Vassar Brothers Hospital Collection

The Vassar Brothers Hospital Collection


Dutchess County Historical Society
549 Main Street
Poughkeepsie, NY 12601

845-471-1630 [email protected]

Access Number


Processed by

Finding Aid Author: Gregory Wiedeman, 2012
Arranged by: unknown
Described by: unknown & Gregory Wiedeman, 2013
Preservation work: Gregory Wiedeman, 2013
Encoded by: n/a

Date Completed

2013 April 3


Vassar Brothers Hospital


3 linear ft


Inclusive: 1895 – 1981

Conditions Governing Access

No Restrictions



Scope and Content

The collection consists of contracts, historical narratives, administrative correspondence and other documentation concerning the administration of Vassar Brothers Hospital and the demolition of Old Vassar.

The historical society may hold assorted more historical and administrative documents pertaining to Vassar Brother Hospital. Included may be listings of employees and graduated nurses, historical narratives and annual reports. However, this material has yet to be located.

Historical Note

James Vassar emigrated to the United States from France via London in 1796 and settled near Manchester Bridge. He started a farm and a brewery with the help of his two sons John Guy and Matthew (the founder of Vassar College). John Guy Vassar married a daughter of Baltus Van Kleeck and had two sons also named John Guy and Matthew. Matthew Vassar (the younger) was born in 1809 in the old Van Kleeck house of his mother’s family that was built in 1702 – the first permanent building in Poughkeepsie on the south side of Mill street between Washington street and Vassar street. The original brewery built by James Vassar burned in 1811 in a disaster that cost the life of John Guy Vassar (the elder). The elder Matthew Vassar would rebuild the business after 1814. The younger Matthew ran his uncles’ brewery and served as a trustee of his uncle and namesake’s Vassar College. When he died on August 10, 1881, the younger Matthew Vassar’s will allocated a portion of his estate for the incorporation of a hospital. The will stated that that the institution would be called Vassar Brothers Hospital if his brother John Guy Vassar (the younger) was willing to participate. Unlike his brother, John Guy Vassar (the younger) had not been involved in local affairs. His tenuous health lead him to travel for his health while he build an investment fortune.

The hospital opened on April 11th, 1887 and received its first patient, Minna A. Maxiner on April 27th. The hospital leaders also consisted of Matthew’s widow, Irene B. Vassar and a number of Poughkeepsie magnates including Oliver H. Booth, James H. Weeks, Joseph M. Cleveland, Edward Van Kleeck, and William S. Johnson. A nurse training school was established and gave out its first certifications on October 1, 1890. It seems that criticism of the staff was common around the turn of the century. In 1906, Dr. Henry G. Bugbee became the new superintendent and began a reorganization of staff and a broadening of policy. In 1910 Dr. Bugbee resigned and original trustee Benjamin M. Fowler took his place. His tenure was one of great expansion. The number of patients increased over 200% from 1903 to 1913 and new buildings and wards were added. The babies department was added in 1916 and the year witnessed 15 births at the hospital. At first the lack of adequate facilities meant that maternity patients were admitted only on a charitable basis if they could not give birth at home. Funding became more of a problem as the original endowment made in Matthew Vassar’s will continued to dwindle. During the hospitals first 33 years charity patients outnumbered pay patients two to one.

1921 witnessed the beginning of major expansion and policy changes for the hospital. A new wing doubled the number of beds and allowed the original building to be used for patients to be treated by their own local doctors. The enlargement of the staff met professional standards of American College of Surgeons and the American Hospital Association. A campaign to replenish the depleted endowment in 1924 raised over $660,000. The 1920s witnessed more fundraising campaigns and the end of a closed body a permanent trustees. The governing body became the Vassar Brothers Hospital Association in 1929 which consisted of all contributors and elected trustees. In 1932 funds from the estate of Joseph T. Tower enabled the construction of a new nurses’ home. In 1936 the hospital has grown to hold 3,944 patients.


The Collection was donated to the Dutchess County Historical Society by Vassar Brothers Hospital on February 14, 1984. A second donation was made on June 16, 1984.

Subject Headings

Vassar Brothers Hospital; Historic preservation

Copyright Notice

Individuals requesting reproductions expressly assume the responsibility for compliance with all pertinent provisions of the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. ss101 et seq. Patrons further agree to indemnify and hold harmless the Dutchess County Historical Society and its staff in connection with any disputes arising from the Copyright Act, over the reproduction of material at the request of patrons. For more information please visit the following website:

Container List

Box 1

Item Contents Date
File 1 Historic Trust 1981 – 1982
File 2 Histories 1936 – 1976
File 3 “The Vassar Family” in Poughkeepsie Bicentennial Forum 1976
File 4 Administrative correspondence and other manuscript material 1895 – 1952
File 5 Clippings, photographic prints and negatives of Old Vassar circa 1981
File 6 Correspondence concerning demolition circa 1981
File 7 Environmental study 1980 – 1982


File 8 “Vassar Hospital, Poughkeepsie Tests the Wonders of the X-ray” in the Sunday Courier 1914
November 15
Box 2
Item Contents Date
File 1 Bound books of photographs of Old Vassar Hospital undated
Box 3
Item Contents Date
Item 1 One bed pan with cover undated
Item 2 Three enamel pans with half-covers undated

Container List from accession (may not reflect current holdings

Item Contents Date
Item 1 Miscellaneous architectural plans for Vassar Brother Hospital; some by Frederick C. Withers, architect undated
Item 2 Framed registration certificate for Vassar Brothers Hospital, Training School for Nurses undated
Item 3 “Twenty Years Around the World,” John Guy Vassar 1891
Item 4 By-laws, rules, and regulations of Vassar Brothers’ Hospital 1892
Item 5 1st Annual report of the Vassar Brothers’ Hospital 1887 – 1888
Item 6 Annual report of Vassar Brothers Hospital 1929
Item 7 Poughkeepsie city directory 1897
Item 8 Vassar Brothers Hospital, Account of Securities, securities received from Executors of M. Vassar, Jr. 1886 June 21
Item 9 Vassar Brothers Hospital, A History 1887 – 1967
Item 10 Miscellaneous newspaper articles undated
Item 11 Miscellaneous historical information undated
Item 12 Miscellaneous historical information undated
Item 13 Material concerning the demolition of Old Vassar undated
Item 14 Material concerning the demolition of Old Vassar undated
Item 15 Material concerning the demolition of Old Vassar undated
Item 16 Documentation on architectural elements that were removed undated
Item 17 Photo album of Vassar Brothers Hospital and environs 1901
Item 18 14 photo reprints from album negatives 1901


Item 19 Postcard of Vassar Hospital entrance undated
Item 20 Page from book showing Vassar Brothers Hospital and the undated
proposed private pavilion
Item 21 Promotional lay-out undated
Item 22 List of nurses graduated at Vassar Brothers Hospital, up to October 1897 October
Item 23 Copy of last will and testament and codicil thereto of John Guy 1888
Item 24 List of Employees at Vassar Brothers Hospital 1897
Item 25 Number of patients treated at Vassar Brothers Hospital from April 1888 – October 27, 1897 1888 – 1897
Item 26 List of architects, contractors, and inspectors undated