Published Works


About this Item

Title: Brooklyniana, No. 16

Creator: Walt Whitman [unsigned in original]

Date: March 29, 1862

Whitman Archive ID: per.00232

Source: Brooklyn Standard 29 March 1862: [1]. Our transcription is based on a digital image of an original issue held in the Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Gaps from damage to the original have been supplied by consulting Emory Holloway, ed. The Uncollected Poetry and Prose of Walt Whitman, 2 vols. New York: Doubleday, 1921. pp. 288–292. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the journalism, see our statement of editorial policy.

Editorial note: This piece is unsigned. However, Emory Holloway identified Whitman as the author of the "Brooklyniana" series, first in an article in the New York Times Magazine (September 17, 1916) and then in The Uncollected Poetry and Prose of Walt Whitman (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Page & Co., 1921), 2:222–321. Holloway's rationale for attribution of the series to Whitman can be found in Uncollected Poetry and Prose, 222 n1. A manuscript leaf in Whitman's hand (loc.00963) contains notes about the Hudson Avenue Hospital in Brooklyn that possibly contributed to this installment of "Brooklyniana."

Contributors to digital file: Brett Barney, Janel Cayer, Ashley Lawson, Liz McClurg, Sarah Walker, and Kevin McMullen

cropped image 1


A Series of Local Articles, on Past and Present.

No. 16.

Brooklyn City Hospital in Raymond Street.—First Hospital Building in Hudson Avenue.—Princely Liberality of Augustus Graham.—Corner Stone laid 1851.—Another Wing Added 1855.—Description of the Edifice.—Cases, &c., During the year 1861.


THE picture above represented puts before the eyes of the reader the local habitation of one of the most useful and humane of all the institutions of our city, namely the Hospital in Raymond street.1 This establishment receives within its benevolent walls about thirteen hundred persons in the course of a year, and though it preserves the character, in the main, of a pay hospital, it has also the character, in proper cases, of a free institution, as far as possible. We understand that the embarrassments in the way of making it entirely free are such that the existing plan has been found necessary, for many important reasons.

The first attempt at a regular public hospital, within the limits of Brooklyn, was about the year 1844. Many of our readers will remember the building [at] that time used for the purpose. It was a large old mansion, appropriately of a light yellow color, in Hudson avenue, (then Jackson street), and had been the residence of Clarence D. Sackett, Esq. It was situated on elevated ground, a little back from the street, and was surrounded by a roomy garden. This was used for two or three years, (1844, '5 &c.).

It is to be mentioned, however, that on the breaking out of cholera, or any violent epidemic, at intervals, for a great many years previous, temporary hospitals were always provided. The last of this kind was during the cholera season of some thirteen years ago, and was in a large frame building adjacent to the northwest corner of Lafayette and Raymond streets.

But it was soon found that the ordinary house accomodations in Hudson avenue were going to be altogether insufficient for what was required; and an attempt was made to do something worthy of the city. Gatherings were called in the churches, and subscriptions sought in every direction. But Brooklyn had not the wealth and public spirit it has now; and the subscriptions were very slack. To urge on matters Augustus Graham,2 continuing the princely liberality that has made his name venerated in so many directions among us, engaged to give for a new Hospital the sum of $30,000, on condition that a like sum should be raised among other parties. In the meantime a charter of incorporation had been obtained (1845) from the Legislature.

As there appeared, after trial, very little prospect of obtaining from the public the outside $30,000, as required by Mr. Graham, the Directors and a few warm friends of the project put their hands in their own pockets and raised a great part of the needed sum. Mr. Graham also revoked the conditions. Upon that the work was considered secure.

Grounds being purchased, (those at present occupied), west of Washington Park, and a plan having been settled on, the cornerstone of the Brooklyn City Hospital was laid in the summer of 1851, and the edifice sufficiently advanced for occupancy and use in the following April, when it was formally opened. Only one wing was completed; the other was left to be built when wanted.

Since then the remaining wing has been added, (in 1855), and many other improvements made. The building now presents, from its elevated and beautiful site, a noble appearance, on Raymond street, a little north of De Kalb Avenue.

Those who have had to do with the establishment of this Hospital may well be satisfied with its present (1862) state of completeness. The entire structure consists of a main or central building, with extensions on the north and south side and presents a front of two hundred feet in length, by fifty-five feet in depth, and is capable of accommodating three hundred patients. The position of the Hospital is one of the finest, and best adapted to the purpose for which it was erected, that could probably be selected. The court-yard is of ample dimensions, and is laid out in walks and ornamented with trees and shrubbery, while the whole is surrounded with an iron railing. In the rear is Washington Park.

The first floor of the main building contains the Trustees' room, office, dining-room and store room, the latter provided with every requisite, and everything arranged and kept in a neat and systematic manner. The second floor contains two rooms for the Superintendent's family, one room for the house surgeon, one ward Dispensary, &c. On the third floor are three private rooms for lady and gentleman patients, with another apartment for the house Physician. The fourth floor contains two wards. In the rear of the central building is the kitchen, divided from the other portion of the house by a wide entry. It contains two ranges, and is neat and tidy in appearance, notwithstanding the cooking for the whole establishment is done here.

The north wing is divided off into wards, both medical and surgical. The extreme northern part is allotted to colored persons.

The south wing is four stories in height. The first floor is divided off into four wards each, about 35 feet square, with a ceiling 14 feet in the clear. These are intended for private patients. At the extreme end is a large corridor, provided with bath rooms, &c. A hall 9 feet wide divides the wards from an apartment in the rear, which is fitted up for a laundry and is heated by two large furnaces. The other floors are similarly divided, and the whole is capable of accommodating about 200 patients.

The entire building is heated by means of hot-air furnaces, is well ventilated, and every apartment is kept scrupulously neat and clean.

The whole of the establishment remains under charge of Dr. Nichols,3 well known for some years past as the Superintendant. We take this opportunity of acknowledging the genuine courtesy of Dr. Nichols toward us, and cheerfully showing us around the wards, &c., during our visits in time past.

It may be as well to mention, in this place, that no case of small-pox, or other infectuous diseases, are received at this Hospital—there being special provision made for them by the county authorities, at Flatbush.

As our readers will no doubt be pleased to hear the exact statistics of the Brooklyn City Hospital, we subjoin them for the year lately closed, 1861:

Whole number who have received the benefits of the
    Hospital for the year..................................... 1256
Of whom were cured.....................................672
Discharged at their own request........................50
Disorderly or eloped...................................120
Remaining 1st of January, 1862.........................124
The number who paid in whole or in part is.......1038
Wholly charity............................................218
There were males.......................................1177

Of the 70 deaths, 37 were Coroner's cases from accidents, leaving the actual number from disease, &c., 33.

Out of those who paid on entering, 26 became charity and remained such on an average 57 days each.

Of the charity patients, 173 were accidents sent by the city. The average time of each accident was 57 days, making for those sent by the city to 1409 weeks, which at $3 per week is $4,227.

The whole number of rations issued during the year is 59,591.

The nativity is as follows:

United States.......520Prussia....   5
Ireland.............344Austria....   4
England and Scotland..145Italy....   3
Germany.............87China....   3
Sweden & Norway.....80Finland....   2
France & Spain......33Mexico....   1
Denmark & Portugal..22 ——
Indies, East & West..6 1256


1. The Brooklyn City Hospital actually acquired its temporary accommodations on Hudson Avenue in October 1846, not in 1844. Whitman is correct about the dates of the cornerstone ceremony (June 1851) and the official opening of the hospital (April 1852). [back]

2. Augustus Graham was an activist and philanthropist in Brooklyn. He owned a brewery for several years, but after he retired he became involved in the temperance movement. He was one of the founders of the Apprentices' Library, which became the Brooklyn Institute and later the Brooklyn Museum of Art under his influence. For an analysis of Graham's possible connections to Whitman through the Brooklyn Institute, see Teresa A. Carbonne, "Ardent, Radical, and Progressive: Augustus Graham, Walt Whitman, and American Art at The Brooklyn Institute," in American Paintings in the Brooklyn Museum: Artists Born by 1876, ed. Teresa A. Carbonne (Brooklyn and London: Brooklyn Museum in association with D. Giles Limited, 2006), 13–25. [back]

3. Robert Nichols, a former general, had helped establish the city hospital in 1839. The hospital eventually became the Brooklyn City Hospital. [back]


Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Matt Cohen, Ed Folsom, & Kenneth M. Price, editors.