Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Hospital Evicted from Orphanage, Moves to McKinley School in 1919

When McKinley Elementary turned 100, you might remember that it had been used as a hospital during the Flu Epidemic of 1918.

It turns out the building was first used in 1919 during the second wave of flu.

January 15th, 1919
And what prompted using the school in this way was not an overwhelming wave of flu cases and any need for an auxiliary building, but was the relocation of Salem Hospital, which at that time was over by the State Hospital, in the former orphanage, located near the Dome Building and former footprint of Breitenbush Hall. The State wanted the land and building, and Salem Hospital had been essentially evicted through Eminent Domain. So at least at this time, as the move into McKinley is being planned, we should not interpret it as a "flu hospital" made necessary by a shocking number of deaths and ill people.

December 31st, 1918
(At this time Salem Hospital was distinct from the entity we now call "Salem Hospital." That earlier Salem Hospital became Salem General, and the Deaconess Hospital became Salem Memorial on Winter Street. They merged in 1969. More recently Salem General closed and much of it has been demolished. The shifting referents for the name "Salem Hospital" is confusing!)

The Legislature was also meeting exactly 100 years ago, and the contagiousness of flu was a consideration for this large assembly of people from around the state. At least some were "vaccinated" in a process that predates discovery of the flu virus by some 15 years and an effective vaccine by 25 years. Who knows what combination of quackery and science was in this early attempt at vaccination! Maybe there will be more to say.

January 14th, 1919
The City was reluctant to dictate too much to the State on public health, and the City had not imposed any terms on the Legislature's public activities.

Back in late December the flu had come back after it had seemed to abate in November.

December 27th, 1918
On December 30th, public gatherings were again restricted.

December 30th, 1918
Many were not happy about this.

December 30th, 1918

December 31st, 1918

January 6th, 1919
Council also created a subcommittee just for the flu.

January 8th, 1919
A Saturday Society column in January could talk about the "fog of social suppression," but it does not sound like ordinary business and commerce was strongly affected, and the weight of public health measures seemed to fall on discretionary activities rather than on more essential activities. New Years Eve dances and parties as well as the gatherings to play bridge were the principal losses, not things like grocery shopping or going to work.

January 11th, 1919
It is hard to discern the full scope of the epidemic's affects, but overall, the effect of the flu in Salem at least at this time in January was not catastrophic. Mortality rates rose, and some families did suffer tragic unexpected deaths, but as a larger force for social and civic disruption it was not yet a calamity. There was more complaining about it than hard news; the Society column could fuss about it, even noting two deaths, but its tone is more about inconvenience than sober assessment of social breakdown or mass death. Salem seems to have been isolated from the worst of it.


Susann Kaltwasser said...

There is a very interesting history of the hospital in Salem in Building B (the old Salem Hospital) on the main floor east side hallway that is next to the skywalk.

Rebwell said...

Funny how a hundred years later people are having the same reaction to quarantine!