wards. Photos: City of Boston Archives/Flickr

Tent wards erected, 1898

Tent wards, 1898

 

Tent wards erected to accomodate sick and injured soldiers returning from Spanish-American War, 1898

Tent wards erected to accommodate sick and injured soldiers returning from Spanish-American War, 1898

 

Patients in Children's Wards, 1890-1900

Patients in children’s wards, 1890-1900

 

Hallway, 1890-1910

Hallway, 1890-1910

It was “intended for the use and comfort of poor patients, to whom medical care will be provided at the expense of the city, and … to provide accommodations and medical treatment to others, who do not wish to be regarded as dependent on public charity.”

Pediatric patients on roof garden, 1908

Pediatric patients on roof garden, 1908

 

Room with patients, nurse and doctor, 1890-1910

Room with patients, nurse and doctor, 1890-1910

 

Hospital testing or exam room, 1920

Hospital testing or exam room, 1920

In the mid-19th century the idea for the hospital was suggested by Elisha Goodnow, who by his will, dated July 12, 1849, gave property to the city valued at $25,000 for establishment of a free city hospital. Architect Gridley James Fox Bryant designed the first hospital, built 1861–1864 on Harrison Avenue in the South End. It was renovated in 1875, and again in 1891–1892.

Surgeon administers ether and Dr. Cheever operates on patient in Sears Building amphitheater, 1880-1900

Surgeon administers ether and Dr. Cheever operates on patient in Sears Building amphitheater, 1880-1900

 

Surgical Ward, 1890-1910

Surgical Ward, 1890-1910

 

Ambulance, 1900-1920

Ambulance, 1900-1920

 

Taking patient from ambulance, 1920

Taking patient from ambulance, 1920

As of 1905, the hospital consisted of “the hospital proper, on the area bounded by Harrison Avenue, East Concord Street, Albany Street and Massachusetts Avenue, containing 430,968 square feet, or 9.9 acres;  the South Department, 745 Massachusetts Avenue, containing 125,736 square feet, or 2.9 acres;  the ambulance station, boiler and dynamo house, coal-pocket and wharf, Albany street, containing 69,785 square feet, or 1.6 acres;  the convalescent home, Dorchester Avenue, Dorchester, containing 610,500 square feet, or 14 acres; and  the relief station, Haymarket Square, 8,507 square feet, or 0.2 acres.

Outpatient clinic with nurses and patients, 1920

Outpatient clinic with nurses and patients, 1920

 

Typical ward, 1920

Typical ward, 1920

 

Hospital room, 1890-1910

Hospital room, 1890-1910

 

Typical nursery, 1920

Typical nursery, 1920

In 1923 the Thorndike Memorial Laboratory was established at Boston City Hospital with support provided by Dr. George L. Thorndike in memory of his brother, William, a long-time City Hospital staff member. The Thorndike had 17 beds for clinical research and became one of the nation’s most distinguished research facilities. Seminal studies in hematology and related disciplines were conducted in this facility by Harvard Medical School faculty and other investigators.

Children doing lessons in Children's Ward, 1890-1910

Children doing lessons in Children’s Ward, 1890-1910

 

Children's Ward, 1890-1910

Children’s Ward, 1890-1910

 

Children's Ward “O“, 1890-1910

Children’s Ward “O“, 1890-1910

 

Children's Ward at Christmas time, 1912

Children’s Ward at Christmas time, 1912

In 1968, the Finland Laboratory for Infectious Diseases was established at Boston City Hospital in honor of Dr. Maxwell Finland, a leading clinical investigator in infectious diseases. The hospital merged with the Boston University Medical Center in 1996, forming the Boston Medical Center.

 

	

David Goran

David Goran is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News