Looking Back with Aurore Eaton: The start of Manchester's Elliot Hospital began with a generous gift
Mary Elliot died at the age of 56 in 1880 after a long illness. As the widow of wealthy Manchester physician Dr. John Seaver Elliot, Mary certainly received the best medical care available to anyone. Doctors and nurses would have come to her home on Beech Street to administer to her. For most local citizens, however, good medical care would have been out of reach, as there was no hospital in the city to provide affordable services.
The Women’s Aid Home, operated by the Women’s Aid and Relief Society, provided medical and other charitable assistance, but only to the poor of the city. On occasion a middle-class person was granted admission to the Home, as there was simply no other place for them to go.
With Manchester’s rapidly growing population now exceeding 30,000, there was a pressing need for a general hospital.
As she had no living children, Mary Elliot decided that, upon her death, she would leave the bulk of her wealth to create a modern hospital that would serve the people of Manchester. Her estate also benefited the First Congregational Church in Manchester, where she had worshipped. Mary gave her fine home at 590 Beech St. to serve as the First Congregational’s parsonage, and also donated money to the church to help the poor and to pay off the debt owed for building the brick church on the corner of Hanover and Union streets, completed in 1879.
Mary gave $2,000 to the City of Manchester to set up a fund to buy medical books and periodicals for the public library. These would be accessible to local doctors so they could be kept up-do-date on the latest research. She also gave a sum of money to a cousin, Ann Maria Moore. After indicating these distributions, Mary’s will stated that she left, “All the remainder of my estate, of every description, for the establishment and maintenance of a hospital at said Manchester to be known as the Elliot Hospital.”
At the time of Mary’s death, it was estimated that the value of the estate was around $60,000, a tremendous sum for the period. These funds would not be available for some time, however, as Mary had made sure to provide for her beloved mother, Mrs. Mary Batchelder. According to the will’s provisions, Mrs. Batchelder could reside in the Elliot home and enjoy the income from the estate as long as she lived. When Mrs. Batchelder died in 1884, she left a generous bequest of $8,000 to support the hospital project.
The Elliot Hospital’s trustees met for the first time in May 1880, and the institution was formally incorporated in July 1881. According to Mary Elliot’s specifications, the board of trustees was made up of the Mayor of Manchester and the President of the Common Council (now the Board of Aldermen), and one trustee each elected from the Hanover Street Congregational Church, the Franklin Street Congregational Church, St. Paul’s Methodist Episcopal Church, the First Baptist Church, the Pine Street Free-will Baptist Church, and Grace Episcopal Church. As Mary Elliot expressed in her will, “…I have confidence that said trustees will faithfully and wisely administer the trust, and thereby induce others to largely contribute to the funds of the hospital, and make it a great and lasting blessing to this city.”
In March 1886, the trustees purchased the 27-acre Robert Hall estate situated on an elevation about 1½ miles southeast of City Hall (the site of the current hospital). The beautiful Gothic-revival brick Elliot Hospital building was completed in April 1890. The building was designed by architect Frederick Stickney of Lowell, Mass., who specialized in designing schools, hotels and high-society homes. He had studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and had worked in the New York office of the famous architectural firm of Ware and Ban Brunt. In 1890, Mr. Stickney was also creating the design for the new Lowell city library building, a grand Romanesque-style stone structure that still stands today. The contractor on the Elliot Hospital building was Almon F. Cate of Manchester. He was a graduate of Dartmouth College and had built several important structures in the city, including the police headquarters and schools.
Next week: The Elliot Hospital’s grand opening is a three-day event.
Aurore Eaton is the Executive Director of the Manchester Historic Association. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.