Beginning a Second Century
In the Autumn of 1918, Dr. Wolff Freudenthal, a German-trained physician with ENT expertise and a leader of New York City-based medical societies, discussed with his associates at the more than 80-year-old New York Medical Union, the fate of an elderly physician, now reduced to living as an inmate at a “poor house.” Dr. Freudenthal urged his fellow physicians to organize a home to care for aged and indigent physicians and their wives or widows. Less than a year later, on June 4, 1919, The Physicians’ Home was granted a certificate of incorporation, and at his home on October 14, Dr. Freudenthal chaired the first annual meeting of this new philanthropy. Immediately thereafter, an appeal was issued to physicians throughout NY State for financial donations of support, and so launched Physicians’ Home.
For its first 25 years, Physicians’ Home provided actual housing for physicians in distress. Many different NY State sites were employed. First was a private sanitarium in Amityville, Long Island, variously known as Louden Knickerbocker Hall or Louden Hall Private House.
Supplementing this site was an extraordinary farm of 200 acres in northwestern NY State in the isolated village of Caneadea, between Corning and Buffalo. Two brother physicians, Drs. Stephen and William Mountain, sons of the farm’s owner, offered this tranquil spot to Physicians’ Home in 1921-1922, for a mortgage to be ultimately forgiven, with the proviso that the home is named for their father, David. Plans included large dormitories, structural additions, a laboratory for experiments, tennis, and golf facilities, and in fact, by 1923, all guests of the Physicians’ Home were housed there; most of this original grand plan was never completed. In the midst of the Depression and with the death of Dr. Stephen Mountain, the David A. Mountain Home for Aged Physicians abruptly closed in 1927, just five years after its opening, and its guests (approximately 11) moved to either nearby Jackson Sanitarium (The Castle on the Hill) in Dansville, or Dr. Barnes Sanitarium in Stamford, Connecticut, or back to Louden Hall in Amityville. In 1929, Physicians’ Home acquired real estate in Brooklyn, NY, which was ultimately sold some years later.
In the 1930s, Physicians’ Home had achieved through many, many modest gifts of several hundred dollars, an endowment of $100,000, and a Board, which had expanded from 7 to 33.
A beneficiary in the early years of Physicians’ Home
During the 1940 war years, the Home entered “turbulent and fateful days” with an inadequate endowment, despite in 1944 receiving its largest single bequest to date of $25,000. By 1945, Physicians’ Home ceased maintaining guests in homes and instead moved to its current operating plan of providing interval monetary help to physicians, with immediate family members eligible for assistance as well.
Physicians’ Home, Caneadea, New York, Circa 1924
More Recent Years
The 1950s brought the Home a remarkable reversal of its financial resources. Notice was received in the early ’50s of an extraordinary bequest, the largest to date – from Dr. Teofilo Parodi, who had operated the Lexington Sanitarium (Lexington Avenue at 65th St.). Some time was required to settle this bequest; in the end, it amounted to $750,000. Not surprisingly, the Home maintains a plaque in its administrative office, commemorating the generosity of this physician.
In the following decades, donations from thousands have benefited the mission of the Home. Most impressive has been a recent generous transfer of assets to Physicians’ Home from a former New York City physician charity, the Society for the Relief of Widows and Orphans of Medical Men.
Currently, a typical 12-month period would see anywhere from 25 to 35 individuals receiving help, with total amounts given out for such a period amounting to over $250,000 – no repayment is expected! Regular meetings of the executive committee of the Board are held at the administrative office in NYC to review beneficiary status and circumstances.
For many years the Home has maintained a liaison with the Medical Society of the State of New York. A report of our activities is provided to their annual House of Delegates meeting; in turn, the Society has helped with fundraising efforts by providing physician contact information, as well as by helping to make sure the mission of the organization is known to doctors throughout the various counties of the state.
The Home has been blessed with the leadership of an astute Board of Directors, chaired by Dr. Andrew Sama, an able and dedicated President, Dr. Joseph Cleary, who joined the Board in 1988, and a very capable administrative office staff.
As Physicians’ Home enters a second century, it stands secure with sound financial and administrative resources, ready to extend assistance well into the future for New York State Physicians who fall upon hard times.
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