The first annual report on the financial status of Children's Hospital was issued in 1872.
The board of directors congratulated themselves and "all connected with the hospital upon the unexpected success which has attended their united efforts and energies, starting in the midst of a people to whom even the necessity of such an institution was unknown, and without any funds except those which were derived from casual and small subscriptions. Such a result," they wrote, "was not to be expected.
"Our hopes, however, have been more than fulfilled and the Children's Hospital is today a permanent charity of our city."
Our story has even an earlier beginning. In 1870, Dr. Samuel Clagett Busey, director of the Department of Diseases of Infants at Columbia Hospital for Women, became convinced of the "propriety of an attempt to establish a hospital for these (children) patients." His efforts resulted in the incorporation, for 20 years, of Children's Hospital on Dec. 5, 1870, for the "gratuitous medical and surgical treatment of indigent children without distinction of race, sex, or creed."
Within a decade the original 12-bed Children's was outgrown, so in 1879 a new, 67-bed facility opened at 13th and W Sts. NW. In 1887, medical instruction and classes began at Children's. The culmination of their independent training classes came in 1968 when the hospital became affiliated with George Washington University's College of Medicine.
The need for Children's Hospital, so evident even at the publication of the first annual report in 1872, resulted in the decision in 1884 to amend the hospital's charter and incorporate it for a 1,000 years. The amended bylaws once again affirmed the hospital's commitment to free or low-cost medical care for children whose parents were unable to pay.
The new hospital objectives included: (1) The medical and surgical treatment of sick children; (2) Instruction in the diseases of children; and (3) Instruction of young women in the duties of nursing.
The hospital continued to grow, constantly expanding the scope of its work and introducing new ideas. In 1910 the revolutionary concept of permitting overnight stays by parents was introduced.Today, "rooming in" is a standard procedure at the hospital, and nearly every room contains parental accomodations.
Another barrier broken was the establishment of supervised play areas. The first recreation supervisor at Children's justified the concept, saying, "In these many varied and enchanting distractions, pains and aches are forgotten." Today, some of the best views overlooking the McMillan Reservoir from Children's location at 111 Michigan Ave. NW are seen from the windows of the playrooms that spread sunshine on every wing.
During the 1920s the hospital opened a dental clinic and construction was completed on a new central building. The creation of the Social Service Department coincided with the beginning of the Depression.
Little more than a decade later, polio ravaged unprecedented numbers of children in the metropolitan area. Children's Hospital treated about 90 percent of the polio victims in Maryland, Virginia and the District. The hospital also served as the regional distribution center for gamma globulin, used to immunize against polio.
In 1947 the Research Foundation of Children's Hospital was established to conduct investigations into major child health problems. Five years later a new main building was started, and the following year the Hearing Clinic was founded. For the next 25 years the hospital fought a losing battle to provide space for the number of admissions it attracted.
The decision to rebuild and relocate was finally reached in 1968, and the staff waited anxiously for 10 years until the Michigan Ave. complex was constructed. The new, mirror-surfaced hospital was dedicated by President Carter on March 6, 1977, almost 105 years after Children's first opened.
Since that opening, Children's Hospital has remained true to its first calling -- "the gratuitous treatment of indigent children." Readers are asked each year in this space to contribute towards the continuation of that great work. The hospital has about 904 years of corporate life still ahead of it. Every year the citizens of Our Town have come through for Children's. Let's do it again.