Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The Hospital and Convalescent Home for Children

One of the repeated questions that come my way have to do with the past life of the building we know as Forest Hall. As part of the question there is almost always a comment regarding the existence of either a morgue or an "asylum." I will discuss the first feature in this post and save the latter feature for another day.

In 1874 the directors of the Children's Hospital of Boston founded a Convalescent Home for Children in Weston. The two institutions were officially linked but were funded and operated separately. Early in the 20th century (c.1904) the Convalescent Home for Children was moved to 251 Forest Street. For the purposes of subsidy funding its name was changed to the Hospital and Convalescent Home for Children. My records on this hospital/home are very skimpy. But it seems that by the 1940s the convalescent home was divided into a nursery, a center for children with cerebral palsy, and a respiratory section for children with polio-related problems (called the Mary MacArthur Memorial Respiratory Unit.) It seems that the initial treatments would occur at the Children's Hospital in Boston and recovery would take place out here.

There were several buildings that were part of the home. The main building which we call Forest Hall was the headquarters building for the home. The building we know as the Sullivan Building was used for open air wards for patients. The Annex which currently houses the offices of Babson Public Safety was a 14 room unit. The existing floor plans and appraisal records of these buildings do not designate any room as the "morgue." That said, this home housed children with a deadly disease. Children in this home certainly died. It is hoped that the families were able to recover their children's remains quickly.

The Salk vaccine made polio almost non-existent in the United States. The hospital/home was closed in 1958 due in part to the polio vaccine but also due to the distance to Children's Hospital which made monitoring other patients difficult. Babson Institute purchased the buildings and land in 1959. The main building was renovated for classroom use, renamed Forrest Hall, and opened for use in the fall of 1960.

Rip

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