The 1870s were an era of explosive war, hard fought peace and tumultuous politics. And into this was born an extraordinary hospital.
The Sisters of the Community of St. Mary – a religious order of the Episcopal Church – established a facility to provide free care for sick and needy children. Founded in a rented house on West 40th Street with only 15 beds and limited funding, St. Mary’s sisters and volunteers operated the first private medical institution in New York dedicated to the care of acutely ill children.
In those days, child abuse and exploitation was rampant. Mostly, those stories of tenements and neglect are known to us now through books and the movies. But a real report from the March 30, 1880 New York Times described John and Margaret Gordon, both found “lying drunk on the floor” with their four children, aged 2 to 9, “filthy and dressed in rags” with a “half-starved appearance.” Mrs. Gordon was “so drunk that she could not be roused, and was taken to the station-house in a cart.”
Heartbreakingly, Joseph, the youngest child, “was found to be suffering from severe burns on the lower portion of his body, which, it is said, were received by his having been dropped on a hot stove by his mother.” Where did the police and the Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Children turn? They brought Joseph to St. Mary’s Free Hospital for Children, now located in larger facilities on West 34th St.
By 1951, St. Mary’s flagship facility was moved to a nine acre campus in Bayside, Queens where it currently operates a 97-bed inpatient program. In 1983, St. Mary’s added a family-centered home care program that treats 4,000 children daily. And over three decades ago, Dr. Burton Grebin, President and CEO, walked through the doors of St. Mary’s and began the long journey towards building a bridge of hope for children with special needs.
In the 139 years since its inception, St. Mary’s has continuously re-evaluated its focus and services to meet the emerging needs of new generations of children and their families as a multi-denominational organization. Following hospitalizations in acute care facilities for complications from premature birth, illness, and injury, or when special services are needed, children and their families come to St. Mary’s to receive care, learn to manage their illness or injury, and achieve a better quality of life.
As the largest provider of long-term home healthcare for children in New York State and one of the nation’s leading providers of pediatric post-acute care, St. Mary’s provides a continuum of care through a network of inpatient, home care and community programs and services, setting a standard of excellence in pediatric healthcare.
Through a strong commitment to patient care and education, St. Mary’s has kept their commitment to the founders, the Sisters of St. Mary’s, to turn children with the most complex medical conditions into happier, healthier, and stronger kids.