So yesterday, The Cory and I took a (thrilling) field-trip to Episcopal Hospital’s ER.
But that’s not the point.
Point is, afterwards, as we were walking back by the hospital on the other side of the street, I noticed the original building. It’s one long, skinny spire that doesn’t even look all that big! That’s all the hospital used to be! My research is proving me wrong, but I’m still impressed by the smallness of it. (You should see where this is going by now…)
Being a dork who’s all about history and architecture, I had to stop. Had to look. Had to comment. (Had to research like mad for a really boring blog entry.)
(Cory had this to say about it: “On nice days, they used to do surgery on the roof!” Don’t buy it; Cory’s a liar.)
According to Philadelphia Architects and Buildings, there used to be all sorts of cool stuff on the campus like Harrison Memorial House of Incurable Patients and Episcopal Hospital Isolation Ward. Fascinating stuff. I wish I could find more about the campus and the original hospital. (Someone might be heading off to the UPenn library and the Free Library for more info…) According to the Library of Congress’ Historic American Buildings Survey, the original hospital looked like this:
The one of the earliest dated references to the hospital is from a short biography of Thomas Neilson, which notes that the hospital was around in 1880 (because Dr. Neilson did his residency there, it seems); and A Short History of the City of Philadelphia, From Its Foundation to the Present Time (1880) by Susan Coolidge notes, “Hospital of Protestant Episcopal Church, south-east corner of Lehigh Avenue and Front Street, occupying a square of ground. This fine building, whose doors are open to patients of all creeds and nationalities, has a capacity of three hundred beds.” (No date.) But the real winner is Rudolph J. Walther’s Philadelphia timeline; it gives this entry in 1860:
“May 24. Cornerstone of Episcopal Hospital, Lehigh Avenue and Front Street, laid.”
BINGO! So this hospital is only something like 145 years old. (Only?)
All this stuff about creepy old hospitals reminds me of an old hospital legend that Cory’s friends taunted me with: Byberry.
I’m thinking field-trip. Everyone should spend at least one night in an abandoned asylum filled with the ghosts of mistreated, ignored, and outcast mental patients. (Anyone wanna join me?)
I figure, before I really take on Byberry, research must be done. I want to fill my mind with every sordid, scary detail about this horrific piece of Philly history that I can. Every story of abandon, neglect, and terror? Want it. Every murder, death, and abuse? Want it. Every haunting, nightmare, or terror? Want it. I want to know exactly why this massive old campus scares the bejesus out of kids in NE Philly.
Then I’ll take it on. For a whole night.