Building Bought From Columbia University in 1956
Neighborhood was once closely associated with the University
After many years in rented space at Broadway and 61st Street, PCS purchased and moved into its present location in 1956. The building was sold by Columbia University and had once housed the university's School of Optometry, the first university-affiliated school of optometry in the country when it opened in 1910.
Today, it may seem odd that one of Columbia's schools of medicine was located on far West 60th Street, but the neighborhood surrounding Roosevelt Hospital once formed the campus of the university's College of Physicians and Surgeons. From 1871 until 1911 Roosevelt Hospital was the College of Physicians and Surgeons chief teaching hospital. The college was located on West 59th Street (photo, right) directly behind PCS and across the street from Roosevelt Hospital's main entrance.
Adjacent to the College, on the corner of West 59th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, stood the Sloane Maternity Hospital (the building with the peaked roof in the photo at right). The site is now occupied by John Jay College. When it opened in 1886 the Sloane Maternity Hospital was the first hospital in New York devoted to women’s healthcare. It, too, was affiliated with the College of Physicians and Surgeons. In 1915, an outbreak of typhoid fever at the hospital affected 25 nurses (2 of whom died) and was traced to a woman working in the kitchen. The New York tabloids dubbed her Typhoid Mary, after it was discovered she had broken an agreement with the city not to return to work in the cooking profession.
Across the street from the College of Physicians and Surgeons was the Syms Operating Theatre, the first modern operating facility in America (1892). Today, the building still stands on the corner of Columbus Avenue and 59th Street (photo,left). The copper clad conical roof gives an indication of the building's original interior -- one large operating room with sloped, stadium seating for 184 students.
In 1911, Columbia University ended its association with Roosevelt Hospital and entered into an agreement with Presbyterian Hospital that led to the creation of the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center on Broadway and 165th Street. The new facility opened its doors in 1928 and incorporated all of the Columbia University affiliates, including the College of Physicians and the Sloane Hospital for Women. The buildings that once housed these institutions were slowly razed, leaving only the shell of the Syms Operating Theatre on the corner of Columbus Avenue and West 59th Street. -- John Tucker