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
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
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 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
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
© 2003 Charles