The Sporting Life

In the October 1925 meeting of The Mount Sinai Hospital Board of Trustees minutes, the Trustees discuss a request from the House Staff for the Hospital to build a golf cage on the roof of the staff housing. The Trustees agreed but wanted the Medical Board to approve it and to decide “whether it might not be detrimental to the care of the patients to furnish this additional amusement to the house staff.” The project was eventually approved by the Medical Board, but it is unclear if the golf cage was ever built.

The Mount Sinai tennis courts, at Fifth Avenue and 99th Street.

The Mount Sinai tennis courts, at Fifth Avenue and 99th Street.

This request was part of a trend for the active House Staff. In 1923, the Board had approved funds to build a tennis court for the Mount Sinai medical staff and School of Nursing students.  It was erected on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 99th Street.  Sadly, it was closed in 1948 to make way for the Klingenstein Pavilion.

In a 1988 interview, Gus Burton, a Radiology Technician, discusses what it was like when he was hired in 1948. He says that he was the second Black man hired at Mount Sinai in a non‑janitorial position. He mentioned these tennis courts:

Q.  Why did you come here?  Tell me a little about why Mount Sinai.

Burton:    It’s very interesting.  Back in those days the buses that ran along Fifth Avenue were owned by a company called the Fifth Avenue Bus Company.  They had double deckers.  The top deck was so that you could ride the bus for a nickel.  At the time I was a student at NYU and sometimes I would take the bus down, because the classes were at Washington Square.  It was almost like a bus tour going down Fifth Avenue, seeing all the different places, and I saw the Hospital.  I wasn’t impressed with the hospital so much, but where Klingenstein is there used to be tennis courts.  At that time I was an avid tennis player, and I could see these people playing tennis.  I thought it was very, very interesting, because I had found that there weren’t many places to play tennis in New York and here these people were running around playing tennis.  Eventually, one day I was coming back home and I got off the bus.  It was approaching the end of the semester and I said I need to find some kind of work for the summer.  It was raining pretty hard, so I ran under the canopy that they had by the [Guggenheim] Pavilion.  So I said, let me just check in here and see what’s going on.  In those days, they didn’t really have what you call a personnel office.  I guess they called it an employment office.  They had about one or two clerks and the person who ran it, a Mr. Kerr (?).  I just walked in and asked them if they had any jobs available.  Said Mr. Kerr, “we may have some available in the radiology department.  We’ll refer you to the person there who is looking for somebody and see what happens.” …..

Well, I found out after I started working here that those tennis courts were for the professional staff, the doctors and the nurses, and they were the ones I had seen playing on them.  It so happened that one of the radiologists on our staff was an avid tennis player, he used to play out there frequently so I was able to get with him and I did get a chance to play on those tennis courts.

For more information about the Burton interview, or sports at Mount Sinai, please contact the Mount Sinai Archives.

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