Early in the Civil War the city of Philadelphia was chosen by the U.S. government to be used as a central location to create military hospitals for the care of sick and wounded Union soldiers and sailors. Mower General Hospital also known as Chestnut Hill Hospital, built in 1862 on a lot of 27 acres between Stenton, Germantown, Springfield and Abington avenues in Chestnut Hill, was one of these hospitals and became a subject of the photographic lens of Philadelphia photographer John Moran. Moran photographed a series of views of the innovatively-designed facility, predominately showing exteriors, but also a small number of interiors, which were issued as mounted photographs and stereographs soon after the facility was completed.
Designed as a pavilion hospital by Philadelphia architect John McArthur, Jr., the large facility was composed of a central enclosed complex of administrative and utility buildings. The complex was surrounded by a central corridor from which forty-seven patient wards radiated to theoretically better control the spread of infection. Strategically located opposite the Chestnut Hill depot of the Reading Railroad, Mower received and treated over 17,000 injured soldiers transported directly from the battlefield between January 1863 - May 1865. Patients were received at the entrance, assigned to a bed in the hospital, and treated by a staff of nearly 200 surgeons, nurses, and ward masters whose work was facilitated by tramways within the wards and specially designed carts to provide medical supplies and food.
Under the administration of Col. Charles H. Greenleaf and Surgeon In Charge, Dr. J. Hopkinson, the hospital provided not only medical and surgical care, but numerous on-site services for both the staff and patients, including housing for medical officers, a chapel and library, a post office, a band-stand for daily performances by a full band and drum corps, protection by guards and a fire-brigade, food preparation shops and storage houses, a barber shop, laundry building, and a dining room. The hospital also employed the most modern medical necessities of the era by utilizing fresh water from the Chestnut Hill water works, gas lighting, and indoor plumbing.
The Moran photographs primarily depict the exterior of the administration building in the center of the hospital complex containing the Surgeon’s Quarters, Dispensary, General Office, Commanding Officers Quarters, Executive Officers Quarters, and Surgeons Mess Room as well as views of the complex from the building’s observatory tower. Views also document the entrance to the hospital; the parade grounds; a guard house and lecture room; the stone water tower (extant) at Ardleigh Road; and interiors of the cooking department, a hospital ward, the general office, and a corridor. In addition to documenting the facilities, views capture a fire brigade during a drill; soldiers traversing the grounds; an observation deck; cooking staff; office clerks; and patients
Erika Piola, Visual Materials Cataloger
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