We were pleased to read in the paper this week that our friends at Bon Secours were raising funds in anticipation of breaking ground on their own Hospitality House. It will provide lodging for families and patients with 14 guest rooms and two family suites. We wish them the best of luck in providing this incredible resource. We know that their road will be a hard one, but we also know that it can be done.
Our own history is tied very closely to that of the City of Richmond, and to the Medical College of Virginia. We work a great deal with our nearest hospitals and medical facilities, and sometimes it’s neat to look back.
We’ve been in our current digs since 1994, but started off in an 1800’s eight-room brownstone on East Marshall Street. The history of medical care in our area is a little more complicated, and colorful!
Richmond is where it is because of the falls and rapids just blocks from us. It is the farthest North that you can go on the James River with large boats. The early Jamestown settlers and their English brethren started coming here just after 1600. John Rolfe (yes, THAT John Rolfe!) began growing tobacco at Henricus (in present-day Chester) around 1610. Travel at that time was quite an endeavor, and folks who had travelled up the James River were given the opportunity to rest from the stress and illness of their adventures at a guest house established in 1611. There were no real doctors, and locals would make use of the herbs and plants in the area to ease the pains of the patients who made use of our first Hospitality House, known as Mount Malady. Catchy, we know. Henricus was also the home of our first college, and the English home of Pocahontas. Go figure.
Richmond proper didn’t get kicking until 1645 with the establishment of Fort Charles as a trading post. Richmond didn’t become a real city until 1737 when William Byrd II had it surveyed, and renamed it for the English town. The rolling hillsides and view of the river reminded him of his English home.
People in those days took respite in homes and inns, and the practice of medicine generally involved a surgeon visiting your home. Some enterprising practitioners set up rooms in their own homes to see patients, or shared space with a local merchant, but the hospital as we know it didn’t really exist.
University, then a bastion of higher learning, was a good starting point for those wishing to jump the Hippocratic broom, and in June of 1786 the cornerstone was laid for Quesnay’s Academy, for the study of arts and sciences. While the life of the Academy was cut short by the French Revolution, it set the stage for establishing a proper teaching hospital in the city. In 1837 the President and trustees of Hampden-Sydney took over the academy for a medical college. They completed the Egyptian Building on Marshall in 1837, and opened the first Medical College of Virginia with a class of 46. My how they’ve grown. MCV was the only medical school to stay open during the Civil War, and we’re certain they had their hands full.
With the exception of MCV, medical care was still coming courtesy of a horse, buggy, and gentleman with a little black bag. All large facilities were teaching hospitals, and the notion of a single building solely for the care of the sick and wounded was not considered practical. The War Between the States certainly changed that.
Richmond was the Capital of the South, and was also a major hub for people travelling up and down the east coast. Given its location and its proximity to so many battles, it was decided to open Chimborazo Hospital in 1862. They broke ground, began building in earnest, and were caring for 2,000 sick and injured soldiers by the end of their first week. By the end of the second week they were at capacity with 4,000. At one point the Hospital had over 100 wards, a bakery, and a brewery. A pint a day keeps the muskets at bay?
Richmond medicine still pretty much operated out of people’ homes until the dawn of the Twentieth Century. The Children’s Hospital of Richmond started out in the basement of Dr. William Tate Graham’s home on East Franklin Street in 1917.
The Medical College of Virginia, now better known as VCU Medical, is still the centerpiece of our healthcare community. They’ve grown from their 46 students to almost 800, and they feature a staff of over 1,300 teaching faculty. They see thousands of patients in dozens of facilities around our region.
We’ve certainly come a long way from Mount Malady, haven’t we?