The History of Genesee County, MI
Chapter XXIX
Hurley Hospital
Part I

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Clayton



Birthdays are celebrated because they mark important individual and family events. Occasionally, a birthday marks an event destined to have a broader significance, the limit of which time alone reveals. Such was the case when, on august 31, 1849, there was born of humble parents in London, England, a child, James J. Hurley, who, more than a half century later, in his adopted home far across the Atlantic, was to found a hospital which should serve a city of eighty-five thousand people and should become widely known throughout Michigan as one of the best equipped and most modern institutions of its kind in the state. Situated on the highest point of land with the limits of the city of Flint, upon a site selected by its founder for the purpose, Hurley Hospital commands a view of all the surrounding country. Fresh air and sunshine are among its most valuable advantages and assist to quick recovery many an invalid in shattered health.

The buildings are of simple colonial architecture. A two-story administration building, with three wings, those on the north and south connecting with the main building by long, sunny corridors, constituted the original hospital, although a number of additions have since been made. A basement extending under the main building, west wind and corridors, furnishes space for dining rooms, kitchens and storerooms. Until January, 1915, the laundry and the boiler rooms were also located here.

The administration building is entered through a handsome vestibule, with white marble floor, steps and base. Placed conspicuously on the wall to the right, so that all who visit there may learn of his good deed, is a bronze bas-relief showing the strong, kindly face of Mr. Hurley, the inscription beneath reading:


The first floor of the administration building has a large, well-lighted lobby in the center, the main staircase leading from this, and reception room,. Offices and superintendent's private apartments opening from it. The north wing contains seven private rooms, a nursery of six beds and a woman's ward of twelve beds, diet kitchen, toilet, bath, linen and utility rooms, nurses' office and solarium. The south wing contains five private rooms, a men's ward of sixteen beds, bath, utility rooms, nurses' office and solarium.

The first floor of the west wing, with the exception of one room, which is reserved for X-ray purposes, is occupied by the probationers, for whom there is not accommodation in the nurses; home. Domestics, also, are furnished with sleeping quarters in this portion of the building.

When the hospital was opened, on December 19, 1908, it was thought to be a very suitable size for the town where it was located. The growth of Flint, however, on account of the great automobile industry, was so phenomenal that in 1911 it became imperatively necessary to increase the capacity of the hospital. Additional funds having fortunately been placed at the disposal of the board of managers in January of that year, through the first payment from the Stockdale estate, it was decided to raise the west wing and provide rooms and wards for the care of typhoid and pneumonia cases. This was done, seven private rooms and two small wards of five beds each adding a total of seventeen beds to the accommodations of the hospital. There were also provided a diet kitchen, bath, toilet, linen and utility rooms, nurses' office and a fine solarium, from the windows of which convalescing patients may view the landscape fro miles in three different directions. The winter sunset seen from this vantage spot is frequently a sight to be long remembered.

The second story of the west wing connects with the second floor of the main building, where re located three splendidly equipped operating rooms, two for general surgery and one, the McClellan Berston room, provided by Mr. and Mrs. Neil J. Berston, Sr., as a memorial to their son, being for the specialties of eye, ear, nose and throat. Adjacent to the operating rooms are sterilizing rooms, doctor's dressing room, general utility and supply rooms, elevator, and a small closet provided with steam pipes, where hot blankets are kept in readiness for the use of anesthetic patients immediately after operations.

Since 1912, there have been several changes which have greatly increased the comfort of the patients and the usefulness of the institution, although not providing extra space for beds.

The building of a fine power plant on land purchased across the street back of the hospital made it possible to remove all machinery from the main building, where it had been a source of great annoyance to patients. An underground tunnel connects the new plant with the basement of the original buildings. This plant is in every way modern and up to date. Two seventy-horsepower boilers provide steam sufficient for all present purposes of heating, cooking, sterilizing, etc., and space has been left so that, with additional boilers, the present power plant could be made to serve an institution gown to twice the size of the present one.

In connection with the power plant is located the laundry, equipped with modern machinery, and a sterilizing room for the sterilization of infected clothing, pillows and mattresses. This room is provided with an outside entrance, through which infected clothing is brought into the room and put into the sterilizers. Through another door, opening outward from the laundry, sterilized articles are removed when clean, the valves for steam being on the clean side of the partition.

An incinerator for disposing of garbage and refuge is also given space in the power plant, as is, too, the machinery for a vacuum cleaning system with which all the buildings are equipped.

Another unit, an isolation cottage, which has been built through the generosity of ex-Mayor Charles S. Mott, one of Flint's most public spirited citizens, is now being opened for the reception of patients. This building is especially interesting in that it is modeled after the isolation hospital at Ann Arbor, Michgian, and will, like the Providence City Hospital at Providence , Rhode Island, carry out a nursing technic that will make it possible to care for several different contagious diseases under the same roof. It was recently described at length in The Modern Hospital, in an article on its architectural plan, written by the designer, Herbert E. Davis, member of the firm of Davis, McGrath & Kiessling, of New York City, Anna M. Schill, superintendent of the hospital since 1910, supplementing the article with a description of the proposed plan of operation and management. From Mr. Davis' article the following is quoted:

The isolation building of the Hurley Hospital presents a solution of the problem for the care of contagious diseases that is especially adapted to cities of the smaller class. The city of Flint has a population of fifty thousand and, like many other cities of its size, has up to the present time taken care of its contagious diseases in the much adhorred "pest houses," located as far as possible from the center of population and avoided by all.

The rapid growth of Flint as an industrial center has made a more adequate and scientific care of this class of diseases an absolute necessity, and the present plans are the outcome of a thorough investigation of the problem.

The success which has attended the adoption of the theory of "contact infection," as applied at the Providence City Hospital since 1910, at the contagious hospital of the University of Michigan since 1913, and in certain hospitals of England, France and Germany for longer periods, together with its many economic advantages, led to its application for this building.

The theory to be applied is a very simile one, namely, that all infection is only the result of contact and is not transmissible through the air; hence infection can only be avoided by strict medical asepsis. This means, first, that a single building located in the general hospital group, with adequate light and ventilation will answer the purpose for all diseases. It is, therefore, possible to have it connected by tunnel with the light, heat and water mains, laundry, kitchen and food supplies of the main hospital, with the consequent great economic advantages in first cost, administration and maintenance. It means, in the second place, however, that every possible convenience, such as washing facilities and sterilizers of various kinds, must be provided in the building to avoid "contact infection."

In general, the plan adopted is similar to hat used in Ann Arbor, which consist of a one-and-a-half story building with basement, the first story containing a central corridor, with isolation rooms opening into it on either side, each room to accommodate two beds, the second story containing accommodations for the resident nurses and maid, and the basement containing sterilizing room, store room for clothing and morgue.

Each isolation room is provided with a lavatory, with knee-action valves, and a toilet with a separate hot water supply through a goose neck valve for rinsing purposes. This equipment will avoid the necessity for the patient leaving the room at any time.

The patient will be received from the outside directly into the room, in which he will remain and will leave it only when dismissed to pass through the corridor to the exit infected dressing room, thence to the bathroom and exit clean dressing room, at the front of the building.

The entrance for doctors and nurses is at the opposite side of the building where a space is provided for hanging the doctor's outer street clothes and for putting on a clean hospital robe if he intends to touch or handle a patient. The nurses on coming to the building may go directly up to their private quarters, or, if coming on duty, may cross the corridor to the infected dressing room, in which each is provided with two lockers, one for the infected robe and one for the clean one. Adjacent to the nurses' entrance to the central corridor is the nurses' station, at which the signal and annunciator are located.

Food will be delivered either by way of the tunnel to the dumbwaiter in the basement or from the outside by way of the verandah entrance to the kitchen.

Linen will be received from the laundry directly into the linen room, from the outside by way of the veranda. Soiled linen will be deposited through the infected linen chute into the infected sterilizer room below, from which it will pass through the linen sterilizer to the laundry by way of the tunnel.

The kitchen is equipped with a dish sterilizer, in which all dishes used by a patient will be sterilized, it is also equipped with a steam table, plate warmer, refrigerator, etc.

Mattresses will be carried from the isolation rooms around the outside of the building to the basement entrance tot he infected sterilizer room, and after passing through the sterilizer, will be hung up ready for future use. Patients' clothing will also be treated in this way and stored in bags hung from the ceiling in the store room, for that purpose, and when required will be delivered at the patient's clean entrance dressing room from the outside. This plan is so arranged that any number of additional rooms may be added when needed without requiring additional service rooms.

The second story is arranged for the accommodation of four nurses and one house maid, with a bath room, kitchen and large room for the nurses sitting room and dining room.


In the new isolation building (Miss Schill writes) it is proposed to adopt practically the same technic as that in use at the Providence City Hospital and at the new contagious hospital at the University of Michigan. Patients suffering from different contagious diseases will be admitted. The technic of this building is based upon the principles of aseptic nursing. The infection is confined to the rooms occupied by the patients, while the utility rooms and the central corridors are consider to be free from contagion as are those of any hospital. The same nurses, observing aseptic precautions, care for all patients.

The success or failure of the hospital and its proposed plan of operation will depend largely upon how the nursing staff carries out the principles of medical asepsis. The nurses will be in charge of a graduate who has perfected herself in the technic of this special department. Before the hospital is opened, the nursing staff will be thoroughly drilled in the principle of medical asepsis. Just as in the surgical operating room, they will be taught that the conveyance of infectious material to those free from disease may and probably will result in infection. They will be told that if they contract a contagious disease while in the contagious disease service, it will be their own or their associates' fault. Just as it is impossible for a well trained nurse to brush back her hair in the operating room, or touch articles not surgically clean, so it will become impossible for the nurse drilled in medical asepsis, who has cared for a contagious disease, to touch anything until her hands have been thoroughly sterilized.

The nurse, on entering a room to care for her patient, will put on a gown, in order to avoid accidental contamination of her clothing. After attending to her patient, she will remove her gown and thoroughly sterilize her hands and arms in running water and liquid soap obtained from a retainer by knee pressure, so that the infected hands do not need to touch the receptacle. After immersing the hands and arms in some mild but effective antiseptic solution, the nurse can leave the room confident that she will not carry contagion to another patient. The main corridor is free from contagion and kept so.

All dishes and other utensils used in the patients' rooms are immediately sterilized by stream. Patients' night clothing and bedding are placed in canvas receptacles and carried to the sterilizing and fumigating plant, where they are sterilized, receptacles and all.

Extra precautions will be required of the nurses before they leave the building to retire to their rooms. Ion order to avoid a great danger of infection,, they will prohibited from eating while on duty. They will be served in their own dining room on their own dishes, which have been boiled, and with food that had not come in contact with any contagion.

The contagious course will not be made compulsory for any pupil nurse, but it is hoped the pupil will feel that if she carefully carries out a certain technic there is very slight danger of contracting a contagious disease and she will be loath to forego such valuable experience.

Ground will be broken in the fall of 1916 for an addition to be built north of the present hospital building and connected with it by a corridor which will be a continuation of the corridor now connecting the administration building with the north wing. The new addition will be used as a maternity hospital and will accommodate twenty-six mothers and twenty-six infants. It will be two-story structure, and it is expected to open this ward to the public in the spring of 1917.

In October, 1912, there was completed a nurses' home, in which twenty-one nurses, previously quarter in the west wind and in rented room in the neighborhood, have since found pleasant and homelike accommodations. This building is of colonial design , and corresponds with the general architecture of the hospital. A wide south porch, opening through French windows from the living room adds to the attractiveness of the house. On the first floor are two commodious reception rooms, in one of which is a large brick fireplace. In the basement is a lecture rooms for the nurses-in-training, furnished with writing chairs, blackboards, etc. Large, airy bedrooms are found on each floor. An addition which will provide sleeping quarters for fifteen nurses is being planned at the present time. It will occupy the vacant space between the west wall of the nurses' home and the east wall of the maternity ward.

The furnishings of the original nurses' home were the gift of Dr. James C. Willson,. For many years one of Flint's most beloved physicians. Recently, a piano was added, being given by George D. Flanders, president of the board of hospital managers.

This board operates under the charter of the city of Flint, for Mr. Hurley, with far-sighted wisdom, provided for civic upkeep and management of the hospital.

The following is a copy of that portion of Mr. Hurley's will which related to his bequest to Hurley Hospital: Paragraph 21

I give, devise and bequeath to the city of Flint, Michigan, the block of land which I now own just northwesterly of the residence of Charles H. W. Conover, also the sum of twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000) for the purpose of establishing and building on said land a free hospital, to be non-sectarian, provided the city of Flint, Michgian accepts the gift within three months after my will is probated; otherwise the bequest shall revert to my estate. But if accepted, said hospital to be called "Hurley Hospital."

Paragraph 25.

If my estate should not amount to the sum of the bequests I have made, then in that case I direct that my relatives mentioned in my will be paid in full their bequests and the balance of the devisees to paid pro ratio.

And I further direct that in case my estate shall exceed the amount of the bequests, that then the balance of my estate shall be added to my bequests to the city of Flint for the use and benefit of the hospital.


Paragraph 11.

I hereby change the twenty-first paragraph of my will where in I stated (within three months) to (within ten years) that the said city shall have that time in which to accept the said legacy to be given to the city or to a board duly authorized to receive the same, and I do hereby give and devise the same to be set aside for said hospital to Charles L. Bartlett, in trust, to be held by him in trust for the period of time that shall be the terms of this codicil be given to accept said bequest by said city, and upon the acceptance of the bequest by said city, the said city or its properly constituted trustee to receive the same.

When, on June 26, 1905, Miss Francis O'Hare, executrix of the will of James J. Hurley, made to the city formal presentation of the bequest, she quoted the foregoing paragraphs of the will, and added: "The presentation of the above is made upon the express condition that the said city of Flint does agree to maintain, support and properly care for and perpetuate said hospital."

The bequest was accepted at a meeting of the common council held on July 18,m 1905.

An ordinance creating a board of hospital managers was adopted by the council at a meeting held on July 24, 1905, after which Mayor Aitken appointed the following citizens to serve in that capacity:

Until May 1, 1906

George L. Walker

Until May 1, 1907

William E. Martin

Until May 1, 1908

Edward D. Black

Until May 1, 1909

J. Dallas Dort

Until May 1, 1910

Charles A. Lippincott, D. D.

The first recorded meeting of the board was held at the Union club rooms on Saturday evening, September 23, 1905. At this meeting Dr. Charles A. Lippincott was elected president, William E. Martin, treasurer, and Edward D. Black, secretary.

Although the organization of the board was completed at this time, it was not until June, 1907, that an advertisement for bids for building the hospital appeared in the daily papers. It was singed by the secretary, E. D. Black.

The following months were busy ones for the hospital board, but never did a municipal body serve the public with greater fidelity pr enthusiasm. Where all worked so faithfully, it seems hardly just to single our any individual for special mention,. However, if the members of that first board could have a voice in the matter, it is certain that they would unanimously accord a special meed of praise to their president, Rev. Charles A. Lippincott, D. D., who, although a very busy man, gave ungrudgingly of his time and executive ability that the hospital project should be carried to a successful conclusion.

At a very early stage it became apparent that, in order to meet the needs of a city like Flint, which has suddenly developed an unexpectedly large growth, the hospital should be built on a larger scale than Mr. Hurley's bequest warranted. It remained for members of the board of managers to discover ways and means of accomplishing this. Early and late they considered plans. They enlisted the services of a woman's auxiliary board, which was organized in the fall of 1907; with Mrs. Flint P. Smith, one of Flint's most capable and public-spirited women, heading the organization. Through the efforts of this board, over five thousand dollars in cash or its equivalent was placed in the hospital treasury, a generous portion of this amount being obtained from individual citizens, churches, fraternal organizations and clubs, although much of it raised by the women in other ways. The Crapo estate at this time also donated cash for a woman's ward as a memorial to Lydia Sherman Crapo.

The corner stone of Hurley Hospital was laid on October 24, 1907. It was the gift of M. C. Barney & Son. By vote of the hospital board at a meeting held October 7, `905, the following articles were ordered to be placed in the box within the stone: Sketch of J. J. Hurley's life, copy of J. J. Hurley's will, copy of the proceeding in connection with Mr. Hurley's bequest to the hospital, copy of proceeding to create the hospital board, and names of the members of the board. At this meeting it was also decided that the lettering the on the stone should be "Hurley Hospital--1907."

The laying of the corner stone was made the occasion of an interesting public celebration, the mayor, common council, clergymen of the city with their official boards, military companies, the Grand Army of the Republic, and many other organizations being invited to participate. Visiting Knight Templar from neighboring cities took part in the parade and impressive ceremonies were conducted by the Masonic Grand Lodge of Michigan, the services being held at the hospital site at two o'clock in the afternoon. The address was given by Hon. William C. Maybury, of Detroit.

"This stone that we have laid," he said, "is square in form, in contents a cube, symbolic of the square of morality and the cube of truth. Morality and truth, combined constitutes the perfection of human character. This stone is always placed between the north of the foundation, symbolic of the place of darkness, and the east, recognized as the place of light, denoting that all progress is from darkness bto light, and from ignorance to true knowledge."

The following is a copy of the sketch of Mr. Hurley's life, which, with the articles already enumerated and, in addition, a copy of the Flint daily Journal of October 23, 1907, and a list of the names of the Masonic grand Lodge of Michigan, was placed within the corner stone:

Mr. Hurley was born in England of poor, but honest, laboring parents, and when quite a young man he left his home, relatives and friends, and, alone, embarked for the Untied States. Arriving in New York, he had a ticket which carried him to Chicago. This he exchanged, to be in company with some one whom he had met, for a passage to Grand Blanc, in Genesee county, where he arrived with any means, and engaged to work for a farmer, to be paid what, in the judgment of the farmer, his services were worth. After working on the farm for two weeks, the farmer informed him that he was not wanted any longer, and Mr. Hurley asked him how much he has earned, and his employer replied that he had earned nothing, but he would give him a dollar; and with this dollar in his pocket, he walked to the city of Flint, where he was engaged as a porter to a hotel, and labored at the most common work for a number of years.

He was married to Mary Flynn and together they commenced housekeeping with little or no means, and what little they had was expended in doctor's bills in caring for his wife during a severe illness. He, however, started out to buy junk, having an advertisement that he would buy anything that nobody else would buy, and in this manner drifted off to the potash manufacture. Being poor, he and his wife did the most of the work running the potash, she holding the lantern at night, and he, with his feet wrapped in cloths, did the work of running off and caring for the lye, which was manufactured into potash.

Later on he became interested with Flint P. Smith in the saw-mill and together they erected some twenty dwelling houses in the city.

He was one of the earliest stockholders in the W. A. Paterson carriage factory, and later helped to organize the Union Trust and Savings Bank, of which he was director for some years.

He was a shrewd and careful business man who pointedly expressed his opinions and neither gave nor cared to receive flattery.

He later invested his money in bank stock and bonds and mortgages so that when he passed away, there was little, if any, shrinkage in his investments.

He was a man who was kind-hearted and liberal, gave to the poor, not ostentatiously, but in a quiet and reserved manner. His life, although know to but few, was characteristic of the manner in which he disposed of his property at the time of his death, wherein he not only remembered the city, but all the churches, many of the poor and his old employees.

His wife, who died a few years before him, was a woman of most lovable character, and sweet disposition, and their home was one of the most pleasant in the city, where they enjoyed entertaining their friends in a simple, yet hospitable manner.


On October 10, 1907, just two weeks previous to the laying of the corner stone, the treasurer of the hospital board received from the executrix of the will of James J. Hurley, the following cash and property in settlement of the bequest:



Land contracts


Real Estate

(Including the hospital site at a valuation of $5,000), $6,970.00




Later the sum was augmented by interest payments and profits on sale of real estate to $54,974.92.

Mr. and Mrs. Hurley were of the Catholic faith, and their charities and benefactors extended along many lines.


History of Genesee County, Michigan, Her People, Industries and Institutions
by Edwin O. Wood, LL.D, President Michigan Historical Commission, 1916

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

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