Arthur H. Aufses, Jr. MD Archives Blog

Dazian Who? A “Familiar Names” Mystery, Part 1 

Flyer with sketch of 16-story building with text that reads: "The New Beth Israel Hospital, 16 Stories, 500 Beds, Block Front, Livingston Place, 16th-17th Streets, the Tallest Hospital Building in the World"
Sketch of Dazian Pavilion exterior, circa 1929. At the time it was built, Beth Israel believed it to be “the tallest hospital building in the world.” (The final building only stood at thirteen stories.)

In our “Familiar Names: A ‘Who’s Who’ of Beth Israel Buildings” post, you may have noticed that one building is conspicuously absent: the Dazian building. Dazian, the original building on the Petrie campus, was simply referred to as the Beth Israel Hospital for the first part of its history, given that it was the only Beth Israel Hospital building at the time it was opened (to much acclaim) in 1929. During the 1950s and 1960s, the hospital went through a building boom, likely necessitating building names, and campus maps show that the Dazian Pavilion was labeled as such by 1963. But who was Dazian? You might think Beth Israel’s institutional records would hold a clue, but, after receiving several requests to provide the backstory, a few of archivists at the Aufses Archives had approached this research from different angles, and never turned up anything directly mentioning the building’s naming. Sometimes the answers to seemingly straightforward questions are simply not well documented. 

We strongly suspected that the building was named for Henry Dazian, a famed Broadway costumer from a prominent family. Henry Dazian was the third generation of his family to own the costuming business and had a history of philanthropy. He served as a trustee for the Actors’ Fund, which was established in 1882 to provide for the burial, retirement, and healthcare needs of those working in the theatrical professions, who were often denied access to services and charities during this period. He also donated to Beth Israel during his lifetime, particularly (and perhaps fittingly) in 1929 when the institution was fundraising to eliminate its debt following the construction of the building that would eventually carry the Dazian name some thirty years later. 

Upon his death in 1937, his estate created the Dazian Foundation for Medical Research. The Beth Israel annual reports indicate that the Foundation was an active donor throughout the 1950s. That said, there was no obvious indication in the records to confirm that the Dazian Foundation is the source of the name.  

We were hoping that the Henry Dazian Estate and Dazian Foundation for Medical Research records would hold clues for solving this mystery. In addition to its Beth Israel connection, the Foundation also worked with Mount Sinai doctors by, among other things, funding scholarships for refugee physicians during World War II. The collection was seeing increased interest from researchers, but it remained largely inaccessible because it was not completely processed. Processing became a priority, and when Tim Hayes, Levy Library Circulation Services Supervisor, joined the Archives for an internship, we were grateful that this collection received renewed attention. He processed this collection, which spans more than fourteen document boxes, and was able to keep an eye out for answers to some of our Dazian-related questions as he reviewed the material. Stay tuned for our next blog post, where Tim takes us on a deep dive of his research into this question.