NY Infirmary for Women and Children founder honored with plaque

Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, speaks at the plaque unveiling. (Photo by Harry Bubbins)

On Monday, Elizabeth Blackwell, who founded the New York Infirmary for Women and Children, the first hospital to be run by and for women, was commemorated with the unveiling of a historic plaque at 58 Bleecker Street. Blackwell was also the first woman doctor in America.

The Greenwich Village address was chosen because it was the original site of the infirmary, which was later moved to East 15th Street in Stuyvesant Square. The infirmary in more recent years was incorporated into New York-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital. The infirmary had originally operated out of a house that’s still standing, though it was originally numbered 64 Bleecker Street.

Built in 1822-1823, the Federal style house was erected for James Roosevelt, the great-grandfather of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who lived there until his death just ten years before Blackwell embarked on her groundbreaking effort. Blackwell’s hospital opened on May 12, 1857, the 37th birthday of Florence Nightingale, whom Blackwell had befriended earlier in her career. The hospital was open seven days a week and provided medical care for needy women and children free of charge.

Monday’s plaque unveiling, which took place almost 161 years to the day after the infirmary opened, was organized by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.

Continue reading

Advertisements

This week in history: 70 years ago

The following news stories ran in the May 20, 1948 issue of Town & Village.

14th Street Crosstown service extended following wartime shortage of spare parts

The New York City Omnibus Company announced that it would extend its 14th Street crosstown bus service to go from river to river. Previously, it had been running from the East River to Broadway. If commuters wanted to continue crosstown, they would have to transfer. The vice president of the company, F. Baker, explained the reason for the less lengthy route, saying the problem dated back to the war, when the company couldn’t get enough spare parts to keep its fleet of buses running. They ended up with fewer buses, after resorting to stripping some for spare parts.

New VA hospital

The Veterans Administration announced it had obtained a six-acre plot of land from First Avenue to Avenue A and 23rd to 25th Streets for the construction of a new hospital with an expected price tag of $15 million. The hospital would have 1,000 beds, making it smaller than other local VAs (like Kingsbridge in The Bronx with 1,600 and Halloran in Staten Island with 1,500). The nearby Bellevue Hospital had 3,000 beds.

NY Infirmary stays in the neighborhood

The New York Infirmary ended up forgoing a decision to move from the Stuyvesant Square neighborhood to York Avenue and 62nd Street in order to cooperate fully with the Hospital Council of Greater New York, in its effort to space hospitals where they were most needed throughout the city. Mrs. Frank Vanderlip, board of the infirmary’s trustees, announced instead the new facility would be built at 15th Street and Stuyvesant Square.

“With the sharp increase of other hospital services expected in this part of the East Side, the New York Infirmary may look forward to an expanding future, no longer as a women and children’s hospital but as a community hospital,” said Vanderlip.

Garage rate gripe

Town & Village was hearing from a number of residents complaining about the cost of renting a garage space. One resident fumed that when he was first informed of the garages, he was told they would cost about $10 a month to use. But then then he ended up being charged $20.

While costs of operation and construction had gone up since news of the garages was announced, readers still said they felt $20 a month was a bit too much. Instead, they suggested a slightly lower rate in exchange for a commitment to a longer lease.

Meanwhile, Stuy Town garages still were less expensive than those in the immediate area, which averaged $25 a month without service and $40 with service.

When a Stuyvesant Square hospital was run entirely by women doctors

The Infirmary for Women and Children prior to a move to a nearby building in Stuyvesant Square (Photo from hospital archives, courtesy of New York Presbyterian)

By Sabina Mollot

Nearly seven decades before Mount Sinai Beth Israel began the process of transitioning to a new, smaller hospital facility, another neighborhood hospital was also planning a move — but this place was unique in that it was staffed entirely by women doctors.

That hospital was the New York Infirmary, which had first opened its doors on May 12, 1857 as the New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children. It was founded by the English-born Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to become a doctor in the United States. Its mission, along with healing the city’s sick and poor, was also to educate women to become medical professionals. Its first location was in a house in Greenwich Village, though it moved to Stuyvesant Square in 1858 when it outgrew that space.

There it remained for 90 years, but not long after the nearby apartment complexes of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village were built, the hospital once again needed more space. It had been operating out of several antiquated buildings with an address of 321 East 15th Street.

Continue reading