Day 178

Polhemus Memorial Clinic

June 25th, 2012

Until it was sold in 2008, this building (scroll to page 3) was owned by Long Island College Hospital (LICH), having been constructed in 1897 to provide free medical care for the area's poor, and classroom and laboratory space for the college. Possibly the first skyscraper hospital ever built, it was a top-of-the-line facility in its early days, housing one of the world's first X-ray machines.

LICH, now part of SUNY Downstate Medical Center, began its life in 1856 as the Brooklyn German General Dispensary, intended to serve the poor German immigrants who lived nearby (much like the German Dispensary we saw in the East Village). Rapidly broadening its scope, it had by 1858 become Long Island Hospital and Medical College, the first teaching hospital in the US. It was an influential institution in its day, introducing bedside teaching as a standard part of medical training, and becoming the country's first hospital to use stethoscopes and anesthesia. One of its early graduates was Alexander Skene, the gynecologist locked in a staring contest with JFK.

But perhaps most importantly, its innovative treatments led to a 1925 NY Times article that contains what must be one of the greatest opening lines in the history of journalism: "Thirty patients regarded as hopelessly insane are back at work and leading normal lives after being artificially inoculated with malaria".


  1. Gigi says:

    What a grand looking building, so ahead of its time. I’m glad it has been landmarked.

  2. Next time I’m going insane at work… I’m reaching for the artificial malaria inoculation.

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