Brooklyn, one building at a time.
Name: Built as the Bushwick Hospital, now Ella McQueen Reception Center for Boys and Girls.
Address: 41 Howard Avenue
Cross Streets: Corner Putnam Avenue
Neighborhood: Bedford Stuyvesant/Ocean Hill
Year Built: 1912
Architectural Style: Renaissance Revival
Architect: Harde & Short
Other works by architect: Kismet Temple, now Friendship Baptist Church, Herkimer Street, Bed Stuy. Several theaters in Brooklyn, as well as Alwyn Court Apartments and other Upper West Side apartment buildings in Manhattan
The story: The Bushwick Hospital was founded in 1891, and for the first years of its life, was located in a large wood framed building on the corner of Howard Avenue and Broadway. In 1900, the hospital merged with the Central Hospital and Polyclinic to form the Bushwick Central Hospital, which soon became the Bushwick Hospital. Their mission was the medical and surgical care of the sick. The hospital was small, with only three doctors associated with it, of which two were also officers. They cared for anyone who came to their door, regardless of their ability to pay. In 1906, that year alone, they had treated over six hundred patients, of which only a quarter were indigent.
By the end of that decade, it was obvious that they needed to expand. Public and private funds were raised, and the architectural firm of Harde & Short was commissioned to design a new hospital building, not all that far from the old one, on the corner of Howard and Putnam Avenues. The five story building was begun in 1912.
R. Thomas Short, the architect, was born in Canada, and came to Brooklyn as a boy. By 1887 he had already published a publication called “Proper Homes and How to Have Them.” He established his practice here in 1894, but moved it to Manhattan several years later. He established the firm of Harde & Short with English-trained architect Herbert Spencer Styne-Harde, whom he had met when they both worked at the firm of James E. Ware & Son. Their partnership would last until 1916.
Over the course of the years, Harde & Short designed all kinds of buildings, and became well-known for their very eclectic designs, although they were perfectly capable of designing excellent, but rather staid and unremarkable buildings that suited the owner’s needs. Among their more exuberant buildings were the Kismit Temple, built for Bedford’s Shriners, Alwyn Court Apartments, on W.58th Street, a confection of terra-cotta ornament, and the 23rd Precinct House, a fortress of a police station for Manhattan’s Tenderloin District, on West 30th, between 6th and 7th Avenue. R. Thomas Short also designed several theaters in Brooklyn, and for many years, he lived at 370 Macon Street, in Bedford Stuyvesant.
The hospital is certainly not one of the firm’s more exuberant designs, but it is a fine looking hospital. In 1924, a nurses’ home was completed next door, and the hospital served the Bushwick and Ocean Hill communities for many years. In the course of my research, I found several sites where people who were born there, the latest being in the 1950s, were reminiscing over the hospital, staff and neighborhood.
But, like most of Brooklyn, things change. The last press entry I could find about the hospital was in 1956. I’m not sure when they closed. The State of New York owns the building now, and for many years it has housed various social service entities. Today, it houses the Ella McQueen Reception Center for Boys and Girls, under the auspices of the Office of Children and Family Services. The Center is a facility for kids in the juvenile justice system. They spend two weeks here while being evaluated for other programs. The building also houses other state and city run social services. GMAP
(Photograph: Christopher Bride for PropertyShark)