Children's Hospital: Women Scorned, Children's Hospital Born
And the Demise of Harrington House

By Charles I. Hendler

"The history of medicine has been sadly neglected . . . . The
valuable and fruitful lessons which it tells of what not to do
have been completely disregarded and, in consequence, the same
gross errors have over and over been repeated ......."
--Dr. Roswell Park, 1897


Kaleida offers the public a simple explanation of the founding of Children's Hospital on its website. Some nice people got together and founded a separate hospital for children.

In fact, Children's Hospital is the product of a struggle over several decades to provide children with appropriate hospital services, culminating in the founding of Children's Hospital out of frustration with Buffalo General Hospital. Some highlights of this struggle are provided.

1884 - Women's Ward at Buffalo General Hospital

Buffalo General Hospital opened in 1858, admitting only men and probably boys. It began admitting women (and girls) in 1869, after women organized the Ladies Hospital Association (LHA). The LHA organized the women's ward, creating Buffalo General's first hospital within a hospital. In 1883, the LHA urged the trustees of Buffalo General to provide a ward for the exclusive use of children. This idea was rejected or postponed. However, the Mayor of Buffalo, Jonathan Scoville, provided his own financial support. A ward consisting of two rooms with 10 beds each was dedicated May 1884. Thus, the second hospital within a hospital was created at Buffalo General.


The first diversion of resources from children's to adult services occurred soon after. A later newspaper article
recounts:

When the work was well begun gifts poured in so profusely that only a part of the money had to be used for the purpose intended. So many people wished to help furnish a ward for sick and crippled children that their efforts had to be guided to other channels - there was not room enough for all the beds that were proposed to be endowed.


In 1892, a group of philanthropic women complained to Buffalo General's board of trustees that the Children's ward was located over the hot, noisy boiler room. Each summer, tents were put up on the lawn so that the children could escape the heat created year-round in the boiler room. These well-to-do women proposed that the Children's ward be moved to a new separate building. The board of trustees of Buffalo General Hospital rejected the proposal.

1892 - Children's Hospital at 219 Bryant Street

Wasting no time, a committee of women began to discuss the Children's Hospital proposal. Mrs. Gibson T. Williams and her daughter Martha purchased the red brick double-house at 219 Bryant Street for this purpose. Incorporated in May 1892, Children's Hospital opened that September with 12 beds, promptly filled by nine little patients.

1898 - Children's Ward at Buffalo General Hospital

Also in 1892, the trustees of Buffalo General Hospital hired Dr. Renwick R. Ross from Presbyterian Hospital in New York City to run the hospital administration. The hospital was in debt. However, Dr. Ross raised salaries and wages. He explained that Buffalo General Hospital would save money over the long term by hiring competent administrators immediately. It was not until 1898, after the completion of a major new building at Buffalo General Hospital, that its children's ward was allowed to move from over the boiler room. Indeed, it was favorably situated on the second floor of the new building. However, there were still only 20 children's beds, the same number as in 1884. The Ladies
Hospital Association was happy that they were given the use of any part of the new building.

By 1901, it was clear that the women of Buffalo, at least those of certain means, had grown tired of providing innumerable hours of volunteer effort to Buffalo General Hospital in the face of an increasingly unappreciative staff and board of trustees. To placate the fewer and fewer women interested in directing their philanthropy toward Buffalo General Hospital, the board of trustees and the Ladies Hospital Association agreed that the ladies’ organization would elect three of its members to serve on the Buffalo General board of trustees.

Also in 1901, Dr. Ross declared that the Buffalo General Hospital could no longer rely on just a few individuals or small groups of persons for its funding: “From this time on, the interest and support must come from the public.”

1909 - Harrington Hospital for Children

Buffalo's other children's hospital: Prior to his death in 1905, Dr. Devillo Harrington, a surgeon at Buffalo General Hospital, added a bequest to Buffalo General Hospital to provide for a separate building to be used as a children's hospital on the Buffalo General Hospital campus, to be known as the Harrington Hospital for Children.

For one reason or another, it took several years for the Harrington Hospital for Children building to get started. Buffalo General management responded to criticism and suspicion by stating that there were issues in settling Dr. Harrington's estate. Finally, the Harrington Hospital for Children was dedicated on May 27, 1909. The Harrington Hospital for Children building is the recently demolished Harrington House at 100 Goodrich Street.

The Courier Express described the building, designed by noted Buffalo architect George Cary, as “a substantial, artistic, two-story structure” that was “practical and economical.” The Express article noted the liberal use of marble floors and wainscoting, that every modern appliance for sanitation and convenience had been included. The wards and private rooms were full of sunlight. Several wide balconies allowed children to enjoy the open air and views of the city from one of the highest sites in the city.

Older children were accommodated on the first floor and mothers with nursing infants were on the second. The basement held those under suspicion of certain diseases. There were also two modern, well-equipped operating rooms.

It is a unclear how much medical service was provided at the Harrington Hospital for Children. Within only two years, the board of trustees voted to remodel and reopen the Harrington to children and maternity cases on October 1, 1911.

An official publication of the Buffalo General Hospital made it plain that the administration was especially excited with the Harrington because it provided space for the growing maternity service, had two additional operating rooms that brought the Buffalo General Hospital campus total to six, and “sets free space in the General Hospital which is much needed for other purposes, insures greater quiet in that building, and gives the children and the maternity cases greater privacy and a fuller consideration of their needs than is possible as part of a general service.” The vacated space in the main hospital was converted to additional semiprivate rooms for adults, an important amenity for those of moderate income.

The Harrington was filled to capacity during 1913 and brought in plenty of revenue that pleased the trustees. When it closed in 1952, 21,500 children had been born there.

In 1916, the medical staff of the Buffalo General took notice of the incursions of the obstetrical service into space reserved for older children at the Harrington Hospital and voted to restrict obstetrics to the second floor only, leaving the entire first floor for the children as originally intended - at least from the 1911 reopening. Considering that the whole building had only four wards of 12 beds each, plus some private rooms, the Harrington Hospital probably only accommodated a few more children than the children's wards did when they first opened in 1884.

Children's Hospital on Bryant Street

In the mean time, the smart money went with Children's Hospital on Bryant Street. Indeed, the wife of the president of Buffalo General Hospital, Mrs. Charles Pardee, sent her money to Children's Hospital in 1908 to build the major addition of its day. Why? Respect, trust and control; the assurance that one's money and personal efforts would go where they were intended.

Children's Hospital was founded and run by an all-female board of trustees. Mrs. Pardee was particularly impressed by Mrs. Lester Wheeler, who served eighteen years as the president of Children's Hospital. Mrs. Pardee offered Children's Hospital $160,000 to build the major addition of its day, provided Mrs. Wheeler remained as president. She agreed, and the Hospital got one of the timely building expansions that helped Children's maintain and expand services through its one-hundred plus year history.

2003 Charles I. Hendler


Page created by Chuck LaChiusa.
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