Friday, December 7, 2007

Smallpox Hospital - Canterbury Street

Canterbury street is at the border of Jamaica Plain and Mattapan, but it was considered the West Roxbury district in the late 1800s. In the 1890s, a smallpox hospital sat on Canterbury street, opposite Forest Hills cemetery, and between Morton and Walk Hill streets. Today, the site is the home of the Judge John J. Connelly Youth Center and a Department of Corrections Pre-Release center (for more, see here). Clearly, it is a place the city puts institutions that do not play well with NIMBY-fied neighbors.

The first reference to the hospital I find is in December of 1893, when a Roxbury father and six of his children were taken there for care. A girl from Cape Breton had come to stay in their house, and had apparently carried the infection with her. Smallpox had been a scourge for Boston since colonial times, but this late date was a surprise to me. There had been an epidemic in 1873, but few outbreaks since. The next year a case appeared nearby on Canterbury street itself, but while it was believed to be a coincidence by physicians, the neighbors of the hospital apparently thought otherwise. Another case in the same year came from Egleston square. The family of the victim, a married woman, resisted her removal to the hospital, only agreeing on the promise that their names would not be revealed. The husband, a businessman, feared that knowledge of his wife's condition would destroy his business.

This is another one of those small institutions that needs some digging to get at the full story. And again, maybe someone who knows the story will find this posting and add to it.

Resources: Boston Daily Globe, December 8, 1893, December 9, 1893, January 5, 1894, January 23, 1894.

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