The Hospital Building stood just inside the exposition's West Amherst gate at the corner of Elmwood Avenue and Amherst Street. As one entered from the gate, the hospital was the first building on the right. A symmetrical Spanish Mission-style building, it was composed of a two-story center section with one-story flanking wings. The roofs for the three sections were the usual fake red-tile hipped ones, angled at 30 degrees in keeping with the architecture board's regulations.
The generous ground-floor windows were round-topped, and there was a picturesque little balcony over the double-doored arched entrance. A building measuring 30 by 100 feet, it provided an operating room with the latest equipment, hospital beds and treatment for visitors taken ill at the fair.
After being shot by an assassin on Sept. 6, 1901, the mortally wounded President William McKinley was carried to the Hospital Building in the exposition's electric ambulance. The late University of Buffalo historian Selig Adler, in his definitive 1963 Scientific American essay, "The Operation on McKinley," provides many of the subsequent details.
Twenty-two minutes elapsed before the first surgeon arrived at 4:45 p.m. He was Dr. Herman Mynter, who had served in the medical corps in both the Army and the Navy in his native Denmark before he migrated to Buffalo in the 1870s. Recalling that he had chatted with Mynter the day before, McKinley smiled wanly and said, "Doctor, when I met you yesterday, I did not imagine that today I should have asked a favor of you." Mynter's examination revealed that the wound was deep and confirmed the opinion of other physicians present that immediate surgery was necessary. The president was informed of the decision; conscious and composed, he gave permission for the operation.
So far, no decision had been made as to who should be in charge of the operation. When Dr. Matthew D. Mann strode in a few minutes later, John Milburn, exposition chairman, whispered to McKinley's personal secretary, George Cortelyou, that Dr. Mann was "the man for the operation."
The operation, which began at 5:20, was performed under heavy handicaps, the worst of which was the lack of proper surgical equipment. McKinley's personal physician, a naval surgeon from Virginia, Dr. Presley M. Rixey, directed the fading sunlight into the incision with a mirror, and later rigged up an electric light for the same purpose.
After probing for some time, Mann could not follow the track of the bullet that had entered the front wall of the stomach. McKinley's considerable girth added to the problem, and his pulse was weakening.
Mann trimmed the tissues around the abdominal wall along the bullet track and sutured the incision moderately tight, after irrigating the surgical wounds with a hot salt solution. He had decided against draining the wound.
The conclusions of distinguished historian Selig Adler are that two mistakes were probably made. The wound should have been drained, and McKinley should have been taken to the General Hospital. The new operating room at General was much better equipped, and with the president's pulse at 84 beats per minute, the operation could have been performed without such undue haste.