Every year since Children's Hospital was first incorporated in 1870 has been a growth year for the facility.
The hospital began "it's career of usefulness," as a Jaunary, 1876, history of the institution recounts, in rented quarters at 13th and F Streets, NW, opening on Feb. 11, 1871. The 12-bed site was quickly outgrown, and the next year a larger house at 805 E St. NW was rented, increasing the number of beds to 35. That, too, was soon too small, and a new 67-bed hospital was completed in 1879. The cost of the new structure was $23,662.22.
About 10 years later, in 1890, the first major addition to the hospital was completed, increasing its capacity to 102 beds. Reflecting advances in the treatment of newborns, a 12-bed infant ward was opened in 1984 to provide intensive care for sick babies.
Another 20 years passed before East and West wing buildings were erected at the hospital in 1910. The buildings were the gifts of the Nairn family, a memorial to John W. Nairn.
As the hospital continued to expand, additional specialized wards and clinics were constructed to meet growing demands. Among the early additions were the Pathological Laboratory in 1914, an Infantile Paralysis Clinic in 1916, a reorganized Dietary Department in 1921, and the Dental Clinic in 1923. For more room, the Central Building was built in 1924.
The need for space continued unabated. In 1945 the West Annex was added, increasing the X-ray and laboratory facilities, and providing an extra 20 rooms for private care. The capacity of Children's at that time was 225. The following year the original 1979 building was declared unsafe for use, resulting in a major-fund-raising drive that provided the money to open the new Main Building on Dec. 21, 1952.
Adolescent patients were first admitted to the hospital in 1956, further complicating problems of space. A house on the corner of 13th and V Streets NW was purchased to accommodate the Department of Psychiatry, and in 1959 a research facility was constructed on the site.
The purchase and modification of several other former homes, the construction of scattered research and diagnostic facilities, and the continually increasing demand for more space led the hospital's board of directors to a milestone decision to rebuild and relocate in 1968.
Congressional legislation enacted at the time encouraged the board with the promise of low-cost government loans for hospital construction. Children's Hospital was specifically listed in legislation for an $11 million grant and a loan of the same amount. An offer from the Washington Hospital Center to lease Children's seven acres of land across from the McMillan Resevoir for 99 years at $1 an acre was accepted.
Plans for the new structure were quickly adopted, and, after more than six years of construction, the Children's Hospital National Medical Center was dedicated by President Jimmy Carter on March 6, 1977. The dynamic, silver-windowed 260-bed facility at 111 Michigan Ave. NW cost about $58 million to build.
Compared to the old buildings at 13th and W Streets NW, the new Michigan Avenue building has twice the space as the old, almost twice the number of intensive care beds and enough room for at least one parent to stay overnight with the patient.
The 1977 building "was created on the premise that a child is a special person," according to hospital literature. Gone were the cheerless, drab surroundings of the old clinics, replaced by a brightly painted, color-coordinated national medical center. Designed to meet the emotional needs ot children, it is complete equipped to offer the most modern pediatric care and treatment.
Since its inception more than 100 years ago, all these facilities have been available to all children, without regard to race or creed, or the ability of a patient's parents or guardians to pay for medical services. The hospital is required by law to provide free or low cost health care to needy patients, and members "of our credit department will work out a plan that will meet . . . ayour ability to pay."
That's why Children's is known as "the hospital with the built-in deficit," and that's why we use this space to appeal for tax-deductible donations to continue providing low-cost medical care. Every penny sent to Children's contributes to this worthy cause. Please help.