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Evans, the past year, offered the city ten thousand dollars, the income of which was to be appropriated for the benefit of persons injured in the city service. This was to be on condition that the location should be where now established, towards the southerly end of the South Bay Lands, which he has been so instrumental in creating. Inquiries have been instituted of late on two several occasions, by conveyancers, which indicated the benevolent intentions of persons of wealth to make still farther provision for it by gift or bequest. When the institution is once in successful operation, that charity and public spirit which are so characteristic of men of affluence among us will select this as an appropriate object for still farther endowment.
These arguments and others equally difficult to resist, strengthened by the number and character of the petitioners who have so long urged upon the city government to establish a hospital, and whose earnestness in the cause seems little to abate, compelled us to the faith that the question of expediency remained where it was left by the Report of 1857, absolutely closed, and that the only subjects for us to consider were the location, erection, and organization.
Towards the close of the last municipal year about two thirds of the area at present fixed upon for the location, bounding on Albany Street, as laid out, and extending about four hundred feet towards Harrison Avenue, was assigned by the board of land commissioners, with the approval of the City Council, for the site of the proposed hospital. Many members of both branches would have preferred, for various reasons, a different position, one more central and elevated, more open to deep water, and on a natural formation. Our Committee entertained the same opinion, and the City and Consulting Physicians coinciding, the subject was reopened, and the Land Commission, to whom the question was referred, gave us a hearing, at which our medical advisers were present. The terms and condition of the will of Mr. Goodnow, confining the location to Wards Eleven or Twelve, and the only suitable sites at South Boston appearing to us to be too remote for the object, our choice was confined to the South Bay Lands. We accordingly endeavored to effect a change of location to the neighborhood of Malden Street, in front of the open bay, and much nearer the centre of population. The objections offered proved that this would not be practicable, and it was finally concluded to extend the location, already made, up to Harrison Avenue.
The lot is now bounded northwestwardly on the Avenue 454 feet, southwestwardly on Springfield Street 630 feet, southeastwardly on Albany Street 452 feet, and northeastwardly on Concord Street 658 feet. It contains an area of 291,000 feet, or about six acres and seven tenths. Opposite its centre, on the other side of the Avenue, is Worcester Park. Between Albany Street and the water there is no probability of any building being erected to intercept the view or free circulation of air, as this space will probably be retained by the City, and leased, so as not to lose the control over it. Though made land, the present surface is seven feet above the original formation or marsh level, and the streets at a grade of full seventeen feet above mean low-water mark. It is believed to be sufficiently consolidated to afford secure foundations for a heavy building, piles being driven to the usual depth.
We consider the dimensions of this area none too large, and quite consistent with a judicious economy. It is true that the South Bay Lands have cost the city treasury nearly one million of dollars for about seventy acres of original marsh, or land redeemed from the sea. The market is glutted with buildinglots on the Back Bay, and water-power territories, and many years must elapse befere the city lands command a remunerating price. The more limited the quantity offered for sale, and the more attractive we render the neighborhood, the larger will be the amounts eventually realized. If the hospital buildings are ornamental, and the grounds extensive and tastefully disposed, this liberality will be amply compensated by the enhanced value of the lands which remain for sale. The importance of open spaces for light and the free circulation of air from the water is too obvious to dwell upon, and we think there can be but
one opinion as to the propriety of securing, while in our power, all the area that we need. Should inconvenience be experienced by proximity to the docks, a belt of evergreens on that side will be an important barrier against noxious effluvia. We doubt not that other remedies will be found, should these prove a more serious evil than is at present anticipated.
If Boston continues to prosper, the South Bay must in time be surrounded by a large population. The trade, already considerable, that finds its way through the five bridges over Fort Point channel to its wharves, will be greatly increased. Fuel, building materials, and the numerous articles needed for such branches of industry as may be established around its margin, will give new life to this sheet of water. Its area, which in 1852 was three hundred and forty-five acres, is now about three hundred. When the extension of Albany Street is completed it will be two hundred and sixty; and if filled up to the harbor lines, proposed by the commissioners to the legislature in 1854, will be but one hundred and sixty-five. The wisdom of thus reducing the capacity of the bay as a tidal reservoir may be reasonably questioned. Its mischievous consequences, however, may be lessened by excavation. The channel in front of the new city wharves has been deepened to six feet below mean low-water mark. Were the whole bay excavated to this depth, or even to ten feet, which would be more desirable, it would answer far better the purposes of navigation, all its shores being equally accessible to vessels of burden. This would contribute greatly to the salubrity of the air, since sewerage exposed to the sun upon the flats laid bare at low water, would load it with deleterious exhalations. It would make the location selected for the hospital much more eligible; for invalids are peculiarly sensitive to atmospheric influences, and no agency is of more efficacy for their restoration to health than that the air they breathe should be pure and wholesome. This is even of greater importance, in surgical cases, as a safeguard against gangrene and erysipelas.
Indeed, were we not convinced that the South Bay will in time be excavated, we should hesitate to recommend the erection of
the hospital on the proposed location. The accumulation of sewerage would soon make the bay an intolerable cesspool, pregnant with disease, until like the Back Bay, diverted from its legitimate uses as a public highway and tidal reservoir, it would fall a prey to the encroachment of the Commonwealth and riparian proprietors, and be filled up. In a harbor like our own formed mainly by the tidal wash, the Charles and Mystic yielding but a small proportion of the scour which ebbs and flows through its channels, changes should be ventured upon with extreme caution. But should there ever be found along these estuaries such compensations as have been recommended by the United States Commissioners, permitting the use of the bay as a full basin, it could be closed with gates at little cost. The water might then be maintained at sufficient height to prevent miasmata, and the opening of the gates for the passage of vessels, two hours at high flow and ebb, would freshen its whole mass. This would add much to the beauty of that part of our city, creating an inner water space that may rival the celebrated Inner Alster of Hamburg
It would still further contribute to the healthiness of both Roxbury and Boston, if the drains should empty into capacious sewers, of little height, constructed with several strong parallel arches under Albany Street and Harrison Avenue to discharge at low tide at Dover Street bridge, or what would be on many accounts more judicious, if as is believed practicable, at a cost commensurate with the advantages to be gained, into Dorchester Bay. The water of the basin could then be used at stated periods to flush these sewers and sweep their more solid contents to the sea. Perhaps with the rapid march of improvement these would be turned to account, and employed as in other countries, to fertilize the soil.
We lament the distance of the site selected from the centre of population. This inconvenience will be obviated in some measure by distributing about the city ambulance wagons, contrived for the purpose of carrying to the hospital, without jar or exposure, patients unable to endure the motion of ordinary vehicles; upon their arrival they can be raised without exertion by the lift to the wards. Telegraph wires, connecting the hospital with the office of the City Physician and Station Houses, will save parties the necessity of direct application to the superintendent, and economize moments often fraught with life or death in cases of casualty or critical disease.
Although in February the signs of the times were somewhat unpropitious for the undertaking of new enterprises attended with expense, yet intending nevertheless to recommend the immediate commencement of the work, we advertised for plans, offering a premium of three hundred dollars for the best. Fourteen were offered of various degrees of merit, essentially differing in arrangement, and embracing a wide scope for selection. These were carefully examined and studied by the Committee, the City and Consulting Physicians, and by several of the original petitioners. At the time they were submitted, in April, the attack on Sumter had plunged us into civil war, and discouraging expenditures not absolutely unavoidable, we allowed ourselves ample time to understand them thoroughly before pronouncing on their comparative deserts. All of them evinced so much thought, intelligence, and professional skill, such a nice appreciation of what was required, that we were long at a loss to determine which could claim the pre-eminence. They were generally accompanied by explanations at length, embodying much valuable learning on hospital science. We finally concluded to approximate to a decision by a reversed process, one after another being rejected, until the selection was narrowed to three or four.
At this point the Committee remained long undecided, opinions being at variance as to which was absolutely best. Not otherwise hoping to arrive at any conclusion, upon consultation with the competitors, between whom in our judgment the premium fell, it was determined to award the first plan, with two hundred dollars, to Mr. Bryant; the second, with one hundred dollars, to Mr. Ropes. The plan of the former seemed not only best adapted for a general hospital and the treatment of every variety of disease, from the isolation of its several pavilions, but to com