The Syracuse Hospital for Women and Children and Training School for Nurses, Afterwards Memorial Hospital



Text Source: Past and Present of Syracuse and Onondaga County New York, by The Rev. William M. Beauchamp, S.T.D., 1908, pg. 569
Postcard Source:  Onondaga County USGenWeb

The Syracuse Hospital for Women and Children and Training School for Nurses which has come forward as an almost indispensable institution and covers a great field of charitable endeavor as well as filling a want in especial cases in the western end of the city, was incorporated on April 25, 1887, and opened for patients on November 11, that same year.  The new hospital, which cost originally ninety-five thousand dollars and has since been extensively changed, was opened at 1214 West Genesee street on December 1, 1896.  In 1907 the president was Mrs. O. V. Tracy; secretary, Mrs. Gansevoort M. Kenyon; treasurer, Mrs. W. S. Wales, and superintendent, Miss Laura A. Slee.

Text Source: Syracuse and Its Environs, by Franklin H. Chase, Lewis Historical Pub. Co., Chicago, IL, 1924, pp. 488-490.

Then the Memorial.
While all the early hospitals of Syracuse have absorbing stories of the tribulations of their beginnings, it is doubtful if there is one quite so crowded with the unexpected in happenings as the Memorial Hospital, first incorporated on April 25, 1887, as the Syracuse Women's Hospital and Training School for Nurses.  It was the endeavor of an association of women to furnish a place where maternity patients and children could be cared for.  At that time there was no hospital in the city that had the facilities to treat this class of patients.  The incorporators upon that original charter, endorsed by Justice Irving G. Vann, who was then upon the Supreme bench, were:  Alice Heyward Wallace, Marie H. Sweet, Ophelia King, Alice Isabella Brayton, Caroline Land Ewers, Minerva H. Howlett, Cornelia Norton Skinner, Jessie Wallace, Caroline L. Land, Cornelia K. Hiscock, Cornelia S. Bigelow, Caroline May Davis, and Jessie Lansing Crouse.  The trustees of the first year of existence were:  Josephine Baum, Cornelia S. Bigelow, Alice Heyward Wallace, Annah Teall Halcomb, Oheplia [sic Ophelia] King, Jessie Lansing Crouse, Catherine Sedgwick Burlingame, Alice Isabelle Brayton, Cornelia Norton Skinner, Minerva H. Howlett, Martha F. Mitchell, Mary Harwood Durston, Caroline Shaw Comstock, and Emily C. Candee.  To these the historical summary adds the names of Mrs. Gansevort M. Kenyon, Mrs. Sarah M. Noxon, Mrs. Richard W. Jones, Mrs. Erastus F. Holden, and Dr. Juliet Hanchett.

Out in the suburbs in the southwestern part of the city, at South Geddes and Elliott streets, in a small house, that hospital was opened for the reception of patients on November 23, 1887, with Mrs. Kate Perry in charge.  The directory of that period carried the simple announcement:  "Perry, Mrs. Kate, women's hospital."  Mrs. James Crouse brought the first three patients, little children, in her own carriage.  That was the actual beginning of the great work of this hospital, and the first ambulance.  Mrs. Perry did the cooking, the nursing and the complete service.  This house proved undesirable for the work, and, in the summer of 1888, the hospital was removed to a beautiful residence at James and Sedgwick streets.  That was the old Ralph Frisselle home, then owned by Erastus F. Holden, always a devoted and generous friend of the hospital, and he offered the use of the house, rent free, for the period of two years.

In 1890 came the purchase of the Bronson house in West Genesee Street, upon the site since dedicated to the acts of mercy and healing of this hospital.  The purchase price was $8,700, with $1,500 paid down and a mortgage given for the remainder.  The house was altered for hospital purposes with an expenditure of about $2,000, and the Silver Cross Cottage, where the children were housed and cared for, was built.  This was the work of the Ten X Ten Circle of the King's Daughters of which Mrs. Robert Dey was president.  When, upon December 13, 1893, the hospital was burned, this cottage was saved.  Then the hospital was removed to a spacious house at 714 East Washington Street, that had been previously used for a private hospital.  The patients were generously cared for in St. Joseph's Hospital which the work of putting this house in order was going forward.  It was in November, 1888, that the Harmony Circle, which has done so much in assisting the Women's Hospital, was founded by Mrs. C. Herbert Halcomb, as an auxiliary.

The work of building the new hospital in West Genesee Street had many noble supports and not a few set backs.  The insurance satisfied the mortgage, but there was only the site left.  Mrs. E. F. Holden offered $15,000 to build a children's pavilion, and there were other liberal gifts.  Then came a unique suggestion.  It was to publish a Women's Edition of a newspaper.  James J. Belden, who had started the Syracuse "Post," with William A. Jones, editor, offered the whole plant for the day, all receipts to go to the hospital.  The offer was taken up.  Mrs. C. Herbert Halcomb, the acting president, became editor, and more than sixty women were connected with the editorial and business management for the day.  Mrs. James M. Ellis managed the advertising and Mrs. D. J. Mitchell the circulation.  That paper came out on February 2, 1895.  It had thirty-two pages and sold for five cents a copy.  The sum realized was $9,098.61.

This work encouraged the benevolent women to attempt the building of a new hospital.  In 1891 E. F. Holden had presented the hospital with eighty feet additional land to the west, and in 1895 he added seventy-five feet more to the east.  Designs for a building upon the pavilion plan were contributed by Henry W. Wilkinson, the architect, and the corner stone was laid November 23, 1895.

The new hospital, for which such fine prophecies were made at the corner stone laying by Dr. Ely Van de Warker and Donald Dey, was opened for the reception of patients on December 1, 1896.  The building and furniture cost about $95,000.  New incorporation came March 7, 1902, with amendments in 1909 and 1918.  It became the Syracuse Hospital for Women and Children in 1902, and the name was restated and work extended in 1909.

The trustees upon the reincorporation in 1902 were Annah S. T. Halcomb, Dora G. S. Hazard, Ellen S. Tracy, Jessie L. Crouse, Cornelia S. Bigelow, Katherine M. Kenyon, Katherine C. Trump, Gertrude W. Belden, M. Ophelia King, Sarah M. Noxon, Marilla G. Guttman, Blanche L. Leiter, Zillah S. Stone, Florence D. Vann, Lily J. Wicks, Anna B. White, Mary S. Dey, Amelia Rule, Ada S. Denison, Jane G. Hurst, Kate S. White, Lucy P. Nettleton, May E. Dunnels, Jessie C. Bull and Jane M. Bartels.

When the $50,000 and $51,174 legacies from the estates of James J. Belden and John Lyman came in during 1905, a new pavilion was built and the $30,000 mortgage to the E. F. Holden estate was paid off, the heirs contributing $5,000.  More land was acquired.  Then the Elizabeth Green Kelly legacy, which totaled $55,259, was received in 1905, and two endowment funds from Anna Gere Belden and Mrs. Mead Belden, of $10,000 and $5,000, the latter in memory of Edward Mead Belden, were received.  To the memory of Robert Sedgwick Hazard, their son, Mr. and Mrs. Frederick R. Hazard completely equipped a laboratory at a cost of $10,000.  Harmony Circle, ever working for the hospital, erected an open air pavilion in 1908.  In 1924 it was maintaining two X-ray machines and three free beds.  Mrs. William Allan Dyer was president. 

Six of the rooms in the new hospital were built and furnished at an expense of $1,000 each by Mrs. Cornelia S. Bigelow, Dey Bros., Mrs. A. A. Howlett, James Tolman, Mrs. Powers and Mrs. Snow, and Mrs. King, Mrs. Hazard and Mrs. Sedgwick.

It would take more space than can be given in a brief sketch to even mention the many free beds, rooms furnished and equipments with which the hospital has been favored in recent years, one of the greatest legacies being that of the late Mrs. Cornelia S. Bigelow, the honorary president, whose death occurred in 1921, leaving a legacy of $25,000 and a generous share in her residuary estate.

In December, 1911, Miss Laura A. Slee resigned the position of superintendent which she had held for seventeen and a half years.  In March, 1912, Miss Elizabeth MacDill, a graduate of the hospital training school, established in 1907, assumed the position of superintendent.  In the spring of 1917, the two houses opposite the hospital in West Genesee Street, were purchased for the Nurses' Home at a cost of $13,000.  Upon the initiative of Frederick R. Hazard a Guarantors to General Deficiency Fund was established, with one hundred and sixty-three shares, but it was not until 1920 that there was any demand made upon the fund.

Onondaga County Medical Society, 1906-1956, The Onondaga County Medical Society?, Syracuse? 1956, pp. 57-58.

The Syracuse Memorial Hospital was founded in 1887 as the Syracuse Women's Hospital and Training School for Nurses by a group of women dedicated to service to the community.  Enlarged several times from its small beginning, the present hospital built through the generous contributions of two and a half million dollars from thousands of interested citizens was opened in October 1929.

Governed by a Board of Trustees who serve without any remuneration, it continues to operate without profit to serve all persons of Syracuse and the surrounding area who need care in illness and means whereby they may be restored to health.

The primary purpose of the Syracuse Memorial Hospital is to provide the most modern and scientific medical and nursing care to the sick and injured and provide all facilities for the restoration of health.

We are also dedicated to a program of education of doctors, nurses and other personnel who serve the patients within the hospital or take their place in the community as your physicians and health workers.  As such we are a unit of Syracuse Medical Center and participate in the teaching of medical students and training of interns and residents through our affiliation with the College of Medicine of the State University of New York.

A progressive step in nursing education was made by the hospital in 1943 when the Syracuse Memorial Hospital School of Nursing was merged with the School of Nursing of Good Shepherd Hospital to form the collegiate program of Syracuse University School of Nursing.  Participation in nursing education is continued by the hospital in its affiliation with the Syracuse University School of Nursing whose students receive their clinical experience in the hospital.

We also maintain an affiliation with the Willard State Hospital and Craig Colony State Hospital Schools for a year's program of teaching and experience for their students, as well as with numerous nursing schools throughout the State for instruction and experience in Pediatric nursing. 

Students in Practical Nursing from the course given by the Syracuse Board of Education receive six months of instruction and clinical experience in the Memorial Hospital.

In the program of research the hospital cooperates with the faculty of the New York State College of Medicine to aid their investigation in the fields of Obstetrics, Pediatrics, Gynecology and Cancer.

Preventive as well as curative medicine is practiced in our clinics.  The Tumor Clinic maintained with assistance from the American Cancer Society, functions as a diagnostic unit, a treatment center and teaches positive health.  In cooperation with the New York State Department of Health, all patients are screened for chest disorders through routine chest x-rays of all admissions.  Close contact and cooperation with other health agencies in the community is maintained.

In 1955, Syracuse Memorial Hospital admitted 13,580 patients, 10,882 adults and children and 2,698 newborn babies.  These patients received 97,985 days of care, an average of 7.2 days per person.  There were 11,769 outpatient visits to the Clinics and Emergency Room, the latter showing an increase of 22 1/2% over the previous year.

Onondaga County Medical Society, 1906-1956, The Onondaga County Medical Society?, Syracuse? 1956, pg. 70.

Syracuse Memorial Hospital, School of Nursing
The school of Nursing of Syracuse Memorial Hospital was organized in 1888 on the same apprenticeship basis as the other nursing schools of that period.  The students entered the school at any time during the year when there was a vacancy and the only qualifications necessary were that the applicants must be between 20 and 35 years of age, of sound health, good moral character and must have had a fair education.  No definite education preparation was required.  The students were in the Hospital to care for the patient and carry on the Hospital routine.  There was no plan for formal classroom or bedside instruction such as there is today.  In the evening after caring for the patients on the wards for ten hours, the  nurses were given a few lectures by the staff physicians.  Each student was placed under the supervision of a student who had been longer in the school and upon her rested the responsibility for teaching the newcomer.

In May 1904, the School was registered by the Board of Regents of New York State.  This necessitated additions to the curriculum as well as better teaching.  A requirement was made in 1906 that each applicant should have at least one year of High School and again it was necessary to broaden the curriculum.

The first well qualified theoretical instructor was engaged in 1921.  With her coming, improvements were gradually made in the School, such as an 8-hour day for all students, discontinuing evening classes and better instruction was given.

In June 1938, by unanimous vote, the Board of Trustees of Syracuse Memorial Hospital agreed upon the acceptance of the proposed merger into a joint Syracuse University School of Nursing.

The plan for this merger was definitely accepted by the Board in February 1943.

On March 12, 1945, the largest class and the last class of nurses was graduated from the Syracuse Memorial Hospital, School of Nursing.

The School of Nursing was officially closed June 21, 1946.

Beginning with the first class which graduated one student in 1890, this School of Nursing has graduated 789 young women into the profession of nursing.

Text Source:  A Short History of Hospitals in Syracuse, SUNY Upstate Medical University:  Health Services Library:  Historical Collections:  http://www.upstate.edu/library/history/hospitals.shtml

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.


Submitted 12 March 2006 by Pamela Priest
Updated 17 March 2006 by Pamela Priest