St. Vincent's was the city's first voluntary hospital for the poor, founded in 1849 by a Catholic order, the Sisters of Charity. It aided victims of the cholera and tuberculosis epidemics that swept downtown in repeated waves. In 1911, it treated survivors of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire that killed 146 after bosses locked the doors to keep out union organizers; a year later, it took in survivors of the Titanic.
It was where the lowly, the mighty, and the garden-variety zany denizens of downtown were born, cared for, and died. Edna St. Vincent Millay, the Village poet who first proclaimed the lovely light of a candle burned at both ends, was given the hospital's name after it saved her uncle's life. It was where Gregory Corso—the beat poet who "sang Italian songs as sweet as Caruso and Sinatra," as Jack Kerouac said—was born in 1930.
St. Vincent's was where yet another poet, Dylan Thomas, was taken after he collapsed at the White Horse Tavern in 1953. He didn't make it. But the hospital revived Ed Koch when the mayor suffered a fainting spell in 1983. Its doctors repaired Johnny Ramone the same year after an angry fellow musician split his skull in a pre-dawn argument. They did what they could for Daryl Cabey, paralyzed by a slug from subway shooter Bernie Goetz's pistol after he opened up on four youths aboard a downtown IRT train rumbling below the hospital.
It was where owners of the Village's legendary nightclubs drew their last breaths: Barney Josephson, of Café Society, and Bradley Cunningham, of Bradley's, both in 1988; Max Gordon, of the Village Vanguard, just down the street, went in '89. So, too, the Village's last political boss, Carmine DeSapio, who passed away there in 2004.
It was church-run, and for years, a morning prayer was broadcast for patients and staff. Conservative archbishops held sway over policies. But by accident of geography, it played the closest of roles in the lives, and deaths, of its many gay neighbors. St. Vincent's is where they brought Diego Vinales, martyr of the Stonewall riots of 1969 that changed gay life in America. Vinales fell from the roof of the Charles Street precinct while fleeing police. Hundreds of candle-bearing demonstrators held vigil outside as he lay in a coma before he died.
« Older Weighing 607 pounds, Bruce Snowdon was a sideshow ... | Sonic the Hedgehog, mmmmm yeah... Newer »
This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments
Buy a Shirt