West Philadelphia’s Satterlee Hospital (Part II)

Continued from Part I: 

1869 map showing the Satterlee Hospital site divided into lots for future real estate development. Source: Wikipedia.

1869 map showing the Satterlee Hospital site divided into lots for future real estate development. Source: Wikipedia.

The hard work of Dr. Isaac Israel Hayes and the Roman Catholic Sisters of Charity paid off when the fighting finally stopped in the spring of 1865 and the Union emerged victorious from the Civil War.  Out of the 60,000 patients who passed through Satterlee Hospital, only 260 died of battle wounds and disease.  Sadly, countless veterans who survived American hospitals fell victim to another affliction: opiod addiction.  Faced with limited pain treatment options, Victorian physicians freely injected their patients with morphine to alleviate pain.   Wrote one Union veteran who survived the notorious Confederate prison camp at Andersonville:  “No tongue or pen will ever describe…the depths of horror in which my life was plunged at this time; the days of humiliation and anguish, nights of terror and agony, through which I dragged my wretched being.” According to Horace Day’s estimate in 1868, between 80,000 and 100,000 Americans (north and south) were in the deadly clutches of the poppy-derived morphine molecule.

The Home of the Merciful Savior of Crippled Children, May 25, 1951. 45th and Chester Avenue, on the site of the former Satterlee Hospital.

The Home of the Merciful Savior of Crippled Children, May 25, 1951. 45th and Chester Avenue, on the site of the former Satterlee Hospital.

 

“When bachelor dens cast over waking hours a loneliness so deep,” c. 1904. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

“When bachelor dens cast over waking hours a loneliness so deep,” c. 1904. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

After the war, crews came in and demolished all of the structures on the Satterlee grounds, and the land slowly reverted back to meadow.  Mill Creek continued to rush through the site, draining into a large pond that had once supplied fresh water to the patients.  A few large twin houses sprung up along Baltimore and Chester Avenues during the next two decades, but it wasn’t until the electric trolleys arrived on Baltimore Avenue in the 1890s that the area around Satterlee began to become more densely developed.  The caring religious presence didn’t desert the area after the nuns departed, however.  The Home of the Merciful Savior for Crippled Children, erected at 45th Street and Baltimore Avenue, was organized by a local Episcopal minster and his wife for “the care, support and maintenance of children crippled by disease, accident or in other way.”

To preserve open space in the increasingly crowded streetcar suburb, the Clark family purchased 9 acres of the former Satterlee site from the city for $103,000 and turned into a verdant neighborhood park.    Yet even with the buildings gone, the memory of Satterlee did not fade. In 1916, residents of the area purchased a large stone from the Devil’s Den part of the Gettysburg Battlefield and placed it on the northern edge of Clark Park as a permanent commemoration of the work of Dr. Hayes, his medical staff, and the Sisters of Charity.  Artifacts such as bullets and uniform buttons still occassionally turn up in the dirt.

As for Dr. Isaac Israel Hayes, he did not rest on his laurels after his grueling Civil War work.  Rather, he returned to the frigid polar seas and continued his surveying and mapping work. In 1869, he made a third exploration voyage to the Arctic, cruising around Greenland aboard the brig Panther.  He wrote down his memories of this expedition in his book The Land of Desolation, and lectured frequently about his travels, but not so much about his Civil War record.   Like many men of his generation, he probably wanted to put all of the horrible things he had seen and heard behind him.  He moved to New York and served as a Republican in the New York State Assembly, and was an active member of the American Geographical Society of New York. He died in 1881, aged only 49. He never married.

Sources: 

Anon, Opium Eating: An Autobiographical Sketch by An Habituate (Philadelphia: Claxton, Remsen & Haffelfinger, 1876), p.67.

Dillon J. Carroll, “Civil War Veterans and Opiate Addiction in the Gilded Age,” Journal of the Civil War Era, November 22, 2016.

“Friends of Clark Park.” http://www.friendsofclarkpark.org/about-clark-park/, accessed January 26, 2017.

“Satterlee Artifacts Unearthed,” http://www.friendsofclarkpark.org/category/clark-park/gettysburg-stone/, accessed January 26, 2017.

Hayes, Isaac Israel, Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Volume XI (1881-1890), http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/hayes_isaac_israel_11E.html, accessed January 26, 2017.

“History — The HMS School,” http://hmsschool.org/about/history/, accessed January 26, 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

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