From the Archives: The Unexpected Legacy of Beth Israel’s Small Hospitals

The creation of the Mount Sinai Health System in 2013, formed by the merger of the Mount Sinai Medical Center with Continuum Health Partners, brought some of New York City’s major hospitals together under a single organizational umbrella. The individual hospitals making up the Health System, however, often themselves incorporate multiple hospitals with which they have merged and affiliated over the years. As the Archives continues to collect, process and make available the records of the former Beth Israel Medical Center, we have acquired material relating to various smaller hospitals associated with Beth Israel. The records of these institutions provide a glimpse into the wide variety of small hospitals that existed in New York during the twentieth century.

Doctors Hospital aerial cropped

Doctors Hospital

Doctors Hospital was an exclusive voluntary hospital, founded in 1929 by members of New York City’s social elite, which catered to the needs of wealthy private patients. Its Upper East Side location on East End Avenue overlooked Carl Schurz Park and Gracie Mansion (pictured, at center). In 1987 it became part of the Beth Israel Medical Center and was briefly known as Beth Israel Hospital North before being renamed Beth Israel Medical Center Singer Division. It closed in 2004, and its building was torn down the following year; the site is now occupied by luxury residences. The minutes of the Doctors Hospital Board of Directors, recently discovered in offsite storage associated with Beth Israel, are now a part of the collection of the Mount Sinai Archives.

Jewish Maternity Hospital

The Jewish Maternity Hospital was founded in 1906. Located at 270 Broadway, it provided maternity care to the Lower East Side’s growing community of Eastern European Jewish immigrants. At the urging of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies, which hoped to consolidate its medical activities during the lean years of the Great Depression, it merged in 1930 with Beth Israel, which had recently moved to a state of the art modern hospital on Stuyvesant Square. For some time the two institutions maintained separate wards within the hospital building, but by the 1940s the Maternity Hospital had been absorbed into the obstetrics department at Beth Israel. Three volumes of its patient registers, dated 1921-1933, are housed in the Mount Sinai Archives.

New York Lying-In Hospital / Manhattan General Hospital

The New York Lying-In Hospital already had a long institutional history, dating back to the yellow fever epidemic of 1798, when it moved in 1902 to a newly built home at 307 2nd Avenue on the northwest corner of Stuyvesant Square. The hospital’s time at this location was a productive one, during which members of the hospital staff pioneered the use of pharmaceutical pain management to ease the pain of childbirth. In 1932 the New York Lying-In Hospital left the site to become the OB-GYN department of the New York Hospital at its campus on the Upper East Side. The building on Stuyvesant Square became home to the proprietary Manhattan General Hospital. In 1965 the building was purchased by Beth Israel and became the Morris J. Bernstein Institute, a pioneering inpatient facility for addiction treatment. The building was sold in 1984 and is now an apartment complex, but its origin as a maternity hospital can still be seen in the elegant sculptures of infants displayed on its facade. The records of the Lying-In Hospital itself are in the Archives of the Weill Cornell Medical College, but the Mount Sinai Archives has a small assortment of records related to the Bernstein Institute during the period that it occupied the former Lying-In Hospital building.

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