The Penitentiary Hospital

A red cross still marks the entry into Cellblock Three, the penitentiary hospital.
Work continues on the roof covering the 14 bed main or surgical ward (recovery room), which is shown below in operation.
New roofs cover the surgical (main) and convalescing wards. Work begins on the roof covering the pharmacy and doctor's office.
The new roof over the pharmacy and doctor's office is nearly complete.
The original operating room was located in an "extemporized cell." After Eastern doctors treated 272 cases of tuberculosis.
Al Capone had his tonsils removed in Eastern’s operating room in September of 1929.
Capone spent the night in the hospital recovery room. This roof collapsed in a 1953 snowstorm.
2003, $23,000
Status: Complete

Critical stabilization of the roofs over the Operating and Recovery room, protecting these important spaces and allowing for the future restoration and interpretation of the Hospital Block.

The hospital is an amazing area. The beds in the recovery room still stand side by side, lined up next to the headphone jacks that inmates used to listen to radio programs. The huge reflecting lights still hang in the operating room, and the door into the operating room still reads: Dr. Goracci, Medical Director.

Many visitors are surprised to learn that Eastern State Penitentiary had a complete, state of the art hospital. But it makes sense, of course. By the turn of the century, Eastern State was a small self-contained city unto itself, with 1,500 men and women living in an eleven-acre complex of buildings. Many of these inmates were serving life sentences, and would spend their old age behind these walls. They needed medial care.

The prison hospital had outgrown a series of smaller locations, and administrators took the radical step of converting an entire cellblock to a modern hospital. They chose Cellblock Three, one of the original seven wings that John Haviland designed to radiate from the central rotunda. They completed construction in 1903.

This fully modern facility eventually housed an operating room, recovery ward, x-ray equipment and a pharmacy, as well as bacterial and clinical laboratories. A solarium added above the cellblock could treat a growing problem: inmates with tuberculosis.

By 2001, the Operating and Recovery Rooms were in a state of near collapse. Damaged by decades of neglect, time was running out for these intriguing spaces.

Our 2002 Annual Appeal raised $22,000. This funding provided a temporary, wood and rubber membrane roof for the Recovery Room and restored the drainage systems and asphalt shingle roof on the Operating Room. It was completed in January 2004.

Funded by: 2002 Annual Appeal.

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