Burlington, Vermont
Early 20th-century Postcard Views

HP 206 Researching Historic Structures & Sites • 2012
Historic Preservation ProgramUniversity of Vermont

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Mary Fletcher Hospital, postcard, N. E. Stationary Co Mfrs. Ayers MA, post date Sept. 29, 1906.

Photo by Jessica Goerold, 2012.
Mary Fletcher Hospital, postcard, post date Aug. 19, 1915. Photo by Jessica Goerold, 2012.
Mary Fletcher Hospital, postcard, C.T. Photochrome, post date June 5, 1914. Photo by Jessica Goerold, 2012.

Mary Fletcher Hospital was founded by a young lady named Mary Fletcher. Its namesake was her mother, Mary L. Fletcher. Mary Fletcher and her mother (the daughter and widow of Hon. Thaddeus R. Fletcher) were well-known philanthropists and were often cited in the newspapers as the benefactresses of Burlington, contributing money and items to various causes.

The Mary Fletcher Hospital was Mary Fletcher's most memorable and lasting contribution to Burlington. It was officially incorporated on November 16, 1876 by the General Committee of the Vermont State Senate.(1) UVM President Matthew H. Buckham was one of the incorporators of the hospital in 1876 and served as the first 1st vice president, as well as its president from 1892 on.(2) He also served on the Executive Committee and was influential in many of the early decisions regarding the university's relationship with the hospital.(3)

After incorporation, construction was delayed for years in order to procure a suitable piece of property. It was finally settled that the hospital would exist on a 35 acre parcel of land adjacent to the university property, which also included a 400 acre farm.(4) Upon purchase, construction commenced and was completed in 1879, at a cost of somewhere around $200,000. The newspapers of the time are not clear as to the exact sum, giving a range from $150,000 to $225,000. It seems that the original gift of $150,000 was added to over the years in order to purchase property for the hospital and to cover various construction costs.(5) The hospital was dedicated January 22, 1879, along with a generous endowment of $330,000, a gift from Mary Fletcher.(6)
From the beginning, Mary Fletcher Hospital was committed to treating everyone, with no discrimination as to economic status or county of origin. It was a facility open to all Vermonters.(7) Burlington was thrilled at the addition of this sort of hospital to the community. During construction, a Burlington Free Press reporter wrote "in fact there is no finer site for such an institution in New England, and when the new building is erected, and the spacious grounds tastefully laid out, it will be an ornament to the city, as well as a blessing to the community."(8)

Upon completion, the hospital was small. Its main building, a beautiful structure, measured 48x94 feet, with an annex measuring 40x26 feet.(9) There was also a three-story home for Nurses located next door.(10) But it would grow over the years at an unstoppable pace, adding annexes and buildings as needed. It was reportedly well-equipped with modern appliances to ensure the comfort and proper treatment of the patients whose health it was charged to maintain.

In 1882, the Mary Fletcher Hospital started a training school specifically to teach young ladies to be competent, professional and responsible nurses. There were only a few requirements for admission to the program: candidates needed to be between 20 and40 years of age, provide proof of good health and possess a sound moral character, as well as pay a $10 tuition fee. Some students were given the privilege of hospital duties (for which they received remitted tuition and housing). Upon completion of the program, the hospital functioned as an employment agency, a charitable service that was performed for the benefit of the nurses as well as their employers.(12) Within a year of its inception, the Mary Fletcher Nurses Training Program already had 20 pupils.(13)
The University of Vermont College of Medicine (established in 1922) was affiliated with the hospital almost immediately, owing to the fact that many of the board members were affiliated with the university.

In 1882, Mary Fletcher Hospital also purchased an additional twenty acres of land, extending its property south to Williston Road.(14) The hospital continued to grow in size, expanding through new building and wing construction on a regular basis and in 1967, it was renamed Medical Center Hospital of Vermont.(15) In 1995, Fletcher Allen Health Care was established as a non-profit health care organization through the merger of Fanny Allen Hospital (FAH), Medical Center Hospital of Vermont (MCHV) and University Health Care (UHC) in affiliation with UVM."(16) Fletcher Allen Health Care remains in service today, functioning as Vermont's foremost hospital and research complex with an expansive medical network serving the entire state.

(1) "Senate: Montpelier, Thursday, Nov. 16. Bills introduced, read twice and re-read," Burlington Weekly Free Press, November 24, 1876, accessed November 8, 2012, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072143/1876-11-24/ed-1/seq-1/.
(2) UVM Ariel 1912 (Rutland, VT: The Tuttle Co., 1912), 10.
(3) "Vicinity Items: Burlington," The Rutland Weekly Globe, December 15, 1876, accessed November 8, 2012,http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84022488/1876-12-15/ed-1/seq-7.
(4) Charles Edwin Allen, About Burlington Vermont (Burlington: Hobart J. Shanley & Company, 1905), 34.
(5) "The Mary Fletcher Hospital," Burlington Weekly Free Press, March 2, 1877, accessed November 8, 2012, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072143/1877-03-02/ed-1/seq-3.
(6) Allen, 34.
(7) "The Mary Fletcher Hospital at Burlington," Vermont Phoenix, November 16, 1877, accessed November 8, 2012, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn98060050/1877-11-16/ed-1/seq-2.
(8) "The Mary Fletcher Hospital," Burlington Weekly Free Press, March 2, 1877, accessed November 8, 2012, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072143/1877-03-02/ed-1/seq-3.
(9) "The Mary Fletcher Hospital at Burlington," Vermont Phoenix, November 16, 1877.
(10) Allen, 34.
(11) "From Burlington: Notes," Vermont Phoenix, July 4, 1879, accessed November 8, 2012, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn98060050/1879-07-04/ed-1/seq-2.
(12) "Mary Fletcher Hospital Training School for Nurses," Vermont Phoenix, April 07, 1882, accessed November 8, 2012, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn98060050/1882-04-07/ed-1/seq-1.
(13) "Vermont News," Vermont Phoenix, and Record and Farmer, May 19, 1882, accessed November 8, 2012, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn98060050/1882-05-19/ed-1/seq-2.
(14) "Vermont State News," Vermont State Watchman and Journal Supplement, October 25, 1882, accessed November 8, 2012, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84023200/1882-10-25/ed-1/seq-4.
(15) "Our History," Fletcher Allen Health Care, http://www.fletcherallen.org/about/welcome/our_history/.
(16) Rick Blount, "First Hospital Birth of '95: Fletcher Allen Health Care," The UVM Record, January 20-February 2 1995, 8.