Posts Tagged ‘Greenwich Village hospitals’

St. Vincent’s Hospital’s humble beginning

August 16, 2010

We know how the story of St. Vincent’s ends, but few of the recent media reports on the hospital’s demise focused on its auspicious start.

That was in 1849, when four nuns from the newly formed Sisters of Charity rented a building at bucolic West 13th Street and Seventh Avenue and brought in 30 beds to treat sick New Yorkers.

After outgrowing those quarters in 1856, they moved to a former orphanage at country-like 11th Street and Seventh Avenue. [New York Public Library illustration, right]

The Sisters admitted patients regardless of religion—and ability to pay. The finest doctors from Bellevue also worked there. And true to the Sisters of Charity name, St. Vincent’s had a soup kitchen.

“But there is one unique form of charity, begun nine years ago, that distinguishes St. Vincent’s from all the other hospitals in the city. It is the feeding of a large number of tramps and other destitute persons,” reports an 1892 New York Times article.

“At morning, noon, and night may be seen gathered in the basement area of the Eleventh Street building a crowd of persons in all stages of poverty and uncleanliness. They are waiting for their turn to be admitted to a narrow hall in the basement to get a bowl of soup and a piece of bread.”

[Left, a Library of Congress photo of St. Vincent’s in the 1970s, before the 1980s-era ER replaced the two buildings closest to Seventh  Avenue and 11th Street]