West Jersey Hospital Opened in City in 1885

West Jersey Hospital Mt. Ephraim Avenue & Atlantic Avenue, Camden, NJ 1887

Camden Courier-Post – May 14, 165

The recorded history of West Jersey Hospital dates from the opening of a small hospital at the northeast corner of 4th and Arch Streets, Camden, in the spring of 1885.

This was the first successful attempt to open a hospital in Camden “for the relief of the sick poor,” according to Dr. E. M. Howard, then of 401 Linden Street, author of a history on the hospital.

“Away back in 1867 the Camden Dispensary, attempted to maintain a ward where emergency, cases could be cared for but it was soon abandoned for want of support. There was at this, time, 1885, standing, a building erected by the Cooper estate for hospital purposes but which had remained unfinished and unoccupied for eight years, with no promise of opening soon, and was not until nearly two years later, August 11, 1887.”

Appeals in Vain

For several years efforts had been made by Dr. Howard to interest homeopathic practitioners of the city to the needs of such an institution. Appeals also were made to the members of the West Jersey Homeopathic Medical Society, embracing physicians south of Trenton. Failing to obtain any active cooperation it was determined to appeal directly to the women of the city who were patrons of homeopathy to help secure a hospital for women especially.

Early in January of 1885, printed slips were sent out from Dr. Howard’s office to be used in soliciting subscriptions for this purpose and were given to “all charitably inclined ladies whose addresses could be found.”

Dr.Howard writes that “the response to this appeal was so generous and encouraging that a committee was formed with Mrs. E. B. Northrup as chairman and interested ladies were invited to hold meetings at her house.”

Association Formed

On Jan. 30, 1885, a meeting was held for the purpose of establishing in Camden “an institution where sudden accidents could be cared for and where homeopathic treatment can be given to such worthy persons as were unable to employ a homeopathic physician.”

A permanent organization was effected and all contributors of $5 or more were made members. To this group was added all the homeopathic practitioners in the city. The name adopted was the Camden Homeopathic Hospital and Dispensary Association.

The property at the northeast corner of 4th and Arch Street was rented and fitted for hospital purposes. It was opened for patients the latter part of April, 1885, with Mrs. W. H. Weaton as matron and nurse.

Poor Treated in Homes

Between 1879 and 1885 the Camden City Dispensary attended the poor of the city in their homes under a contract for $1,800. The homeopathic organization put in a bid for this work and was awarded the contract at $1,500 for the fiscal year beginning in June 1885. During the winter of 1886 a successful fair was held in Morgan’s Hall. It netted nearly $3,000 and the net income was placed in bank by the women as a nucleus for a building fund.

The minutes of the auxiliary board reveal that on Jan. 10, 1887, they received a demand from the hospital board that these funds be turned over to their treasurer. After “angry discussion” the women agreed to turn over the money but, at the same time, went out of business as a board.

Women Collected $4,000

During their two active years the women, workers had collected more than $4,000 for the support of the hospital in addition to the net $1,290.21 they turned over by demand. Later a new auxiliary board was appointed to “take charge of household matters but not to handle money.”

During the following year the directors bought the property at the southeast corner of West and Stevens Street from Dr. A. E.Street for $8,000 and spent about $1,000 to fit it for hospital purposes. Work was transferred there from 4th and Arch Streets.

In the fall of 1890, due to lack of harmony between the board and physicians and lack of financial support, the association voted to close the hospital. This was done and most of the equipment sold. The dispensary was kept pone to fulfill its contract with the city.

Trustees Elected

On April 30, 1891, a meeting was held in Dr. Howard’s office and the West Jersey Homeopathic Dispensary and Hospital Association was formed. Nine trustees were elected and the property at 3 N. 5th Street rented for $18 per month. A dispensary was opened.

The building at West and Stevens Streets, after refitting, was “opened as a hospital for women and children in April of 1892.

“There were at this time three private rooms and two wards of six beds each.The property adjoining 432 Stevens Street was purchased in September of 1901 for $4,100 and, after being equipped, was opened for male patients in 1902. In 1904 two adjoining open lots were purchased by Charles A. Reynolds and C. W. Nichols and donated to the institution.

Growth of the hospital necessitated additional expansion and, in 1909, a tract of six acres known as the Kaighn Farm was purchased and became the site where the present buildings are now located. An old building on this property was adapted for a nurses home.

New Building Opened

In 1914 a new building, with a capacity of 144 beds, was completed at a cost of$145,268, including equipment. Generous gifts from S. Canning Childs of Collingswood made additional expansion possible.

In 1924 Childs gave to the hospital the building known as the Frances Childs Maternity Building. This was completed in March of 1926. A $250,000 children’s hospital, also the gift of Childs, was completed in June of 1927.

The Charles A. Reynolds Nursing Hall was completed in October of 1927 at acost of $151,689. It accommodated 68 nurses.

Now Has 418 Beds

Throughout World War II West Jersey doctors and nurses at home and an the war fronts wrote their own chapter. The West Jersey School of Nursing was founded in 1895. The Frances Childs Maternity Section was dedicated October 19, 1956.

West Jersey Hospital today has 418 beds. William H. Morrison, administrator, pointed out the importance of a self-care unit where people can go who do not require nurses. It has 24 beds, dining room, own game room, free television. It was opened last November.

A new administration building, erected with CHIEF funds, was opened in 1959. Offices are on the first floor, a laboratory on the second floor and beds on the third floor.


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