Cable Hospital in Ipswich

126 County Road, Benjamin Stickney Cable Memorial Hospital (1916-1987)

Construction of the Benjamin Stickney Cable Memorial Hospital was begun at the intersection of Essex and County Roads on the former Kimball estate, known in Colonial times as Windmill Hill. Richard Teller Crane Jr. purchased the land on which the building sits and made a further donation of $145,000 to the construction fund. The Georgian Revival building was designed by noted hospital architect Edward F. Stevens and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The facility was doubled in size in 1961, but was converted into residential units in 1987.

Hospital girls
Hospital Girls, 1908. Front Row left to right, Frances Hull Frazier, Beatrice Huntington Murry, Ruth Dodge Dolan, Harriet Robinson, Irene Brackett Smith, Velma Cannery Curtis and Althea Nason Wilder. Back row, left to right: Marion Buck Ross, Hilda Joyce Schofield, Olive Dexter Martin, Grace Trask Hill, Madeline Hayes Tozer, Nellie Judge Cole, Mildred Howard Mitchell.

Communicable diseases were rampant in the United States before the 20th Century, and most communities relocated infected people to buildings designated as “pest houses.” In 1804 the Ipswich Pest House is reported to have been been moved from Scott’s Hill to Town Farm Road. Ipswich residents needing treatment that a local physician could not provide went to hospitals in Danvers, Salem and Beverly.

In 1908, several girls in the Ipswich eight grade began a fundraising campaign to buy an ambulance and build a hospital in Ipswich. Their fundraising campaign continued for several years, even after their graduation from Manning High School as the class of 1912.

The Board of Health advised the town in 1909 that some action should be taken to provide a building for a Contagious Hospital, but Town Meeting took no action. In the same year, the legislature mandated that cities and towns provide such hospitals for the care of tuberculosis and other diseases dangerous to the public health. The appearance of diphtheria and scarlet fever among mill workers in 1913 necessitated the opening of a contagious hospital in September of that year at “111 Steep Bank.” The hospital was kept open for eleven weeks in 1912 and 7 weeks in 1913, with the cases being under the care of the town physician. (*I have been unable to determine the location of Steep Banks, referenced in the Ipswich Annual Report, 1913). The Board of Health opened Tuberculosis Camps at Town Farm and on High Street, and the polio epidemic was also becoming a concern.

The girls’ endeavor was advanced through the generosity of owners of two of the town’s great estates. An ambulance was contributed in 1910 by Mr. James H. Proctor to transport patients to the hospitals in Salem and Beverly. The Ipswich Hospital Corporation was incorporated on July 28, 1910 with the objective of building a hospital in town.

The Richard T. Crane family

In 1915, Richard Teller Crane, Jr. was injured in an automobile accident when the car he was driving was struck by a car driven by a Milton resident at the intersection of the Newburyport Turnpike and Linebrook Rd. in Ipswich. One of his passengers was Benjamin Stickney Cable, president of the United Charities of Chicago and assistant Secretary of commerce and labor under President Taft. Mr. Cable was thrown from the car, which rolled over on him, and was taken to Dr. McGinley’s office in Ipswich, but he died from his injuries. Mr. Crane was convinced that had there been a hospital in Ipswich, his friend might have been saved. It is said that Crane was so distraught that he never drove again.

Cable Hospital construction
Cable Hospital as construction is being completed.
Cable Hospital grounds before the addition was added.
Photo taken in 1925 of all the babies who had been born at Cable Hospital in Ipswich
Photo taken in 1925 of all the babies who had been born at Cable Hospital, courtesy of Mike Smith. Photo taken by Smith and Russell, Ipswich MA.

Dedication of Ipswich Hospital

from The Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, July – December 1917

The building of the Benjamin Stickney Cable Hospital at Ipswich Mass was dedicated on August 4, 1917 with appropriate exercises. This hospital is the gift of Richard T. Crane Jr. and Mrs. Crane to the town of Ipswich. It has an endowment of $30,000. It accommodates twenty patients, and to those who cannot pay, its services are free.

Mrs. Helen S Chapman, a graduate of the Massachusetts General Training School is superintendent, and local doctors will be on the active staff. The trustees have offered the hospital to the government as a base hospital if need arises, and the hospital then can be made to accommodate one and fifty beds.

Herbert Warren Mason is president of the board of trustees, Rev.T. Waters secretary and Howard N. Doughty treasurer. Physicians on the active staff are Dr. G.G. Bailey, Dr. Frank L Collins, George E. MacArthur and Dr. M.C. McGinley.

Staff at Cable Hospital (photo courtesy of Scott Collum)

Cable Hospital physicians

from Municipal History of Essex County in Massachusetts, Volume 2

Dr. George G. Bailey born in Rowley, graduated at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and the Harvard Medical School established his Ipswich practice in 1897.

Dr. Michael C. McGinley was born at Adirondack, New York, attended the University of Vermont and the Baltimore Medical College. In 1904 he located in Ipswich where he became the town physician.

Dr. Frank L. Collins was born in Warren, Maine, and graduated from the medical school at Bowdoin College. He settled in Ipswich in 1916 after a year’s internship at the Salem Hospital.

Dr George E. MacArthur born in Camden Maine and graduated from the University of Vermont. He settled in Ipswich in 1888, was a member of the Ipswich school committee for more than twenty years and served as chairman of the Ipswich Board of Health and school physician.

National Guard tents at Cable Hospital in Ipswich Ma during the 1918 flu epidemic
In 1918 a severe influenza epidemic hit, and did not spare Ipswich. The infected were kept in tents on the hospital grounds.

Sources and further reading:

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