Remembering the Lodge: Chautauqua’s own hospital, 1912–1922


COURTESY OF CHAUTAUQUA INSTITUTION ARCHIVES
In a photo estimated to have been taken between 1920 and 1929, two teachers and a group of students from the Children’s School observe animals in a coop. The Lodge (emergency hospital) appears in background to the left.

This week, 21st-century Chautauquans explore “Health Care: Reform and Innovation.” Health concerns were also very much on the minds of Chautauquans near the end of the 19th century. Today’s discussion is one of a complex, sophisticated health care system; in the 19th century, it was a discussion of water purification and sewage systems. Today, it’s asking how to organize an effective, affordable health care system; in the 19th century, it was asking how to eliminate contagious disease and treat Chautauquans who may be far from home.

Along with improvements in the Institution’s water supply and sewage removal, one surprising advancement in health care was the Institution’s decision to build its own hospital: the Lodge.

A July 1912 article in The Chautauquan Daily described the Lodge in terms perhaps better suited to an elegant retreat in a bucolic heaven: “Situated on the highest point of Chautauqua, in the northeast corner of the grounds, to be more exact, and facing a beautiful vista of lake and shore beyond, one could hardly ask for a more attractive spot.“

“The building itself is picturesque and of the prevailing order of architecture, brown shingles and white columns combining to give one a sense of artistic harmony, cleanliness and comfort,” the article continued. “It would not be half bad to be sick if one could have such pleasant surroundings and gaze out on so pretty a lake picture as is presented from the front porch of the Lodge.”

But a hospital it was. That same issue of The Chautauquan Daily emphasizes that the Lodge was an emergency hospital that settled health care, “one of the most vexed problems which has presented itself at Chautauqua.”

“Chautauqua is in no sense a sanitarium,” the article continued. “At present the Lodge is prepared to care for only non-contagious cases, the latter having to be looked after in another place. It is expected that there will be erected also, at a little distance from the main building, a building for the care of contagious disease.”

The price of medical care is always a timely interest. A local New York paper reported that the hospital, which cost approximately $20,000, was financed by a trio of doctors: W.S. Bainbridge, James A. Babbitt and J.B. Seaver.

Though the Institution owned the hospital and the land it was built on, the plan guaranteed the physicians 5 percent of the money advanced.

The three doctors supervised the hospital, though the Lodge’s board was chaired by Arthur E. Bestor.

There were a number of doctors who had offices on the grounds, but they could also care for their patients in this state-of-the-art facility. The Lodge was equipped with an operating room, a laboratory with microscopes, testing equipment and sterilizing rooms. Men and women were kept separate in the hospital, which had between 25 and 30 beds.

What happened to the Lodge? Jon Schmitz, Institution archivist and historian, said that the Lodge closed in 1922, yet it did not meet the bulldozer. Perhaps the attractiveness of the building and its site saved it.

The Lodge housed the Institution’s Home Economics Program in 1923, and in subsequent years served as a dormitory. On Aug. 14, 1986, the building was named the Carnahan-Jackson Dance Studio.

Today, the Westfield Memorial Hospital clinic meets the immediate medical needs of Chautauquans. The building, located on Roberts near the Amphitheater, opened in 1969. It is open from 8 to 11:30 a.m. and from noon to 2:30 p.m. Monday to Friday.