Lane Library

Chapter XXVI. Lane Hospital 1895

Lane Hospital 1895

When the project to double the size of the original College building was completed in 1890, the classrooms and laboratories of the school were among the best in the country. Yet Dr. Lane believed that the College required additional facilities if it was to realize his dream of self-sufficiency and supremacy for the school. At the meeting of the Board of Directors on 18 March 1892 Dr. Lane stated enigmatically that he "contemplated improvements in the form of an extension of Cooper Medical College." He made no reference to the nature of the "improvements." until he delivered his "Annual Report of the President" to the Board almost a year later on 23 January 1893.

In that Report Dr. Lane stated, with obvious pride, that "During the year which has just elapsed the number of matriculates was one hundred and seventy-eight, a greater number of students than at any previous time in the history of the College. There were thirty-eight graduates; the proficiency of these as well as of the Junior and Freshmen, was in general of a high order. " He then added:

To increase the efficiency in the work of Clinical Instruction, I will soon create a hospital on the grounds of the Corporation, with facilities for caring for about one hundred patients; and the funds for erecting the hospital will be furnished by myself.

Dr. Lane was so concerned with preserving a detailed account of his planning and building of the hospital that he left among his personal papers a small notebook containing an "Historical Sketch of Lane Hospital." It would be unpardonable not to pass along his observations by paraphrasing generous excerpts from the Sketch: [1]

In 1882 the Medical College of the Pacific underwent an important transformation. In that year, I constructed a College building at the corner of Webster and Sacramento Streets from my private resources. The Medical College of the Pacific was then converted into the present institution known as Cooper Medical College and moved to the new building.

After opening Cooper Medical College, the growth of the College was so rapid that the new building did not furnish adequate accommodations. Therefore, in 1890, I caused an annex to be erected and adjoined to the new building, doubling its capacity at a cost of over one hundred thousand dollars exclusive of the land on which it was built.

In the building thus enlarged there was sufficient room for instruction in all the branches with the exception of clinical or bedside teaching. It was finally apparent that to make Cooper College a school where the student could have every possible opportunity for a perfect medical education, one thing more was necessary - this was ready access to a hospital in which clinical instruction could be given.

Although such facilities had been enjoyed for some years at the County Hospital, the long distance to that institution involved a great loss of time in transit to both professors and students. This made another arrangement essential. Furthermore, the fact that we shared the County Hospital with Toland Medical College resulted in altercations in regard to division of the wards and assignment of the professors. Because of these difficulties, it soon became obvious to me that to complete the purpose of the College it must have its own hospital.

Planning for construction of a hospital in association with Cooper Medical College began in 1890 when Captain James M. McDonald, friend of Dr. Cooper, purchased the land adjacent to the College Building at a cost of $ 28,000 and donated it to the Corporation as a site for the hospital.

The most formidable obstacle encountered in building the hospital was a prejudice against it. There existed in San Francisco a vindictive enmity against hospitals. In 1890 an ordinance was then under consideration which forbade the erection of a hospital within the City and County of San Francisco unless permission was obtained from the Board of Supervisors. Passage of this ordinance would be equivalent to absolutely forbidding the erection of such a building for the Members of the Board of Supervisors were as hostile toward hospitals as the general public.

When the illiberal ordinance was proposed, I lobbied strenuously against its passage, but the claims of the ignorant public prevailed and secured its adoption, thus placing the greatest difficulty in the path of anyone who would engage in such a charitable enterprise as building a hospital. And it should be remarked, in passing, that the existence of a similar though less-sweeping ordinance had in times past so deterred individual enterprise on the part of charitable agencies that they sought elsewhere for a field for their humanitarian work.

The hostility to the building of a hospital in the neighborhood of Cooper College developed to such a degree of intense hatred that the opponents who lived in the vicinity held frequent meetings at which plans were discussed by which the erection could be prevented. From one who was present at one of those meetings it was learned that the malcontents had resolved to resort to violence if it was necessary to carry their point.

The flame of opposition was kindled to such a high degree of intensity that acrimonious communications appeared in the public press, denouncing the proposed hospital as an outrage which must be prevented at all cost. At this time I received through the mail a letter in which the College and my private residence were threatened destruction by dynamite. That this was not an empty threat was plainly shown by the anarchistic act of some miscreant who threw an explosive bomb into my yard near my house. Fortunately this was discovered and removed without damage to my property.

As reinforcement of the illegal methods intended to prevent the building of the hospital, a petition against the building was signed by nearly all property owners who lived in the area. This petition was submitted to the Board of Supervisors. Fortunately, Cooper College at this time had two strong friends in the Municipal Government, viz., Mayor Sanderson and Dr. Washington Ayer, a Supervisor; and another active friend was the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors, Mr. John Russell. Through the active management of these gentlemen, especially Mr. Russell, the Board was informally convened before consideration of the petition. The Board then proceeded to review a previous request from me, which they had approved, to build an "additional structure" to Cooper College for the purpose of completing an original plan. This original plan to build an additional structure (i. e., a hospital), had already been approved and partly carried out before the enactment of the recent ordinance against the erection of hospitals. On the basis of this prior approval, the Board of Supervisors ruled the I had acquired the right to build the hospital in spite of the recent ordinance.

Afterwards, the Board took up the petition from the dissenting property holders and refused to comply with their request to prevent construction of the hospital. As is apparent from what has been stated, the permission to create a charitable institution was obtained through many difficulties.

The work of erecting the hospital was entrusted to the Architects Messrs. Wright and Sanders who had constructed the buildings of Cooper College. It was estimated that the hospital would cost one hundred and ten thousand dollars. Ideas for the building were derived from numerous observations, some made by me during visits to Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Cincinnati and Chicago. Messrs. Wright and Sanders also made observations on visits to cities of the Atlantic coast and Canada. The final plan combined the best features of the many institutions observed.

The plan also included the suggestions of Mrs. Lane who, from the beginning of the work, industriously watched the interior construction and on many occasions prevented errors from being committed which, if they had passed unnoticed, would have seriously lessened the excellence of the hospital. For nearly two years most of her leisure time was spent in this work. As a well-earned reward for her sacrifices, it was my intent that her name should be given to the new hospital. This, however, she modestly declined, preferring that the new hospital should bear the name mutually shared by herself and husband. Thus the name of Pauline Lane Hospital, that for some months stood traced on the block of granite spanning the vestibule of the building, was replaced by Lane Hospital.

As hospital construction was approaching completion it was found that the first estimate of cost fell far short of the amount necessary. I was therefore obliged to provide considerably more than $ 150,000 for the building. This sum did not include furniture and equipment; to meet these unfunded requirements, the Faculty of Cooper College voted to donate $ 20,000 from its treasury, which amount included the greater part of the earnings of the College during the last twelve years. The Faculty committee appointed to superintend the furnishing began their arduous task about the middle of 1894 and worked with commendable industry on the duties assigned to them. The greater part of this work fell to Mrs. Lane to whose discerning judgment is due much of the excellence observable in the furnishing of the hospital.

In 1894 the prospective hospital was the recipient of three important gifts, viz., from Captain James M. McDonald, $25,000 for further support of the hospital; from Col. Claus Spreckels, $25, 000 for the same purpose; and from Mr. Andrew B. McCreery, $6000 for the maintenance of a bed in the hospital.

The laborious task of furnishing the institution was nearly concluded at the end of 1894, and a formal opening of Lane Hospital was held from one to three p. m. on Tuesday January 1st, 1895. This opening witnessed the presence of many of the prominent citizens of San Francisco. Words of unstinted praise and admiration fell from the lips of every visitor, and made the founders of the new institution content with the assurance that they had well accomplished their purpose of giving San Francisco an institution at which the sick and afflicted of the city can find a home of refuge.

I am pleased to state that the hospital, when opened to the public, made so favorable an impression, that it tended to greatly allay the animosity which hitherto existed against it. The effect was that, of the enemies, some became neutral, and the majority were converted into friends.

photo of Lane Hospital, San Francisco, built by Dr. Lane and dedicated January 2nd, 1895.


Illustration of Hospital and Floor Plans

The reporters of the San Francisco Chronicle, Morning Call and Evening Bulletin newspapers and the Occidental Medical Times were lavish in their acclaim of Dr. Lane's princely gift. The following is a composite of their accounts: [2] [3] [4] [5]

The hospital annex to the Cooper Medical College, which has just been completed, was the scene of a reception on the afternoon of January 1st, 1895. Several hundred invited guests visited the hospital and inspected its superb appointments. The magnificent structure of brick faced with California granite, when taken with the adjoining college buildings, forms a quadrangle with three sides facing on Sacramento, Webster and Clay streets. The hospital is situated on the corner of Clay and Webster with a front of 140 feet on Clay and a depth of 130 feet. It was erected by Dr. Lane at a cost of $ 160,000, and presented to the corporation of Cooper Medical College. The aggregate of the gifts of lands and buildings presented to the College by Dr. Lane amounts to nearly a half million of dollars.

While the exterior of the hospital presents many architectural beauties, it was with the interior that the many assembled guests were most impressed. Passing through the Grecian portico on Clay street and up imposing granite steps, one enters a spacious vestibule floored with marble mosaic in brown and gray tones, the woodwork being of highly polished mahogany. A large white marble panel, set in the wall to the left of the entrance, bears the following inscription:

"This hospital, erected in the year 1893, by Levi Cooper Lane, physician and surgeon, with money earned by himself in his profession, is given by him to suffering humanity and the healing art in the hope that the former may find refuge and relief; the latter exercise of its human skill and intelligent sympathy."

In the upper one of a triple panel on the west wall it is recorded that in 1890 Captain J. M. McDonald bought and gave the site of the hospital at a cost of $ 28,000. Below are noted gifts from Colonel Claus Spreckels and Andrew McCreary, and another donation from Captain McDonald.

The noble, zealous spirit of Mrs. Lane, wife of Dr. Lane, permeates the entire hospital. She has watched, guided, suggested and worked hand-by hand with her husband, and the gentle influence of her worth is felt everywhere through the building. She is its guardian angel.

Leading off the main vestibule is a general reception room, richly and appropriately furnished. In pursuance of the idea of Mrs. Lane, this room is so situated that it connects with no part of the hospital except through the vestibule. The object of this is that while visitors may be received, they can in no way disturb the patients until their business is ascertained.

Two years have been devoted to the construction of the building which has six floors. From the foundation stone right up through the building the construction has been on strictly scientific principles. A system of heating and ventilation, perfect in all its details, has been provided at great cost. Steam radiators have been placed in the walls for even distribution of the heat. The lighting is by electricity, although gas fixtures have been provided for an emergency. A large elevator, and three dumb waiters for food and supplies, connect the floors.

The sub-basement is occupied by the boilers, engines and other machinery necessary to a hospital built to accommodate one hundred patients. On the first floor, which is on a level with the street, there is an emergency ward for patients who have met with accidents. This is equipped the same as other wards. Also on this floor there are an isolation-room; a dining room for the doctors; sleeping-rooms for nurses and other employees; and a laundry fitted with the latest machinery.

Floors two, three and four contain private rooms, wards and related facilities, while on the fifth floor there is the department for children which is the special pride of Mrs. Lane. There is a ward for boys and a ward for girls, separated by a prettily furnished playroom, all lighted by a skylight and made a little more bright and attractive than other wards. There are beds for the larger children and cribs for the little ones, and there are also private rooms where the very ill children may be isolated.

The sixth floor contains a large and well-lighted culinary department. In it are ranges, steam-kettles, coffee-boilers and a kettle which will contain gallons of soup. Here are shelves and racks for linen and crockery, and gas stoves for heating quickly anything a patient may require. The kitchen has been placed on this top floor, so that the patients may not be annoyed by the slightest odor of food in process of cooking. Also on this floor there are rooms for nurses and other employees.

There are two operating rooms which were a special attraction to the visitors. One is located on the fourth floor. It is large and well-lighted from without, and from within by gas and electricity. The operating table and the carriages for transferring the patients to and from the wards are of iron. They are fitted with rubber rollers, as are the iron and glass instrument tables, so that they may be moved about noiselessly.

The second operating room is one of the most valuable features of the new hospital. Its floor, at the sub-basement level, is the center of an amphitheater which will seat about 250. The amphitheater is connected to the hospital by a passage. Patients in the hospital may be placed on the operating carriage, transferred by elevator to the sub-basement level, then wheeled through this passage into the amphitheater where the necessary operation may be performed in full view of doctors and students.

photo of Dr. Levi Cooper Lane performing inaugural operation in Lane Hospital operating room, Jan. 2, 1895

It is in this amphitheater that Dr. Lane on January 2nd 1895, the day following the public reception, performed an operation and delivered a brief address to mark the formal opening of the hospital for the care of patients. The event was intended primarily for the students and faculty of Cooper Medical College, but other physicians were cordially welcomed.

The subject of the operation, Patrick O'Neill, seemed rather pleased than otherwise at being the object of so much attention. Dr. Lane had previously removed a cancerous growth from O'Neill's left cheek, and the present operation was to demonstrate the possibilities of plastic surgery in the cosmetic repair of the residual deformity.

After the operation was finished and Dr. Lane had removed his blood-stained over-garments, he spoke of the hospital and his hopes for it. Primarily addressing the medical students, he recalled how the ancient Greeks and Romans, whose literature he freely read in the original and often quoted, would, on the eve of an important undertaking, consult an oracle or offer sacrifice to conciliate the Deity of Good Fortune. Or would sometimes, in place of rude sacrifice or burnt offering, substitute an eloquent address that fired the listeners' hearts and spurred some noble action.

At this inaugural Lane chose the latter course and, in his opening remarks, revealed his personal aspirations by quoting Isocrates (436-338 B. C.), famed Athenian orator and rhetorician: "Think how illustrious it is to exchange this mortal and fragile body for deathless renown and, with the few years of life which yet remain to us, to purchase that celebrity which will endure through the ages." [6]

Continuing in the inspirational vein, Lane urged remembrance of the ancient wisdom of Hippocrates, particularly his advice for the doctor who enters the bed chamber of the sick:

On entering the room be careful in your manner of sitting; be reserved; appear in proper attire; be serious and use brevity in speech; have cool self-command, which cannot be disturbed; be diligent and industrious in the presence of the patient; use care; if the patient objects to what is being done for him, listen carefully, and answer objections properly; never lose your self-possession in the presence of an unexpected act or contingency; be prompt to meet and repress any disturbing emergency; always have a good will to do that which is to be done. And above all things, remember that nothing is to be omitted that can be of benefit to the patient..

Take special care also to embrace the new medical sciences which have in our day grasped little beams of light and bent them into keys which open the chambers where the causes of disease are hidden. Remember, too, that the wards of this hospital will furnish countless opportunities for the solution of great problems as yet unsolved if, in your practice of the Art, you maintain that painstaking observation and accuracy that brought crowns of glory to such Geniuses of Discovery as Edward Jenner, Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch.

Routine tasks have deep import, Lane said. Among the duties of the interne, an important one is to make a careful record of the cases treated here. Such record does two things; the chief one is that it insures careful work; for thus the information is committed to the pages of history. There it will be legible to many eyes. He will work the best and with the fewest faults, who knows that each act will be delivered to open, unchanging record. A second purpose of such record is, that it gathers facts, which become an addition to the general fund of medical knowledge.

The goal which has inspired the erection of Lane Hospital is two-fold in character; one great object is to furnish the medical student the opportunity of pursuing his studies to the greatest possible advantage, and of fitting himself properly for his future vocation. The other is to assure that he will see medical and surgical art practiced with that excellence which will serve him as a future model for guidance and imitation.

If thoughtful care, vigilant attention, and trained skill be needed for the cure of the sick, they are not all. They will be sadly defective if they are not reinforced by another great quality - sympathy. Sympathy, like the quality of Mercy, "is twice blessed. It blesses him that gives and him that takes." I often recall what was said to me once by a lady, who for months was overburdened and worn by attention to an invalid parent: "It is my daily prayer that I may not become impatient and falter in my duty to my mother." Sympathetic care goes far in the cure of a patient. A harsh word, a petulant answer,

or a frown in reply to some question or request of the patient, cuts more keenly than

a surgeon's knife; and such petulance and impatience may fatally reinforce a lingering disease.

Briefly summed up, the cardinal qualities necessary for the successful management of our hospital, are good heads, good hearts, and willing hands; and a determination on the part of each attendant to do superior work, and a fixed resolve to live and labor in harmony with his fellow workmen. All thus doing their duty, the work done will represent a picture, in which is portrayed a legion of busy laborers bearing a standard, inscribed with the words: Self-sacrifice and Humanity; and such a picture will realize the donor's hope, chiseled in marble at the threshold of this edifice, that the Healing Art may here be given an opportunity for the exercise of its humane skill, and that suffering Humanity may here find refuge and relief from affliction.

Thus, with unostentatious proceedings and a simple homily, reflecting his ideals and beneficence, Dr. Lane inaugurated the crowning stage of his grand design for Cooper Medical College. Not only had he by 1895 created through foresight and philanthropy the essential elements of the first academic medical center in the West, but his moral and professional leadership in the following years shaped a resolute medical culture devoted to medical progress, educational reform and his memory.


Mrs. Lane

We have referred repeatedly to the significant contributions of Mrs. Lane to the planning and construction of Lane Hospital, but we have had few inklings of the private life of this gifted woman whose encouragement and assistance meant so much to her intense and studious husband. Therefore, when we came upon a reference to her personal affairs, published in the San Francisco Morning Call for 14 June 1891 at the height of the planning for Lane Hospital, we were pleased to transcribe it here. [7]

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