219 Bryant Street
Buffalo, NY 14222
In spite of significant advances gained from the Civil War medical and surgical experience, the practice of mingling sick and injured children with adult hospital patients was common in the final decades of the 19th century. Children’s wards and children’s hospitals were unheard of, and sick children were thus exposed to the cries of pain and misery of suffering and dying adults.
By the late 1880’s, however, Dr. Mahlon Bainbridge Folwell, an 1867 graduate of what was later to become the School of Medicine of the State University of New York at Buffalo, was convinced that mingling sick children with adults was counterproductive to the children’s healthcare and recuperation. He believed strongly that hospitalized children would recuperate more quickly and more completely if they were treated and housed separately from adults. Moreover, he had the audacity to suggest that children should be treated differently than adults – and that different equipment should be used and different medications should be prescribed!
In 1891, Dr. Folwell persuaded Mrs. Gibson T. Williams and her daughter Miss Martha Tenney Williams of his belief. Convinced that Dr. Folwell was right, Mrs. and Miss Williams purchased the then vacant home of the late Mr. and Mrs. Avery Smith at 219 Bryant St., and using their own money, renovated and adapted the building to hospital use. The Children’s Hospital of Buffalo was incorporated in May 1892, and when the two-story brick hospital opened that September it had the capacity for 12 patients. Mrs. and Miss Williams continued to own the building and assumed responsibility for paying the taxes and making needed repairs, but the building was provided rent free to Dr. Folwell and the new corporation for use as a children’s hospital. Dr. Folwell was the first attending physician, Dr. John Parmenter, who would later gain national renown for assisting in President McKinley’s surgery, was the first attending surgeon, and Dr. Bernard Bartow served as the first attending orthopedic surgeon.
During the first year of operation, so many patients were turned away for lack of space that in 1893, the two women purchased and converted additional properties and buildings adjacent to the original “little brown house,” and increased capacity by 40 beds.