History of Burbank Hospital
We are forever indebted to a compassionate and wealthy man whose life was filled with professional triumphs as well as personal tragedies. His success as a businessman in our community was great - his contributions as a philanthropist to our community was even greater. This man, Gardner S. Burbank, left his legacy to Fitchburg, a charitable gift which led to the birth of a hospital for our community 108 years ago.
The story of Gardner S. Burbank is one filled with emotion and drama. His first wife died only two years after they were married. He and his second wife, Sarah, lived a long and loving life together, yet suffered the loss of all three of their children. There would be no heirs to the Burbank fortune. Their son Edwin died at age 13, daughters Mary at 16 and Sarah at age 29. It was shortly after the death of their third child that Mr. Burbank drew up his will. The entire estate was left to his wife with the provision that at her death the remaining funds would be given to the city to establish a hospital.
He writes "it was at the request of my wife, whose good judgement has so greatly aided me in all the affairs and purpose of my life that I was led to make the forgoing provisions for the founding of a hospital". He knew the importance of health care and he unselfishly gave back to the community with the dollars necessary to establish a hospital.
And so, in 1890, Burbank Hospital was born. The first hospital was housed at the Nichols Farm Mansion. In the beginning, with no permanent staff doctors, a dedicated group of physicians were elected to serve at the hospital with no financial compensation. At the same time, the Burbank Hospital School of Nursing was opened as a two year training program for nurses. There were three students. The first staff of nurses were paid $6.00 dollars a month which included room, board, textbooks and uniforms.
Time has seen many changes in the 108 years since Burbank first opened. In 1901, the new 55-bed Burbank Hospital was constructed and became forever known as the hospital on the hill. It was comprised of four connecting cottage-style buildings. In 1910, a new nurse's home was built.
Time and progress have dictated the need to change. And so Burbank Hospital saw continuous expansions and new construction. In 1976, a major construction project was completed and a new building was opened. Named after prominent local physician, James Greenleaf Simmons, M.D., the opening of the Simmons Building heralded a new era of health care.
Today, we continue to face the changes that ensure a solid health care future for our community. Again we see the Simmons Building placing an important part in the future of the Burbank Campus. A 2 million dollar renovation project is underway, which includes a new Emergency Department and Ambulatory Care Department on the ground floor of the Simmons Building. Gardner Burbank's vision for the future was remarkably insightful. "And I trust that my charity will survive and do good to the poor and the sick for many generations." Today his words are as meaningful and powerful as when they were written over a century ago. We are committed to his work.
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