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A Short History of Selected Hospitals in Syracuse


The oldest general hospital in Syracuse, St. Joseph's Hospital, was founded in 1869 by the Franciscan Sisters. One of the main reasons that Geneva Medical College was able to revive itself as the Syracuse University College of Medicine in the early 1870s rather than become extinct was the collaboration of St. Joseph's. Mother Marianne Cope, one of the founders and Administrator of St. Joseph's Hospital from 1870-1877, granted approval to allow medical students to utilize St. Joseph's for their years of clinical instruction. This approval was instrumental in the decision to move Geneva Medical College to Syracuse University. St. Joseph's added a school of nursing in 1898. Located at 301 Prospect Avenue, nowadays it is called St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center. In the 1960s, St. Joseph's developed the first program in this region for family practice residents.

""Leonard Sayer, M.D., and three nurses on ward rounds at Good Shepherd in 1903.

The House of the Good Shepherd was founded in 1872 by the Episcopal Diocese of Central New York under Bishop Frederic D. Huntington. After existing first at 90 East Fayette Street then at 80 Hawley Avenue, it moved in 1875 to a building (now Huntington Hall of Syracuse University) on the southwest corner of Marshall Street and University Avenue, where it became known as the Hospital of the Good Shepherd and later as University Hospital of the Good Shepherd.

""Operating room at Good Shepherd, early 20th century. Note that only the surgeons are masked.

When Syracuse University sold its medical school to SUNY in 1950, Good Shepherd remained a major clinical teaching facility for medical students. Syracuse University gradually relinquished control of Good Shepherd to the new SUNY Upstate Medical Center throughout the 1950s, and in 1964, when Upstate constructed its new 375-bed hospital building at 750 East Adams Street, the name of the patient care component of the Medical Center officially changed to University Hospital, by which it is known today. Upstate Medical Center then included a complex of several different hospitals for teaching and patient care. The participating hospitals were Good Shepherd, Syracuse Memorial, City Hospital, the VA, and somewhat more loosely, St. Joseph's. Internal Medicine and Surgery did not send house staff or students to City Hospital, but used Good Shepherd and the VA. Until the 1960s, there were no surgical residents at St. Joseph's.

The City Hospital for Communicable Diseases was founded by the City of Syracuse in 1874 in reaction to a smallpox epidemic. The following year it moved to a large lot on Teall Avenue. In 1928 it rebuilt on land which Syracuse University provided to the city on Renwick Avenue just west of Yates Castle. In 19__ it was renamed the A. Clement Silverman Public Health Hospital. Until the 1960s it was the major facility in Syracuse for infectious diseases, treating both children and adults. It was dissolved in 197_. The building is now A.C. Silverman Hall and houses the College of Health Professions at SUNY Upstate Medical University.

A group of public-spirited women founded Syracuse Women's Hospital and Training School for Nurses in 1887 as the only hospital in the area that would admit women and children. It was sometimes known in those days as Syracuse Children's Hospital. In 1902, its name changed to Syracuse Hospital for Women and Children and by 1908 it was also admitting men. In 1918, it became Syracuse Memorial Hospital to reflect a broader range of services. In 1925 its trustees approved the construction of a new 340-bed facility, namely, the building with the landmark clock tower visible far and wide, and in 1929, it moved to this present location on Irving Avenue. In 1946, after establishing a cooperative arrangement with the Syracuse University School of Nursing, Syracuse Memorial Hospital dissolved its School of Nursing, but reacquired a nursing school when it merged with Crouse Irving Hospital in 1968.

Syracuse Eye, Ear, and Throat Infirmary began as the Lyman Pavilion of Women's Hospital but separated under the guidance of Frank W. Marlow, M.D., Thomas H. Halsted, M.D., and George H. Rockwell, M.D.

A group of physicians and investors led by William L. Wallace founded Crouse Irving Hospital in 1910 entirely upon private funding to treat everything except contagious diseases. It opened in 1912 and started its school of nursing in 1913. Always for-profit, the building had been designed so that if the hospital venture was not successful, it could be used as a hotel. Until 1968, Syracuse Memorial Hospital and Crouse Irving Hospital each operated successfully across the street from each other, then merged into Crouse Irving Memorial Hospital. At first, services were shared in the two separate buildings, but plans were soon afoot to combine the physical plants. As part of the S.H.A.R.E. campaign to modernize local health care, the deteriorating Crouse Irving Hospital building was superseded in 1976 by the new "Irving Unit," attached to the "Memorial Unit," the former Syracuse Memorial Hospital, so that all services would be located under one roof at 736 Irving Avenue. The former hospital building at 820 South Crouse Avenue was first converted to an educational building, then demolished in 1991 when the present Harry and Lillian Marley Education Center opened. In 1996 Crouse Irving Memorial Hospital became Crouse Hospital, and the parent corporation, Crouse Irving Companies, became Crouse Health.

St. Mary's Maternity Hospital and Children's Home was founded on Spring Street in 1889 by a Mrs. Toohill. In 1900 Roman Catholic Bishop Patrick A. Ludden asked the Sisters of Charity to take over the facility. The Sisters moved to new quarters in the Chittenden Mansion at 1601-1603 Court Street in 1918. United Cerebral Palsy of Syracuse bought this building in 1975. UCP operated a children's clinic, staffed by physicians of the Upstate Medical Center, and other services for the disabled. It changed its name to ENABLE in 1987, and added new services for children and adults with disabilities.

People's Hospital was founded in 1913 by Tennyson L. Deavor, M.D., in a wood frame building at the corner of Delaware and Sabine Streets. Although always small, in the 1920s and 1930s it was successful enough to offer a training program for nurses.

Onondaga General Hospital was founded as a surgical facility in 1919 by Tennyson L. Deavor, M.D., who specialized in thyroid surgery. First located in the former home of U.S. Senator Frank Hiscock on West Onondaga Street, it moved in 1928 to a new building at 423 West Onondaga Street, thus increasing its capacity from 40 to 70 beds.

""Engraved frontispiece of the Seventh Annual Report of the New-York Asylum for Idiots to the Legislature of the State of New-York for 1858.

The New York State Asylum for Idiots was authorized by the New York State Legislature in 1851, acting upon a recommendation contained in the 1846 annual report of the New York State Asylum for Lunatics. Hervey B. Wilbur, M.D., was appointed the first superintendent and remained in that position until his death in 1883. First located on rented landed in Albany, it admitted its first "pupils" in 1851. The cornerstone was laid in 1854 for a new building in Syracuse, and the institution removed to Syracuse in 1855. After 1855 it was generally known as either the New York Asylum for Idiots or just the State Idiot Asylum, but in 1891 it was officially renamed the Syracuse State Institution for Feeble-Minded Children. In 19?? the name was changed to The Syracuse State School for Mental Defectives, and later became just the Syracuse State School. Wilbur collaborated with Edward Seguin, M.D., the originator of the physiological method of training. Maria Montessori was also Seguin's student and much of the "Montessori Method" is based on foundations laid by Wilbur and Seguin in Syracuse. In its 85th annual report (1935), the Syracuse State School rightly noted that it was "the pioneer institution in the United States for the care and training of mentally deficient children." Surgery was done in the old building, and at least one child was born there. The School also operated a farm and a number of satellite cottages. In the 1970s, the Syracuse State School building was torn down and replaced by a residential facility called the Syracuse Developmental Center. With the growing emphasis on community living rather than institutionalization for developmentally disabled persons, no new individuals were placed at SDC and there has been a gradual movement of residents into the community. In early 1998, there were about six persons left. SDC is to be closed, and it is not clear what will happen to the building.

""Edward Seguin Van Duyn, M.D. (1872-1955), administrator of the Syracuse State School from 1904 until his death and physician to the County Home after he retired from the S.U. College of Medicine faculty in 1933 and surgical practice in 1937, was the middle of three generations of prominent Syracuse physicians. "Dr. Ed" was named after Edward Seguin, M.D., by his father John Van Duyn, M.D. (1843-1934), who named another son Wilbur after Hervey B. Wilbur, M.D.

Having a separate psychiatric hospital in Syracuse was the idea of Herman G. Weiskotten, M.D., Dean of the Syracuse University College of Medicine. At his urging, in 1926 the New York State legislature authorized the creation of Syracuse Psychopathic Hospital on land donated by Syracuse University at the corner of Irving Avenue and Adams Street. The first patient was admitted in 1930; the first clinic was held in 1931. name changed to Syracuse Psychiatric Hospital.

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Onondaga Sanatorium.

The creation of Onondaga Sanatorium was approved by the County in 1913 in reaction to a popular movement, begun locally in 1909, to segregate tuberculosis patients from the rest of the community. In 1908 H. Burton Doust, M.D., had opened the first tuberculosis clinic in Central New York, but his efforts were not sufficient to deal with the problem, since, in that year alone, 219 people died from tuberculosis in Onondaga County. Construction of the new sanatorium continued through 1914; Harry Brayton, M.D., was named superintendent in 1915; and the first patient was admitted in 1916. In 1948 the New York State Department of Health, Division of Tuberculosis, took over the administration of the sanatorium from Onondaga County.

The Syracuse Veterans Administration Medical Center was originally conceived as a thousand-bed neuropsychiatric hospital, and was so approved by President Harry Truman in December 1945. A year later the federal government had decided on a 500-bed general hospital instead. Ground was broken in December 1949 and its doors were opened in June 1953 at 800 Irving Avenue. Ralph Matheny, M.D., was its first Manager, John Duggan, M.D., its first Chief of Medicine, and Lloyd Rogers, M.D., its first Chief of Surgery. In 1959 the VA was the site of the first artificial kidney machine in Syracuse. A new research wing was begun in 1965 and opened in 1967.


Partial bibliography: Sources held in Historical Collections, Health Sciences Library, SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse:


Data compiled by Eric v.d. Luft, Ph.D., M.L.S., with the assistance of Joel Potash, M.D., and Herbert Schneiderman, M.D.