Building Beth Israel, Part 2: Jefferson and Cherry

See Building Beth Israel, Part 1: Foundations for the first part of this series. An interactive map of Beth Israel historical locations is available here. More archival material about the Jefferson and Cherry Streets location is here. 

For much of the 1890s, the first decade of its existence, the location of Beth Israel Hospital was a moving target. The hospital moved from a factory loft, to an “old-fashioned parlor floor,” to two different rented hospital facilities. In its final locations during this period, split between buildings at 206 East Broadway and 195 Division Street, Beth Israel Hospital was financially solvent for the first time, enabling it to finally buy land of its own. In 1896, Beth Israel purchased a plot of land at Jefferson and Cherry Streets for the construction of a new hospital building.  

In 1899, the Beth Israel Board of Directors chose a design for the new hospital. The cornerstone of the building was laid on April 1, 1900.  

Much of the early funding for the new location was put up by Beth Israel’s Board of Directors, which, in addition to a mortgage, allowed for the purchase of the lot. However, the cost for the chosen design was well above initial expectations, and the final estimate was around $200,000 (about $6.5 million in 2021 dollars), requiring a significant fundraising effort.  

On May 26, 1902, the new Beth Israel Hospital at Jefferson and Cherry Streets was dedicated. It included 134 beds, with male, female, and maternity wards as well as private rooms. It featured a solarium, a common feature for hospitals at that time, in addition to outdoor space on the roof for staff and patient use. The Beth Israel Hospital Training School for Nurses was founded in 1904 and moved into this building. (Today, it is the Phillips School of Nursing at Mount Sinai Beth Israel.)  

A black and white photograph from 1914. Four rows of young women in nursing uniforms, composed of floor length white dresses and a starched cap, pose for a class photograph in front of the Beth Israel Hospital Jefferson and Cherry Streets location. Handwriting at the bottom reads "1914 - Zina Epstein 940 Grand Concourse"

Class photograph of the 1914 class of the Beth Israel Training School for Nurses (today the Phillips School of Nursing at Mount Sinai Beth Israel) at the Jefferson and Cherry location.

By August 1912, a physiological chemistry laboratory opened at Beth Israel under the direction of Max Kahn, PhD. The laboratory was located on the top floor and could comfortably hold five people. Additionally, after extensive delays, a children’s ward opened in January 1919, but it was forced to close six months later because of the nursing shortage caused by the Influenza Epidemic of 1918. Both the children’s and maternity wards were closed and re-opened periodically, based on available financial and staff support. 

As early as 1915, the Beth Israel Board of Directors began to purchase property on Livingston Place along Stuyvesant Square Park. Plans to move to this new location were delayed first by World War I, and then by the influenza epidemic. Construction began in earnest in 1922, and Beth Israel finally moved to its current location in the Dazian Pavillion in 1929, giving up the Jefferson and Cherry Streets location. While it wasn’t the Hospital’s final location, Jefferson and Cherry Streets is where Beth Israel Hospital came of age and began to resemble the hospital of today. 

Authored by Stefana Breitwieser, Digital Archivist

The Closing of the Mount Sinai Hospital School of Nursing, 1881-1971

The Mount Sinai Hospital School of Nursing diploma program officially closed 50 years ago in 1971. At that point, it had existed for 90 years and had graduated 4,700 students, including the one and only male student in the last class. (A complete history of the School is available here.) Many hospital diploma schools closed during the 1970s, including the St. Luke’s Hospital and the Roosevelt Hospital Schools of Nursing, both in 1974. This wave of closings was due to the schools being fiscal drains on the parent hospitals, as well as the changing educational standards professional nursing organizations championed, including the baccalaureate degree as the best entry-level credential for nurses.

By the mid-1960s, the Mount Sinai Hospital School of Nursing was at a crossroads, trying to find a way to move forward in the face of these trends. In 1967, the newly formed Mount Sinai School of Medicine affiliated with The City University of New York (CUNY). This triggered a review of other possible interactions between the two institutions. That year, the School of Nursing joined with Hunter College, a part of CUNY, to start offering elective humanities credit to the students, easing their path to an eventual baccalaureate degree.

The next twist appeared in the Hospital’s Annual Report for 1968: “This has been a milestone year for the Department of Nursing. Negotiations with the City University led to the joint announcement of a baccalaureate program in nursing to be launched in September 1969 with the [Mount Sinai] Director of Nursing holding the position of Dean of the School of Nursing. Alumnae, staff and students have all expressed enthusiasm at the forward step. They are particularly pleased at the acceptance of the name, The Mount Sinai Hospital School of Nursing at The City College.”

And so it was, but only briefly. The first class was admitted to the program in fall 1969, along with a sophomore group that had started at Sinai, and a graduation ceremony was held in 1972 for thirteen students. However, the two institutions could not work out long-term arrangements and so the relationship was terminated by 1974.

The closing of the School left behind a saddened but vibrant Alumnae Association that continues to serve its members and The Mount Sinai Hospital today.