Building the future, honoring the past

While MVHS’s regional healthcare campus in Downtown Utica represents the future, it also presents a unique opportunity to connect to the origins of those hospitals that have come together to enhance the community’s well-being. How the project can honor the community’s history, even as it focuses on the future, has been lost in the discussion about #mvhsdowntown.

Consider the following:

MVHS brings together three hospitals: St. Elizabeth, St. Luke’s and Faxton (and, by extension, other preceding institutions: the Children’s Hospital, Utica Memorial Hospital, and others). Interestingly, the building of a new healthcare campus on Columbia and Lafayette streets represents a return to the historical roots of all three.

St. Elizabeth Hospital Columbia Street undated

St. Elizabeth, Utica’s first private hospital, began in 1866 when a Franciscan nun, Mother Bernardina, admitted the first patient to a Columbia Street house. That signature event was followed by decades of expansion, with the opening of additional buildings on Columbia Street (Above, an undated photo of the hospital on Columbia). Eventually, the hospital outgrew its location, and the beginnings of the current St. Elizabeth campus were completed in 1915 on Genesee Street, on acreage located at that time in New Hartford.

St. Luke’s also started on Columbia Street, when Truman K. Butler donated a building under construction to the institution that opened in 1869 as St. Luke’s Home, which was founded by Grace Church parishioners to be a home for elderly women. In 1872, St. Luke’s Home added a second building and admitted its first patient. Growth and expansion prompted its relocation, first to Whitesboro Street in 1905, and, in 1957, to its current Champlin Avenue campus.

Theodore Faxton undated portraitFaxton Hospital’s founder and benefactor, Theodore S. Faxton, is a part of Lafayette Street’s history—although the institution that bears his name did not start there. Born in Massachusetts as Theodore Saxton Faxon (he was the first in the family to insert the “t”), Faxton came to the Utica area in the early 1800s. As a young man, he was a stagecoach driver; and, in 1825, Faxton drove the Marquis de Lafayette’s ceremonial coach at the head of a great procession from Whitesboro to Utica—down what had been called Rome Street until Lafayette’s historic visit prompted its renaming. Later in life, having succeeded in several business enterprises, Faxton lived in a grand house at the corner of Lafayette Street and Broadway; thanks to his generosity, Faxton Hospital was established on Sunset Avenue in 1875.

None of the Columbia-Lafayette street buildings described above remain—Faxton’s mansion, for example, was demolished in the early 1900s—but the project now under development will build on their pioneering 19th-century work, as the new MVHS serves our region’s 21st-century healthcare needs.

A vision for the community’s future that honors the city’s healthcare history—that’s #mvhsdowntown.


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