Methodist Episcopal Hospital
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263 Seventh Avenue at 6th Street
Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215
On January 27, 1881, the Methodist Episcopal newspaper, The Christian Advocate, printed a piece by its influential editor, James Monroe Buckley. Buckley had been a church pastor in Connecticut just before his election as editor. The editorial related the unhappy story of the organist at Buckley's former charge. The organist, visiting New York City, was struck by a panicked team of horses and died because there was no adequate hospital care available.
This tragedy spurred Buckley to call for the establishment of a hospital, the first in Methodism. As Buckley wrote, "it is about time the Methodist Episcopal church erected a hospital somewhere in this world."
George I. Seney, son of a Methodist minister, read Buckley's editorial challenge and responded. Seney purchased a large plot of land, encompassing 16 lots on Seventh Avenue to Eighth Avenue, from 6th to 7th Streets, in what was then called Prospect Heights, now Park Slope. In August 1881, he presented the land to the City of Brooklyn and $100,000 to start building the hospital. It would be incorporated as "The Methodist Episcopal Hospital of the City of Brooklyn," to be known as the Seney Hospital, in memory of George Seney’s father. Mr. Seney announced that this new hospital would open to Jew and gentile, Protestant and Catholic, heathen and infidel. There would be no discrimination between races or ethnic groups, and anyone who needed care would be served.
Seney and his committee announced that a contest would be held to choose an architect. There were three finalists, and they chose the designs of J. Mumford, Jr., a local architect about whom very little information seems to exist. He would design nine separate buildings for the hospital complex, and construction was to begin on the first three immediately. On September 20, 1882, the cornerstone was laid with great pomp and ceremony, with Mayor Seth Low leading a group of church and civic dignitaries. Much was made of the munificence of George Seney, the generosity of his gift, and what a fine man he was, and what a fine hospital this would be, located on the edge of Prospect Park.
The idea did meet with some criticism from those who believed that the denomination should focus on building churches and preaching the Gospel. However, the late nineteenth century was an era when churches were increasingly involved in social outreach, and support for the hospital came from many quarters.
That support was especially welcome when George Seney suffered financial reversals and other backers were needed. The partially completed buildings were boarded up for several years while the money was raised. Construction began again in the spring of 1887. The first buildings were dedicated on December 15, and the first patient was admitted four days later.
The hospital’s official name was changed to the "Methodist Hospital of Brooklyn" in 1969, after the Methodist Episcopal Church joined with two other branches of Methodism to form the United Methodist Church (UMC). Thereafter, the hospital became independent of the church, although it has retained a traditional relationship with the UMC and is recognized as a National Shrine by the UMC. In 1993, the Hospital joined the New York Hospital Care Network, which later became the NewYork-Presbyterian Healthcare System. At that time, the Hospital, which became an affiliate of the Weil Cornell Medical College, officially changed its name to New York Methodist Hospital.