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Minor Hospitals in the Neighborhood

Whole articles on this website have been devoted to some of the hospitals in the neighborhood. This article will provide a summary of the histories of those institutions and add three more hospitals to the list.

Charity Hospital

In 1861 the Charity Hospital of the City of Philadelphia was chartered with the mission to provide “relief of the sick poor of the City, Strangers or Sojourners and all who are subjects of disease or accident.” A building was rented on the 1300 block of Buttonwood Street, very near the Spring Garden Soup-House which opened on that block in 1853. The Soup house building survives intact on this block.


Notice in the 1862 edition of the McElroy city directory. The phrase “below Broad” means just east of Broad Street, i.e. toward the lower-numbered streets. At this time there were a few row houses just east of the Hoopes and Townsend rivet factory as discussed in our article here.

The specialties listed reflect modern specialties, except Dr. Jones, who specialized in diseases of the “Eye, Ear, and Urinary Organs.”

Dr. William H. Pancoast was a member of an esteemed medical family in Philadelphia. He performed the autopsy on, and removed the livers of, Chang and Eng Bunker at the College of Physicians at 13th and Locust Streets in 1874. Plaster casts of the twins and their livers are on display at the Mutter Museum, with the permission of the family.

Dispensaries, as the name implies, were where outpatient diagnoses were made by volunteer and paid physicians, and treatments in the forms of salves and pills were dispensed. The care was free. Medical students would receive early exposure to patients there. To take one year as an example, in 1866 there were 2,498 patients treated for free at the Charity Hospital.

In 1870 the Charity Hospital moved to 1832 Hamilton Street, a site which is now in Matthias Baldwin Park.


An 1892 ad in The Philadelphia Times.

This was one year before the hospital moved to 1731 Vine Street.

In the 1884 Medical Directory of Philadelphia the posted hours for patient visits were from noon to 1 pm.


Portion of Bromley map from 1895. North is at top and Hamilton Street runs horizontally between two streets that no longer exist in this location, Buttonwood and Tatlow. Number 1832 Hamilton is a standard rowhome. The empty space just east of the shoe factory (built 1891) will be filled by Garretson Hospital (built 1908). Alleged serial killer Bridget Carey lived at 1842 Hamilton Street from 1905 to 1906. Hamilton Street between 18th and 19th Streets, ss well as Tatlow Street, were stricken from the city grid in 1974. The trimming factory, Pickering Spring Company, Malleable Iron Works, and the Baldwin Locomotive Works are all discussed in separate articles.

The accommodations for the dispensary at 1832 Hamilton were overwhelmed by the 1880s and a search for larger quarters was begun. An oyster bar and saloon at 1920 Callowhill Street seemed ideal, but the asking price of $12,000 was too steep. This site would become the new firehouse for our neighborhood’s Fire Engine Company #18 in 1900. In 1893 a rowhome at 1731 Vine Street was purchased for $10,000. The first floor functioned as the dispensary with apartments on the upper three floors.

Funding for charity hospitals was provided by the city, the state, the city-wide Welfare Federation (an early version of the United Way), money raised by the ladies’ auxiliaries of individual institutions, and bequests in the form of cash, bonds, stocks, and real estate. For example, George Pepper left a bequest of $12,000 to Charity Hospital in addition to his $225,000 bequest to start the free library system in Philadelphia.

In 1905 the name of Charity Hospital was changed to The Diagnostic Hospital. At this time a “diagnostic hospital” was one in which the ailing would be examined by expert physicians who would render a diagnosis. The patient would then be referred to a specialist if he or she could afford it, or referred back to the general practitioner with a plan of treatment and references from the recent medical literature. In 1926 permission was granted by the courts to allow the hospital to be merged with the Graduate Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. In 1930 a new hospital was built at 18th and Lombard Streets to absorb the Diagnostic Hospital as well as the Medico-Chirurgical Hospital, the latter being demolished to complete the Fairmount Parkway.

The four-story building at 1731 Vine Street was vacated by the Diagnostic Hospital in 1930. It was demolished in the 1960s.

Gynecean Hospital

The Philadelphia Dispensary for the Medical Relief of the Poor, founded in 1786, is considered the nation’s first free public dispensary. In 1878 it was located on 5th Street between Chestnut and Walnut Streets. In that year eminent surgeon and obstetrician Joseph Price was appointed Physician-in-Charge of the Obstetric Department of the Philadelphia Dispensary. In his report for 1885 he had performed eighty-seven gynecologic procedures, fifty-two of which were in the homes of the patients. Conditions in the homes of the poor were often less than ideal for surgery so a dedicated facility was sought.

The Gynecean Hospital was founded by Drs. Charles Penrose and Joseph Price and incorporated in 1888 to provide medical and surgical care to women referred from the Philadelphia Dispensary system. Its first three months were spent in leased space at 1632 Cherry Street. This house had two rooms with space for six patients and was seen as temporary from the beginning. In those first three months there were 15 admissions, all surgical, with one death. Eight patients paid according to their means and six patients were provided free care. Presumably the patient that died was not charged. The houses on that block were eventually demolished and replaced by what is now Cret Park.

The next move in April of 1888 was to leased space in a private home at 1735 Hamilton Street. This was a five-year lease at $720 a year. In 1889 there was an average daily census of 15 patients.


Article from The Philadelphia Times of 14 November 1888. The actual address was 1735 Hamilton Street.


Portion of 1875 Hopkins map showing 1735 Hamilton Street, on the corner of 18th Street (vertically on the left) and Hamilton Street (running horizontally on bottom). Spring Garden Street runs horizontally at the top.

Sites on this map that have been discussed elsewhere on our website include: the Bush Hill Iron Works; William Sellers & Company; Baldwin Locomotive Works (BLW); Bush Hill Brewery: Cresson Shafting Works; Mayor Reyburn’s home at 1822 Spring Garden Street; and William Bement.

Dr. D. Hayes Agnew, aged 71, was appointed the senior Consulting Physician in 1888. It was in 1889 that Thomas Eakins, living at 1729 Mount Vernon Street a few blocks from the Gynecean, painted his monumental The Agnew Clinic that now hangs in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.


The Agnew Clinic, with Dr. Agnew standing at left. Eakins is painted in as the spectator at far right on the receiving end of a whisper. By 1889, surgical anesthesia had been used for four decades. Antisepsis was just coming into vogue; at least they are using clean white frocks in this painting and probably scrubbed hands and clean instruments. Effective antibiotics were still five decades in the future. Surgery was still risky if not painful.

The painting of Agnew depicts a mastectomy being performed at the surgical amphitheater at Penn, but mastectomies were one of the procedures performed at 1735 Hamilton Street as well. Other surgeries performed in 1888 are shown below in an image taken from the 1888 annual report:


Image from the 1888 annual report of the Gynecean Hospital. In the age when gonorrhea was not treatable, it would often advance from the cervix into the Fallopian tubes and generate debilitating abscesses. This condition accounts for half the abdominal cases in 1888. Two interventions available today to lower the prevalence of abdominal abscesses are the screening for gonorrhea in asymptomatic patients and the treatment with very effective antibiotics.

The Gynecean was funded by private donors with a intermittent but substantial state aid. For example, Baldwin Locomotive Works donated $50 in 1888, which seems insignificant compared to the $500 donation from Dr. Joseph Price. George Cresson, next door at the Cresson Shafting Works, provided the services of one of his employees to serve as a coal hauler for the Gynecean. In 1891 the State appropriated $32,500 to the Gynecean.

The east side of Logan Square had fashionable townhomes populated by the city nouveaux riche before the double-insult of the construction of the Fairmount Parkway and the widening of Vine Street. Railroad wheel maker Asa Whitney had died in his home at 249-51 North 18th Street in 1879. George Whitney, his son, lived at 247 North 18th Street. Another son James lived at 1815 Vine Street around the corner. The home of Baldwin Locomotive Works executive John H. Converse was at 241 North 18th Street. When Dr. Joseph Price severed his connection with the Gynecean in November of 1890, he purchased 241 North 18th Street for $30,000 and opened the Joseph Price Hospital. He would put an addition with a large first floor bay window on at 243 North 18th Street starting in 1891. At this same time the Gynecean moved into 247 North 18th Street and put on an addition at 245 North 18th Street, making the Gynecean and Price Hospitals adjoining. The new Gynecean provided space for thirty-two ward beds and twelve private rooms. The Gynecean would encounter a falling patient census as patients migrated to university-associated care in the 1920s. Gynecean would cease seeing patients in 1925 and merge its assets into the University of Pennsylvania hospital in 1938.


Two Department of Records photos from 1911 spliced together to show 239 North 18th on the right and 247 North 18th on the left. The Price Hospital occupied 241 North 18th and the new structure with the peaked roofline at 243 North 18th. The Gynecean occupied 245 North 18th and the newer matching structure at 243 North 18th.


Another view of just the two buildings of the Price Hospital in a 1916 postcard from here.


Portion of the 1916 Sanborn map. North is at the top and 18th Street runs vertically on the left. The lots at 243 and 245 North 18th Street were empty until the Gynecean and Price Hospitals built onto them.


The Price Hospital is in the center in this undated postcard from here.

In the late 19th century, obstetrics and gynecology were separate specialties. As discussed in our article on the Garretson Hospital, Price in 1897 opened up a maternity hospital in two townhomes at 1810-1812 Spring Garden Street. This would merge with Temple University in 1923. Price was a tireless worker, and on June 6, 1911, he operated on a young girl for appendicitis at noon, and he himself was operated on four hours later for the same affliction, an operation which he did not survive. His memorium can be found at the outside link here. After the death of Price, the hospital name was changed to the Joseph Price Memorial Hospital. Dr. James Kennedy, a protégé and disciple of Price, purchased the hospital in 1913 for $36,000. He continued to run the hospital until his retirement in 1950. Unlike the Gynecean, it remained fairly busy until then. For a fond remembrance of the structures and procedures at the Price Hospital from 1942 to 1950, see the 1992 article hereThe author discusses the six-minute vaginal hysterectomies done with 45-minute hand scrubs pre-op, ungloved hands, no intravenous lines, and ether drip anesthesia.

Hahnemann Lying-In Hospital


Ad from January 3, 1860 in The Public Ledger

The Homeopathic Medical College of Pennsylvania was founded in 1848, renamed Hahnemann College in 1869, and united with its hospital to form the Hahnemann Medical College and Hospital of Philadelphia in 1885. The joint venture was at 15th and Race Streets. Services were extended to maternity care in a former boarding house at 1713 Vine Street in January of 1898. There were only 240 cases handled in its first three years due to the limited accommodations. The plan had always been to build another adjacent structure on 15th Street for maternity care, but by 1900 only one-tenth of the $25,000 needed was forthcoming. It would finally move in 1908 and the 1713 Vine Street building would be sold and returned to use as a boarding house with 20 rooms (and two baths!).


Portion of a 1901 Bromley map. 18th Street runs vertically on the left; 16th on the right; and Vine Street horizontally at the bottom. Pearl Street is just north of Vine Street and no longer exists in our neighborhood. Wood Street is north of Pearl. North is at top.

The maternity department of Hahnemann Hospital is at 1713 Vine Street.

unfinished draft article

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