Our Early History


James S. Seymour, President of the Bank of Auburn, made a bequest of $30,000 to be held in trust for the building of a hospital and paid by his executors when the legal act of incorporation was completed and the trustees were ready to obtain a site and erect the needed buildings.


Auburn City Hospital was founded with filing of the Articles of Incorporation in the Cayuga County Clerk’s Office, pursuant to Chapter 319 of the Laws of 1848 of the State of New York. Attorney James R. Cox drew up the Articles of Incorporation, which provided for a Board of Trustees as the governing body, and the incorporators served as the original Board. The following prominent and influential men appeared as the incorporators:

  • S. L. Bradley
  • Charles C. Briggs
  • James R. Cox
  • E. B. Jones
  • R. A. Nelson
  • D. M. Osborne
  • Rufus Sargent
  • James Seymour, Jr.
  • William H. Seward
  • Byron C. Smith
  • Charles Standart
  • William G. Wise
  • Charles P. Wood
  • Harmon Woodruff

The first Board meeting was held and the following officers were installed:

  • President — William G. Wise
  • Vice President — Harmon Woodruff
  • Secretary — Byron C. Smith
  • Treasurer — William H. Seward


The “Lansing Property” was purchased for $6,000 based on the recommendation of the site selection committee, D. M. Osborne, William H. Seward, and Charles Standart.

Until 1849 the ‘Lansing Property’ had been the home of Rev. Dirck C. Lansing, pastor of First Presbyterian Church and principal founder of the Auburn Theological Seminary.

The committee raised the money to purchase the site by public subscription from 32 contributors. A building committee was appointed to remodel the residence then on the property for use as a hospital.

Very early the Board of Trustees appointed a Board of Lady Managers. The first members were:

  • Emily B. Alward
  • Cornelia Brainerd
  • Alida N. Burdick
  • Jane V. Carpenter
  • Julia P. Clark
  • Mary R. Cox
  • Emma M. Dwight (Chair)
  • Abbie F. Hall
  • Betsey A. Hoyt
  • Julia H. Ives
  • Arietta M. Knapp
  • H. Cornelia McNeil
  • Harriet Merriman
  • Emily Osborne
  • Mary L. Seymour
  • Mary M. Titus
  • Eliza Townsend
  • Charlotte P. Underwood
  • Harriett Wheeler
  • Alla P. Wise


The first patient was admitted. The hospital opened with 13 beds in the remodeled and newly equipped building.

Sarah A. Griffing was the first Matron and William Kennedy was her assistant. The Medical Staff was made up of the following physicians:

  • Consulting Physician: J. D. Button
  • Visiting Physicians: T. S. Brinkerhoff, John Gerin, W. O. Luce, Amanda Sanford
  • Consulting Surgeon: L. Briggs
  • Visiting Surgeons: D. H. Armstrong, J. P. Creveling
  • Consulting Physician (Homeopathic): C. W. Boyce
  • Visiting Physicians (Homeopathic): H. M. Frye, H. Robinson

The dedication was held with Rev. Charles Hawley, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, as a principal speaker. Rev. Hawley was a close friend of founding benefactor James S. Seymour, who was an elder of First Presbyterian Church.

In his address, Dr. Hawley stated: “The hospital was among the last things needed to complete the circle of benevolent agencies and beautiful charities that grace our fair city.”


During the first year it became evident more beds were needed. The Lady Managers were concerned about the cost of operation. Food basket contributions, amateur theatricals, donation days, and appeals to the public were undertaken and the response was generous, but operating costs rose steadily and the problem seemed overwhelming so the first charity ball was held, with proceeds of $265.94.


A frame annex was constructed to add 20 beds.


A new Operating Room was built.

The Training School for Nurses was founded with two students.


The Isolation Pavilion for contagious cases was built and given to the hospital by a group of concerned women.

The Training School for Nurses graduated the first five students to complete their studies.


The Board of Trustees raised sufficient money from public contributions for the Western Pavilion and the original Service Building. In addition, the late Henry A. Morgan of Aurora gave $14,000 to construct the Morgan Memorial Home for Nurses.


The School of Nursing was registered with the New York State Department of Education and thus became obligated to follow the department’s curriculum. It was the fourth school in the state to take this important action to improve standards.


The School of Nursing registered with the New York State Board of Regents.


The X-Ray Department was established with a gift from Frances Willard and Willard E. Case.


A contribution from the Anna K. Hatch estate made possible an addition to the cottage for maternity patients.


The young women of the Ambulance Aid Society purchased the first motor ambulance for the hospital.


The Auburn City Hospital School of Nursing Alumnae Association was formed.


In response to a need expressed for some time, the bylaws were revised and the Board of Lady Managers was discontinued. Control was vested in a 12-member Board of Trustees made up of six men and six women, with four to be elected each year for a term of three years. An Executive Committee of six members was to manage the hospital.

The Nurse Practice Act was passed to define the scope of nursing.


The Hospital Standardization Plan of the American College of Surgeons was adopted, assuring the patient maximum care and attention.


The Board of Trustees began work on the long-deferred plan for a modern hospital. Stevens and Lee architects of Boston were engaged to prepare preliminary drawings. When they were complete and adopted, Will, Folsom and Smith of New York conducted a drive for $600,000, and $720,000 was pledged. Then Hillger and Tallman architects were engaged to prepare working drawings and specifications for the modern hospital.


Work began on the first unit by contractors Fred T. Lay and Company of Springfield, Massachusetts.


Two and a half years after work began, the million dollar project was completed and Auburn had a completely new, modern institution with the capacity and equipment to meet the needs of the time. Attention turned to internal and organizational challenges.

Nurse recruitment began for high school girls with curriculum issued by the National League of Nursing.


The Nurses’ Training School Committee and the Medical Staff began offering scholarships annually for student nurses.


A Social Service Worker was added to the staff.


When the stock market crashed and depression gripped the nation, the hospital made adjustments to weather the financial storm. Demand for services of the Hospital Out-Patient Clinics increased, and by 1932 one-ninth of the population of Auburn was visiting one of these clinics each year until demand peaked in 1935 with 10,075 visits.


The first oxygen tent was purchased and put into use.


The Mary Herron Fund was established to provide “hospital care for the worthy needy.”


The Osborne Residence at South and Swift Streets was established as the Convalescent Home for Children through a gift from the Fred L. Emerson Foundation.


As the cost of hospital care rose, individuals had increasing difficulty paying for the services. The hospital became a participating member of the Group Hospital Service Plan of Syracuse, commonly known as Blue Cross. This brought benefits to patients and alleviated hospital credit problems, but created the need for more beds.

Thus the West Pavilion, erected in 1902, was completely renovated and a solarium was added. Capacity increased by 20 ward beds.

The Nurse Practice Act was signed into law by the Governor of New York State. The Nurse Practice Act defined nursing practice and restricted “nurse for hire” to those who were licensed as either a registered professional nurse or a practical nurse.

Nurses at ACH began an affiliation with Biggs Memorial Hospital in Ithaca, New York for tuberculosis nursing.

Mandatory licensure for nurses became a law.


The Physio-Therapy Department was established.


The onset of World War II made more changes necessary and plans began to increase bed capacity in case of an emergency or catastrophe.

The Blood Bank was established. As shortages were experienced in supplies and personnel, and 30 members of the medical staff entered the Armed Forces, the clinics were discontinued. An addition between the Central and East wings added 18 beds to partially alleviate the shortage.


By 1943 the most serious personnel shortage was in the nursing department, as 27 graduate nurses left to serve with the Armed Forces.

The federal government instituted the Cadet Nurse Corps to alleviate the financial strain and help recruit nurses for hospitals and the Armed Forces. At the Auburn City Hospital School of Nursing, eighty percent of the students were enrolled in the Cadet Program.

The Red Cross Nurses’ Aides and Staff Assistants Programs were inaugurated and provided many hours of volunteer service.


The Polio epidemic struck Auburn and ACH became the polio care center for the county.


With the patient load increasing continually, the hospital was operating at ninety percent capacity.


The War Memorial Wing was constructed at the west end of the hospital, with a subscription of $250,000 from individuals and industries. This brought the total bed capacity to 274, with 135 adult medical-surgical, 28 obstetrical, 35 bassinets, 11 contagious, 30 pediatric and 35 children’s convalescent beds.

The kitchen was completely remodeled, laundry equipment was replaced, a new model central supply room was established, and a new infants’ formula room was set up.


The Morgan Home was replaced by a new wing for the Nurses’ Residence. The new residence was completely fire-resistant and accommodated 120 nurses.

The main branch of the Cayuga County Laboratory moved into the hospital, using the space formerly occupied by the out-patient clinics.


Financial strains were a growing problem. Commodities, which were controlled during the war, rose dramatically in price and with the inception of the eight hour work day and increasing salaries, payroll demands grew too. Columbia University did a study of hospital finance at the request of the Governor of New York state. The study deemed the hospitals of New York state fiscally sound, and recommended to major changes although problems were recognized.


A dial telephone system was installed for making internal as well as external calls.

The operating room suite was completely remodeled. A cystoscopic room was added, with a dark room for developing X-Ray films on fracture cases and a six bed recovery room. The most up-to-date safeguards were also added including conductive floors, explosion-proof lights and switches, and new sterilizers.


A new combined Medical and Nursing School Library was established with a full-time, trained medical librarian.


At the annual meeting of the Hospital Association, the name was changed from Auburn City Hospital to Auburn Memorial Hospital.

Extensive remodeling projects were begun including a new Pediatric Department, replacing the one built more than 25 years earlier. The new unit had visual control, two-way communication, and two new two- and four-bed units.

The Pediatric Department was dedicated to Dr. George C. Sincerbeaux in “sincere appreciation of his 50 years of service to the children of Auburn and Cayuga County.” The hospital participated in the community-wide testimonial dinner honoring Dr. Sincerbeaux and marking establishment of the Dr. George C. Sincerbeaux Fund to provide nursing scholarships for advanced study in pediatric nursing.

A Meditation Room was built on the first floor for patients, families and friends, and anyone who might be comforted by its use. It was designed to be acceptable to all faiths. A combination conference and assembly room, seating 90 people with a central divider to make two smaller rooms, was constructed on the second floor of the central wing.

In addition, to accommodate increased demand, the X-Ray Department was completed, with a darkroom between two diagnostic X-Ray rooms. A deep therapy X-Ray machine was purchased for $11,000, replacing 20-year-old equipment.

A new reimbursable cost formula was adopted by the New York State Department of Social Welfare for payment to hospitals for the care of indigent patients.

The first survey of the hospital by the restructured Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals was conducted and the hospital received full approval from the Commission. This recognized adequacy of the physical facilities and proper functioning of the medical and hospital staff.


Contributions from individuals and industries made it possible to remodel the utility rooms and serving kitchens in the East Wing and add new equipment in the laundry, as well as a revised food distribution cart system in the main kitchen.

A parking lot was added on the west side of the building, clearing congestion in the rear.

The Hospital Auxiliary was organized with Mrs. Crawford as president and 200 volunteers.


The Pharmacy was modernized and an auxiliary power plant was installed to eliminate power interruptions such as that caused by Hurricane Hazel.

Occupancy grew to 92.9 percent and waiting lists were initiated.

Late in the year, the Ford Foundation distributed several million dollars in grants to hospitals in the United States, and Auburn Memorial Hospital received $104,300. Ford Foundation projects approved by the Board of Trustees were:

  • Relocation of classrooms from the West Wing to the Nurses Residence
  • Improved facilities for out-patient clinics and physical therapy
  • Expansion and improvement of X-Ray diagnostic facilities with a new radiographic unit and a waiting room
  • Installation of audio patient call systems in six nursing units


Early in the year a nationally known firm of hospital consultants headed by Anthony J. Rourke M.D. was engaged to determine the need for additional facilities at the hospital, and the types needed. For the estimated 81,700 people served, the consultants recommended additional medical and surgical beds, facilities for long term care, and a unit for psychiatric patients.

The Board approved building a new four story wing extending from the East Wing past the end of the Nurses Residence, to provide 80 beds in two nursing units for long term care patients. The plans included an expanded Emergency Room with a Lansing Street entrance and 12 semi- private maternity beds and a new nursery on the top floor.

Other changes needed were expansion of the Laundry and Dietary Department, a new boiler plant, relocation of Central Sterile Supply from the first to the fourth floor, between the Operating Room and the Maternity Department, and conversion of the Contagious Ward on the first floor of the West Wing into a 14 bed psychiatric unit. The goal was to provide early treatment for acutely ill patients, and thus avoid long stays in State institutions.

The cost of expansion was estimated at $1,250,000, with $300,000 to be sought from a Federal Hill-Burton Grant. The fund raising firm of Will, Folsom, and Smith conducted a campaign that raised over $1,000,000 from individuals, industries, and foundations in the area.


The new Memorial Wing opened as a Chronic Rehabilitation Center, and 331patients were treated the first year. The Convalescent Home for Children was closed and the staff transferred to the new center.


Remodeling of the first floor of the War Memorial Wing into the Psychiatric Unit was completed, broadening the services provided by the hospital.

The surgical suite was renovated with a new 10 bed Recovery Room, relocation of the Cystoscopic Room, and an over-head X-Ray unit for the operating room.

The Auxiliary’s Window Shop was enlarged with a Snack Bar and Gift Shop. For the surgical suite and Window Shop, the cost was $115,295 with $60,000 received from the Emerson Foundation and $6,995 from the Auxiliary.


A 10 bed intensive care unit opened on the fourth floor of the Memorial Wing at a cost of $125,000. Total capacity was 288 beds.

The Medical and Nursing School Library was moved to the basement of the Memorial Wing.


The Emerson Foundation donated $35,000 to develop plans for a Nursing Home and to purchase 142 North Street as the site. Later that year 144 and 146 North Street were also purchased.

An addition between the East and Central Wings added 16 semiprivate beds on the second and third floors, space for the Cayuga County Laboratory on the first floor, and space for Central Sterile Supply on the fourth floor. The cost was $116,865.

A new parking lot on Lansing Street for 52 cars was completed at a cost of $10,814.


In 1963 the School of Nursing was approved by the National League for Nursing for National Accreditation. This was the optimum achievement in basic nursing education and a mark of distinction for faculty and students.

There was an acute shortage of beds and a Medical Staff Utilization Committee was formed with Dr. Raymond F. Johnson as chair, to review all cases in the hospital and all emergency admissions. The goal was to eliminate unnecessary hospitalization and relieve the shortage of beds for acutely ill patients.

Parking was increasingly difficult and one of the three west lots was equipped with a key-card gate and reserved for doctors. A lot was constructed for 42 cars at 142 North Street and 148 North Street was purchased.

The hospital contracted with Hospital Dietetics Inc., a subsidiary of Cease Commissary Service Inc. of Dunkirk, for management of the hospital food service: purchasing, preparation, serving and distribution of food for patients and the cafeteria.


Air conditioning was installed for the first time, at a cost of $234,672 for a 121-ton unit to serve the operating, recovery, and delivery rooms.

Piped oxygen was installed in patient rooms as an Auxiliary project, eliminating the hazard of transporting oxygen tanks through the halls and saving substantially on the cost of oxygen.

The volume of X-Ray services continued to increase and a new $32,000 X-Ray machine equipped with a television receiver was installed, allowing for more accurate pictures and greater protection for the patient from exposure to X-Rays.


In 1964 New York state legislation was passed requiring hospitals to show proof of need before adding beds, reorganizing, or substantially modifying services.

In 1965 amendments to the Social Security Act created Medicare and Medicaid, linking government and health services so that public funds paid most hospital and medical costs for people over 65 and for all patients who met Medicaid requirements; the program began July 1, 1966.

Construction of the Nursing Home began in 1964 and continued in 1965. Federal funding was not available. A fund drive to raise $800,000 began and succeeded with help from individuals, industries, and the Emerson Foundation. The facility was designated an Extended Care Unit, denoting a wider range of services to long term care patients and complying with the new Medicare program.


The new Extended Care Unit opened with 40 beds, which were filled by year’s end with a waiting list existing afterwards. The new facility broadened the hospital’s services with the goal of bridging gaps in health services for aged people. The unit was described as “an intermediate link between the hospital and the patient’s home, offering a dynamic comprehensive service to increase or maintain the patient’s functional ability and to add dimensions to lives that medical science has already extended.”

Inhalation therapy services also were instituted.

Property at the corner of North and Lansing streets was acquired for another 50 car parking lot.

Changes in the New York State Public Health Law took effect, requiring the hospital to be certified by the State Commissioner of Health. A series of surveys by the Department of Health began at this time to monitor the hospital’s compliance with code regulations.

The volume of financial and statistical data required by the new programs necessitated adding personnel and more sophisticated equipment in the Business Office. A feasibility study for a computer system was begun.

Dr. David S. Eisenberg was appointed full time Medical Director of the hospital in July, 1966.


Two full time physicians were hired by the hospital to cover the Emergency Room from 1:00 PM until midnight. The volume of visits to the Emergency Room had grown from 579 in 1937 to 14,365 in 1967, making it impossible for attending staff to handle the load.

A long range planning committee was appointed in order to address major alterations needed to meet the Life Safety Code for Hospitals and the needs for more space in the Dietary and Xray departments, the Laboratory, and the Pharmacy.


Auburn Memorial Hospital, Mercy Hospital, and the Cayuga County Medical Society began discussions of a possible hospital merger with the help of consultants.

It was recommended that Mercy Hospital phase out its hospital services and build a 300 bed chronic care facility, and that Auburn Memorial Hospital phase out its Extended Care program, while modernizing and expanding its hospital facilities.

In July, 1968 the hospital put its Disaster Plan in action when the circus tent collapsed at Emerson Park and over 100 people were brought to the hospital. There were no serious injuries.

The Auburn Memorial Hospital School of Nursing adopted coeducation with the induction of the first male students to the school.


On January 1, 1969 the General Electric Computer installed during the previous year began operation.

Letters of Intent were filed with the New York State Health Department and approved, providing for Auburn Memorial Hospital to have 307 acute care beds with approximately 300 skilled nursing beds at Mercy Hospital. Committees were appointed to study design and methods of financing the building program.

The Extended Care Unit was designated the Nursing Home Pavilion.

The Intensive Care Unit was modernized and a Coronary Care Unit was established in that department. Three cardiac monitors were purchased by the Auxiliary.

The Emergency Room was reorganized with full time coverage by physicians 24 hours, seven days. Four full time physicians were hired and four additional treatment rooms were established in the former Occupational Therapy area on the north side of the Memorial wing corridor. Occupational Therapy became mobile, establishing separate units on the psychiatric unit and in the Nursing Home Pavilion.

The Pediatric Department was remodeled adding six more beds for adolescents.


On January 1, 1970 cost controls were implemented by the New York State Department of Health, establishing rates to be paid to the hospital for all Medicaid and Blue Cross patients. As controls were already in place for Medicare patients, 70 percent of patients were now paid for at an established rate per day.


The Cardiac Care program was expanded with a four bed Intermediate Coronary Care unit on the third floor of the Memorial wing (Third Memorial). This provided more cardiac control and supervision than was available on a medical floor for patients who no longer needed intensive care.

The March of Dimes purchased the hospital’s first fetal monitor and prenatal monitoring was introduced in the Obstetrics Department. New diagnostic and fluoroscopic equipment was purchased for the X-Ray Department at a cost of $80,000 making it possible to do mylogram studies.

A fund drive for the building program raised $2,830,854 with $1,130,000 in matching funds from the Emerson Foundation and a gift of $975,000 from Dr. Raymond F. Johnson.


A Centrex phone system was installed and a countywide emergency communication system was set up. Thus ambulances throughout the county could communicate with the Emergency Room.

Nursing became an independent profession in New York State.


The Board of Trustees decided to close the School of Nursing, on account of increasing costs of operation and plans for a new nursing education program at Auburn Community College. This lifted the burden of cost from hospital patients and placed it on the community’s tax base. The School of Nursing’s excellence over its 80 year history was recognized.

Land at the corner of Lansing and Nelson streets was leased to a group of staff physicians for construction of a medical office building.

The Nursing Home Pavilion closed when Mercy Health and Rehabilitation Center opened. The building was sold to Cayuga County for a Mental Health Center and to house the hospital’s 14 bed psychiatric unit.

Because of a serious shortage of physicians, a Physician Procurement Program was established which recruited 11 new physicians the first year.

The Federal Economic Stabilization Program necessitated changes in the building plans. In late 1973 the Board of Trustees approved a modified construction program for alternations to bring the hospital into compliance with New York State Health Department code requirements. Some new construction would also be undertaken to modernize and expand key departments. The cost was estimated at $5,000,000. Beardsley and Beardsley were architects with the William E. Bouley Company as construction manager.


On November 5, 1975 ground was broken for the new Operating and Recovery Room, Laboratory, X-Ray, Pharmacy, Central Sterile Supply and Intensive Care unit. The old Operating Room was converted into a 34 bed medical and surgical unit.


The last class at the ACH School of Nursing graduated with 31 nurses. A total of 1,307 nurses were educated at the school in 89 years.


In February 1978 a series of Mini-Tours were held and several thousand visitors saw the new specialty areas. The building program was complete at year’s end, resulting in a modern 304 bed facility offering multiple specialized services.

The hospital celebrated its 100 year anniversary.

Recent History

Please visit our history again soon for details on 1979-2006.


Auburn Memorial Hospital entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The Hospital had lost $25.6 million since 2001 and was currently $25 million in unsecured debt.


The Heal 4 Project began which included renovations to the Operating Rooms and third floor Memorial Wing; relocation of the Psychiatric Unit inside the hospital; and upgrades to the heating/ventilation/air conditioning (HVAC) system. The building project was partially funded by a $4.4 million HEAL NY grant that was awarded to ACH by New York State at the end of 2006.


Three years after declaring bankruptcy ACH had made $9.9 million in profit which included a record $4.2 million profit in 2009 on revenues of $90.2 million.

Since 2007, the hospital had repaid all its unsecured debt under the bankruptcy plan, added 25 physicians and increased the number of admitted patients by 800 in 2009.


Auburn Memorial Hospital completed its eight month renovation of the Maternity Unit renamed, The Stardust Community Birthing Center in Memory of John and Irene Bisgrove. The $2.5 million dollar project, all of which was fundraised, included four Birthing Suites and seven private Post-Partum Suites along with an exam room and nursery. The Maternity Unit was last renovated in 1958.


Auburn Memorial Hospital changed its name to Auburn Community Hospital to reflect the stronger connections which the hospital is developing through the communities in the Finger Lakes Region and because the local community is a critical part of the life of this hospital.