Sunday, 28 December 2008


St. Vincent's Hospital has been a local lifesaver since 1849 when its doors first opened in a small house on West Thirteenth Street. In 1857 the hospital expanded to larger premises at 143 West Eleventh Street and has since built a warren of structures across the entire west half of that city block. As the city's third oldest hospital, St Vincent's has had its brushes with history.

Emergency teams awaiting casualties from The World Trade Center tragedy on Sept 11, 2001

In 1899, it became the first hospital in America to offer automobile ambulance service. In 1911 survivors of the Triangle fire were treated here, as were survivors of the sinking of the Titanic the following year. More recently, its Greenwich Village location placed St. Vincent's at the forefront of AIDS treatment and care, as the deadly epidemic wreaked havoc through the 1980's.

Edna St. Vincent Millay, who captivated the Village of the early 1920's

Two poets have been linked to St. Vincent's Hospital. One is Welsh-born Dylan Thomas, who drank at the White Horse Tavern, four blocks to the west along Eleventh Street, and who died in St. Vincent's in 1953. The other is Edna St. Vincent Millay. Just before the poet's birth in Maine in 1892, her mother learned that her own brother in NYC had been stricken with appendicitis. When news reached Rockland, Maine, that the operation had been successful, his grateful sister named her newborn daughter after the hospital that had saved his life.

Her best known poem might be "First Fig" (1920) from "A Few Figs from Thistles."

My candle burns at both ends;

It will not last the night;

But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends

It gives a lovely light!

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