Emergency Hospital Design

The Emergency Hospital was designed under the direction of Roswell Park, M.D., who believed that a properly equipped emergency medical facility was essential to the welfare of those working on the grounds and the millions of visitors expected during the 7 months of the Exposition. He had it sited just inside the West Amherst Gate so that patients could visit one of the local hospitals for post-emergency care via the trolleys or ambulance. It opened May 1, 1901, replacing the temporary facility set up in the Service Building during the previous 8 months to provide medical services to construction workers on the grounds.

A T-shaped structure, its architecture was "old mission" style in keeping with the Exposition theme. The front extended 90 feet, with the central wing extending 38 feet back from the front entrance. The rear wing, one story high, extended behind the central 2-story wing and was 56 feet long, 32 feet wide.

The main entrance in the center wing opened into a rotunda decorated with tropical plants, pictures, and drapery. The main office was located in the left corner of the rotunda under the staircase. There was located all of the communication equipment that kept the hospital in touch with Exposition staff and local authorities.

To the right of the rotunda was the western wing which contained two male wards with 7 cots each, a bathroom, physicians' office, morgue, linen chest. To the left of the rotunda was the eastern wing with a women's ward of 12 cots, a bathroom, office for the superintendent of nurses, physician's private office, linen chest.

The rear wing contained the operating room, sterilizing department, and instrument cases. Nearby was the emergency bathroom and patients' waiting room. Farther along the corridor was the kitchen, pantry, and patient dining room. The central wing's second story housed 4 bedrooms and a bathroom for the resident physician and attendants. There was also an ambulance shed for the electric ambulance loaned by the New York Electric Motor Vehicle Company.

To equip the hospital, Park received the loan of surgical equipment from the Jeffrey Fell Company of Buffalo, which counted this as part of their exhibit. The Wagner Company loaned x-ray equipment and other firms loaned equipment, also as part of their Exposition exhibits.

Although there was early agreement that a child care facility (aka a "creche") should be established as part of the Emergency Hospital, the Exposition board did not act on it until late in the summer. It opened in August in a tent outside the hospital. Unlike the hospital patients who received medical services at no charge, the Creche charged between $.25 and $.50 for child care (depending on the length of the child's stay) and was self-supporting.

Nurses for the hospital were recruited for one-month tours of duty by circulars sent out to hospitals in the northeast. They were paid only an honorarium to cover travel and laundry; during their off-duty hours, they were free to explore the Exposition. That seems to have been sufficient inducement to supply the necessary professional services. The services of physicians were secured locally. For additional information on staffing, details about the Exposition sanitary responsibilities that were also within the purview of the Hospital, see the lengthy but very interesting report of Dr. Park.

The hospital remained known only to those in need of its services until the assassination of President William McKinley on September 6, 1901. Because he was transported to the Emergency Hospital immediately after the shooting and had his surgery there, the hospital became a tourist destination until the Exposition closed on November 1.