The fight over naming Lenox Hill Hospital

It started out in 1857 on Canal Street as the German Dispensary.

As the city’s German population moved north, the dispensary did too, first to East Third Street, then Second Avenue and St. Marks Place, and finally in 1905 to Fourth (Park) Avenue and 77th Street.

But in 1918, with anti-German sentiment raging, the dispensary got a more palatable name: Lenox Hill Hospital.

In 1925, the war long over, many hospital trustees, most of German descent, wanted the name changed back.

It wasn’t a nationalistic thing so much as a cash donation one. “Last year the deficit had grown to $50,000,” reported a New York Times article. “[a hospital trustee] felt certain that the resumption of the word ‘German’ in the hospital’s title would have a marked financial effect.”

The name switch didn’t fly though, and Lenox Hill Hospital is still based on 77th Street.

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9 Responses to “The fight over naming Lenox Hill Hospital”

  1. petey Says:

    thanks for that, i need to know all things yorkville but i hadn’t heard this story.

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    You should start a blog on Yorkville history. It’s rich with stories and characters and the neighborhood is evaporating before our eyes.

  3. Christopher Says:

    People forget the anti-German backlash story. It was pretty rough. My own grandmother’s family moved to Canada for awhile as my great-grandfather couldn’t find work in upstate New York at the time. They moved from Syracuse to Buffalo and then finally to Canada before settling near Detroit once things died down.

    In SF there are random vestiges in naming from anti-German backlash… what are called German potato salad and German chocolate cake are called San Francisco potato salad and San Francisco chocolate cake.

    • petey Says:

      like ‘freedom fries’!
      from sidney hook’s autobiography i learned about the antigerman and prowar atmosphere of the 1910s. virulent stuff, i had to keep it in mind during bush’s years to remind myself that things had been like that before and eventually recovered.

  4. Kellye Says:

    Thank you. I was born in Lenox Hill, so this is particularly interesting to me!

  5. mfrisk Says:

    Interesting. I was born at Lenox Hill Hospital, and my Mom died there 21 years later. I had a friend whose dad was a surgeon there, and we used to go swimming in the indoor pool down in the basement.

  6. When Brooklyn dedicated its German Hospital « Ephemeral New York Says:

    [...] what happened to German Hospital? Like Manhattan’s German Hospital, it underwent a name change after World War I, when anti-German sentiment was [...]

  7. Where the “worthy poor” went for medical care « Ephemeral New York Says:

    [...] in 1827, this nonprofit was one of several dispensaries established in the city during the 19th century for the “worthy poor,” reports a New [...]

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