Newington Home and Hospital for Crippled Children
Located in Newington, CT
Photo © 2007 Tom Kirsch, opacity.us
Newington Home and Hospital for Crippled Children History
The Newington Home for Incurables was founded in 1898 for children afflicted with conditions such as polio, cerebral palsy, and spina bifida. The hospital's founding was spearheaded by Virginia Thrall Smith, who championed for the care of disabled children. Two sites in downtown Hartford proved unsuitable, as the public would be "exposed" to the children and their infirmities. Finally, an abandoned farm was offered at the base of Mount Cedar in Newington, and the 10-bed hospital was constructed under the leadership of the Connecticut Children's Aid Society.
The home offered little more than comfort and care to the children during the early days; staff would take children on outings, and resident instructors would teach lessons. The patients, called "inmates" back then, would work the farm with the staff to provide fresh vegetables, meat, eggs and milk for the institution. In 1913 the society had a small hospital for orthopedic surgery constructed, as well has a residence for both children and staff. This dormitory building featured a balcony which overlooked a vast lawn, where Franklin Delano Roosevelt would give a speech to a crowd assembled below in 1930. Acknowledging that the children were not in fact "incurable," the name of the institution was changed to the Newington Home for Crippled Children in 1917.
The hospital bloomed from 80 to 200 children between 1917 and 1933, and began to gain a reputation in rehabilitation and orthopedics. The hospital was a long-term care facility for many children, but its mission was moving towards comprehensive care. New buildings and services were added in the 1950s and 1970s. In 1996, Newington Children's Hospital moved to a new facility in Hartford, however the former grounds are still used by administrative functions of Hartford Hospital.
The old dormitory for both children and staff had sat unused for quite some time until it was demolished in 2008. For more information on the institution, check out the book They Called it 'The Home for Incurables': Newington Children's Hospital by Barbara Donahue (2004).