THE VISIONARIES AND PLANNERS OF WHAT WOULD BECOME Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center had nowhere to look for inspiration or precedent in the 1920s, so they had to become pioneers in building a full-service academic medical center.
Babies Hospital was invited to become part of the medical center in 1925, and it moved to Broadway and 167th Street from its Lexington Avenue location in 1929. The hospital, established to provide medical services specifically to children, consolidated with Presbyterian Hospital in 1943. Construction on an addition Babies Hospital
South began in 1966 and was built in stages as funding allowed. The final dedication was held 10 years later.
In 1936, a three-story addition was made to Harkness Pavilion, and a three-story service building was built for radiology and therapy services. Two years later, floors were added to the northwest portion of the P&S building to create new laboratories.
The Washington Heights Health Center was built by the city in 1938 and 1939 at the corner of 168th Street and Broadway. The city building also housed public health faculty and offices.
Although construction at the medical center stopped during World War II, overall progress continued in the 1940s and 1950s. A residence for graduate nurses was built in 1947. The Edward S. Harkness Memorial Hall, located at the corner of 165th Street and Riverside Drive, was dedicated Nov. 10, 1947.
The cornerstone for the Francis Delafield Hospital was laid in 1948. The 300-bed New York City hospital for cancer care and research, named for an 1863 P&S graduate who later joined the faculty as a professor of pathology, had three floors of lab space plus in- and outpatient treatment areas. Columbia faculty staffed the hospital on Fort Washington Avenue to the south of 165th Street and conducted research there. Delafield Hospital opened in August 1950 but the city closed it in 1976.
In September 1950, five additional floors were opened atop Vanderbilt Clinic. This space was used to house clinics, offices, and the new Institute of Cancer Research. In 1952, the Pauline A. Hartford Memorial Chapel, an interdenominational chapel in the medical center garden, was dedicated. The chapel was a gift of John A. Hartford, chairman of the board of A&P the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company. Mr. Hartfords wife, Pauline, was a surgical patient at the medical center shortly before her death in 1948. Mr. Hartford died in 1951.
The hospitals administration grew so much that a central services building was constructed. It opened in October 1962 and continues to house support services for the hospital, including the mail room.
The next major addition was the William Black Medical Research Building, developed in response to the demand for more research space. The 18-story building at the southeast corner of Fort Washington Avenue and 168th Street was the medical centers first building devoted to lab space. Opened in September 1965 and dedicated in January 1966, the building was funded through a $5 million donation from William Black, president of Chock full oNuts coffee company and founder and president of the Parkinsons Research Foundation.
The P&S Alumni Auditorium, financed by alumni contributions, was built along with Black but dedicated earlier, on May 1, 1965.
The need for a facility where the P&S faculty could hold office hours for ambulatory patients was urgent by the time Atchley Pavilion was dedicated in December 1968. Located at 161 Fort Washington Avenue, the pavilion contains administrative and doctors offices, clinical laboratories, and specialized ambulatory care centers. The pavilion was named for Dr. Dana W. Atchley, a P&S faculty legend who by the time the building opened had 52 years of active service to the university. In the late 1990s, the structure was renamed the Herbert Irving Pavilion at the Atchley Building to honor the most generous medical center benefactor.
As the 1970s began, the librarys inadequacies become apparent. By that time, more than 150,000 volumes had to be stored at three locations away from campus. In response, ground was broken in 1973 for a new 20-story building at 701 W. 168th St. The Hammer Health Sciences Center opened in April 1976, housing the Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library with two levels above ground and two below. The building also has four floors above the library with classrooms, lecture halls, laboratories, and the Riverview Lounge, a popular location for campus events. Modern research facilities are located on the remaining floors. The building is named for Armand Hammer, oil tycoon, philanthropist and a 1921 graduate of P&S, and his father, Julius, a 1902 P&S graduate.
The year 1973 was marked by two expansions on the medical center campus. Vanderbilt Clinic opened a new lobby facing Broadway. Several months later, new emergency facilities, including a relocated ambulance bay on 168th Street, opened.
The Lawrence C. Kolb Research Annex, built adjacent to the Psychiatric Institute, opened in 1982 to provide expanded facilities for PI researchers.
In 1985, ground was broken for Milstein Hospital Building, a 10-story, 715-bed facility at 177 Fort Washington Ave. that was at the time New York Citys largest hospital building. Milstein houses patient rooms, surgical suites, intensive care units, and imaging suites. The medical center and Milsteins architects, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill received an Excellence in Masonry Award from Masonry Institutes of New York and Long Island for providing a successful example of how a new building sensitively relates to the existing campus yet goes beyond to a point in a new design direction. The design included the construction of skyways over Fort Washington Avenue to connect the new structure with the old Presbyterian Hospital building. Bringing in the new, however, meant that Maxwell Hall, the mainstay of nursing education since the medical centers opening in 1928, had to be torn down, along with the Edward S. Harkness Memorial Hall. When the 1984 fall term began, nursing students took up residence in the Georgian Building, located next to the Armory on 168th Street. A model of Maxwell Hall, commissioned and donated by a School of Nursing alumna, sits in the nursing schools lobby.
One of Columbias most ambitious projects moved the boundaries of the medical center to the east. Development of Audubon Biomedical Science and Technology Park began in 1993, and the first building, the Mary Woodard Lasker Biomedical Research Building, located at 166th Street and Broadway, opened in 1995. The Lasker Building provides research space for start-up biotechnology companies. The second Audubon Research Park building, the Russ Berrie Medical Science Pavilion, located at 1150 St. Nicholas Avenue (at 168th Street), opened in 1997. It houses the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center, the Columbia Genome Center, other research laboratories, and the Associates in Internal Medicine primary care practice. Audubon Park is envisioned as expanding into a five-building research park.
On the whole, the medical centers architecture is an unappreciated historic resource, says Andrew Dolkart, the James Marston Fitch Associate Professor of Historic Preservation at Columbias School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. The buildings make a bold architectural statement, combining the needs of medicine with the skyscraper form typical of New York. The buildings were designed to appear as if they were growing out of the cliffs along the Hudson, with low-rise foothills, such as the handsome Eye Institute, ascending to the cliffs of the Harkness Pavilion.
Two construction projects under way at the medical center in 2003 near completion. The Morgan Stanley Childrens Hospital of New York broke ground in November 2000. Morgan Stanley employees contributed nearly half of the funds needed for the $120 million facility, which will stand 10 stories high and adjoin the existing Childrens Hospital (formerly Babies Hospital). The new facility will offer extended outpatient services and complementary research and diagnostic services. Expected to open in November 2003, the childrens hospital will have 100 medical-surgical beds, 41 critical care beds, and 50 neonatal critical care beds. The buildings architects, Davis Brody Bond, designed the buildings exterior to look like an extension of the existing hospital, but masonry gables and a copper-finish roof give the structure its own distinct identity.
Audubon Parks third building, the Irving Cancer Research Center, is expected to open in early 2004. Named for food distribution executive and Columbia supporter Herbert Irving, the building will have nine stories of research space, underground parking, and clinical facilities, including a comprehensive breast cancer screening facility.
The Columbia Health Sciences strategic plan unveiled in 2002 includes a framework to guide the medical centers immediate and long-range physical development over the next 20 to 25 years. It provides a vision of the future that could parallel the growth of the medical centers first 75 years.
Aileen Moroney, an Inwood native, is a free-lance writer living in New York City.