Jul 28, 2014

Elwood General Hospital

In 1964, the Dix Hills-Commack-Elwood area had their very own private hospital. That’s right—in 1964—as in it opened and closed in less than a year.

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This week’s story comes to us from one of our readers, thank you!  He made me aware that this institution existed, and sent me some pictures so I was able to get started on my research.  If you have an idea for a story, email me and I’ll see what I can find out!

In 1964, the Dix Hills-Commack-Elwood area had their very own private hospital.  That’s right—in 1964—as in it opened and closed in less than a year, and so very few people know anything about it.  Though the building itself remained vacant and abandoned for many years.

On September 13, 1962 the Long-Islander announced that, “Construction is underway on the Elwood General Hospital located on a private road off Jericho Tpke. and Elwood Rd., near the Elwood Diner and the Town of Huntington Highway Garage in Elwood.”  Today, this road is called Rofay Drive, and the hospital was located just south of Jericho Turnpike and just east of Rofay Drive, where the road now curves.  The hospital was located almost directly between Huntington Hospital and Smithtown General Hospital, and was designed to serve the areas of Elwood, Commack, East Northport, Dix Hills, and Greenlawn.

According to the building permits filed at the time, the building would be 171.8 feet by 202.10 feet, and would be a one-story masonry structure.  The Town waited in excitement and monitored the progress of the building, and by May 2, 1963, the Long-Islander announced that the “luxurious new Elwood General Hospital” was 80 percent complete, and would open as planned on July 1, 1963.

The week of the hospital’s planned opening, on July 4, 1963, notice was published in the Long- announcing the creation of Partnership with Drs. Thomas Memmoli, Robert H. Rosen, and John J. O’Brien, the founders of the hospital, listed as general partners and 21 other doctors listed as limited partners.

As is typical with large construction projects, the opening date of the hospital had to be pushed back almost a year.  The hospital finally opened in mid-March 1964, with an article announcing them to the neighborhood in the April 2, 1964 Long-Islander.  The article reported that the building cost one and half million dollars to construct and has facilities for 88 adults and 25 infants, on the 11-acre campus, (the extra acreage was purchased for use as future growth required new buildings).   The staff was comprised of 25 local doctors, 25 nurses, and 50 auxiliary personnel.  “Television sets are available with hospital rooms and there are two open court yards enclosed by the building.  These courtyards have been landscaped and are intended for patients convalescing who want sunshine and fresh air.”  The hospital was affiliated with Blue Cross and the Suffolk County Department of Welfare. 

The first baby born at Elwood Hospital was Michael Knels, son of Mr. and Mrs. Karl Knels of Deer Park.  It was an exciting time for everyone at the hospital, as they looked forward to what they were building.

Then on February 18, 1965, just 10 months after it opened, the Long-Islander announced that, “Elwood’s Hospital is Closed.”  The headline went on to read, “20,000 Owed Staff, $50,000 Due From Patients.”  In reality, the hospital closed in December of 1964 in bankruptcy proceedings, only 8 months after opening.  Residents argued for the need for the hospital in the area, but perhaps they were just too ahead of the times.  “Since opening in March it had only 20 patients a week and sometimes less… instead of the more than 40 necessary to meet expenses. By December, when the hospital closed it had not met the payroll for nurses, office and maintenance personnel and could not do so because of unpaid patient bills.”    There was some talk that Huntington Hospital might be interested in taking over the building, and reactivating the hospital.

Foreclosure proceedings were scheduled for August 17, 1965 at Town Hall.  “A spokesman for the Flushing Federal Savings and Loan Association said the property, building, street and road rights, fixtures and attached properties are included in the sale for the ill-fated venture of a physicians’ corporation,” according to the August 5, 1965 Long-Islander.  The article also explained that several of the doctors were forced to file personal bankruptcy, as they used their houses and personal property as collateral on the loan for the hospital.  More than twenty interested persons attended the auction, and the winning bid was $869,222 made by William Iser of Brooklyn, who planned to reopen the building as a private hospital and nursing home.

On September 7, 1965 the hospital was put to auction for second time, when Iser failed to produce the 10% cash down payment.  The Flushing Federal Savings and Loan Association won the bid, and immediately announced it was for sale. 

And so the rumors and proposals began…

On February 10, 1966, the Long-Islander announced that a group of New York Physicians was under contract of sale.  They were planning on reopening the hospital. 

The following year, February 2, 1967, with the LIDC controversy having just passed, the Long-Islander reported that “Huntington Township has given up enough properties for mental institutions or similar state institutions.”  This statement was made in response to the possibility of the State Narcotics Commission turning the defunct Elwood Hospital into a narcotics treatment center. 

On June 4, 1970 the Hospital was in the Long-Islander again.  This time, unfortunately, a 13 year old boy was hunting frogs with his friend on the grounds of the abandoned hospital when, he fell into the sump and drowned. 

Eight years later, the hospital property was being considered for a housing development for the elderly, with as many as 185 subsidized housing units, according to the January 7, 1978 Newsday. 

The hospital building is visible on the 1980 aerial map, but it is gone by the time of the 2000 aerial map.  So it was demolished sometime in that twenty-year period. 

Similarly, in 1978 the Flushing Savings and Loan Association still has the property on the market, but by March of 1992 Eger Lutheran Home Inc. & Bruce Wichard are seeking permits to build there, so they obtained ownership at some point.

Eger Lutheran & Bruce Wichard’s first proposal was to build, “a 320- bed nursing home facility for the care of disabled adults, a head trauma unit, and an adult day care unit.” (Newsday 3/8/92)  On June 6, 1999 they were before the Huntington Planning Board with a proposal to build 10 lots on the 11-12 acres for a subdivision known as Home Sweet Homes.  The final subdivision map was filed on January 11, 2001, and Wichard Development Company (Bruce Wichard) of Dix Hills was the builder.  Today, this property where the Hospital stood, is known as Home Court.

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