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Boston City Hospital collection

Identifier: 7020.001

Scope and Contents

This collection documents the history of the Boston City Hospital from 1864-1996. Parts of this collection were originally in the custody of the Boston City Hospital Library. The collection includes Board of Trustees minutes and records; published reports of the hospital; administrative files of the hospital and of the library; financial records of the hospital; historical files and news clippings compiled by the library over time; holdings of the library including medical texts dating back to the late 1700s; medical reprints of articles by many of the physicians employed at Boston City Hospital; an extensive photograph collection documenting the hospital and its staff; and a small collection of medical instruments. The collection also includes information on and yearbooks of the Boston City Hospital Training School for Nurses. A sampling of medical records are included, however these records are restricted. The collection also includes correspondence, etc. relating to the Cocoanut Grove Fire in 1942. The City Hospital treated many of the patients injured in the fire.

The collection has been arranged into nine series: Board of Trustees records; Published reports; Records; Financial records; Medical Library holdings; School of Nursing records; Photographs; Memorabilia; and Objects. Some files may be restricted due to private medical information. Please consult with archivist concerning restrictions. At the time of the merger of Boston City Hospital and the Boston University Medical Center, the BCH Library was transferred to the Boston Public Library where it remained until it was transferred to the City Archives in 2014. The City Archives merged this collection with Board of Trustees records that had been previously transferred to the City Archives from the Public Health Commission.


  • Creation: circa 1790-1996 (bulk, 1864-1996)


Historical note

Due to the need in the mid 1800's for a hospital to care for the sick poor, the city initiated plans for the construction of a city hospital. Chapter 113 of the Acts of 1858 established a City Hospital. Construction began in 1861 and the Boston City Hospital opened on June 1, 1864. The Hospital was under the charge of a Board of Trustees. Over time, besides the main hospital, the Trustees had charge of the South Department for contagious diseases, the Sanatorium Division at 249 River Street, Mattapan (for tuberculosis patients), Long Island Division (for chronic diseases) and East Boston Relief Station. Relief Stations were closed to patients on March 15, 1938; East Boston Relief Station was reopened on a twenty-four hour basis on October 15, 1945. The trustees were initially incorporated by Chapter 174 of the Acts of 1880 and authorized to receive and hold real and personal estate bequeathed or devised to said corporation to an amount not exceeding $1,000,000. By the 1950s, the trustees were authorized to receive and hold real and personal estate bequeathed or devised to said hospital corporation to an amount not exceeding $10,000,000. The Hospital Department and the Health Department were merged as the Health and Hospitals Department by Chapter 656 of the Acts of 1965. The Board of Health and Hospitals by this same statute was incorporated as the Board of Trustees of Health and Hospitals.

From 1970 through the early 1990s, great effort was made to reorganize and modernize Boston City Hospital's physical plant, including building a new Boston City Hospital. However, in 1996, the Mayor's Special Commission on Health Care was formed to study the challenges of health care provision and administration in the twenty-first century and the Commission recommended that the Department of Health and Hospitals merge with Boston University Medical Center. The consolidation of the Department of Health and Hospitals and the Boston University Medical Center created the Boston Medical Center, which subsumed the former Boston City Hospital.


70 Cubic feet (65 record cartons, 5 large flat boxes, 2 small flat boxes, and 1 large framed portrait)

Language of Materials


Related Materials

Public Health Commission Board records (#7000.001)

Guide to the Boston City Hospital collection
Kristen Swett
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the City of Boston Archives Repository

201 Rivermoor St.
West Roxbury MA 02132 United States
617-635-1194 (Fax)