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Roswell Park Marks 120 Years: Looking Back at ‘The Most Modern of Hospitals’

In 2018, we mark our 120th year, and invite you to explore the life of our founder, our rich heritage and promising new advances on the horizon at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The idea of building a cancer hospital in Buffalo first came to light just three years after Dr. Roswell Park opened the doors to the world’s first cancer research laboratory.

Opened in 1913, the hospital, known as the Cary Pavilion, featured a 30-bed inpatient area as well as a “dispensary,” or outpatient clinic. The Buffalo Sanitary Bulletin called it “the last word in modern hospital construction,” noting that an enclosed passageway connected it to the research center at High and Elm streets. (Today those two streets do not intersect.)

The New York Times added to the praise, describing the Cary Pavilion as “the most modern of hospitals…perhaps the most electric and automatic institution in the city of Buffalo and the state of New York.”

It was “noiseless,” with “beds rolled about on rubber wheels that make no sound. There are no bells. A patient desiring attendance merely presses a button that illuminates a number of electric bulbs throughout the building, calling the attention of the attendant.

“The solaria, or sun parlors, can be [transformed] into sleeping porches simply by opening the windows and introducing the beds, [which] are furnished with electric pads” to keep the patients warm while they enjoyed the fresh air.

Using advanced technology, a physician could record a patient’s symptoms by speaking into a “portable telephone, which will communicate his voice to a loud-talking box telephone in his private office. His stenographer sitting at her typewriter will immediately write the descriptions of the symptoms, etc., as they fall from the surgeon’s lips. Thus, upon his return to his office, he will have before him an accurate typewritten record of everything that he has noted.”

Officials dedicated the Cary Pavilion on Nov. 1, 1913. Among the distinguished guest speakers: Dr. James Ewing, professor of pathology at the Cornell University Medical School, who later became the first physician to describe a type of sarcoma now known as Ewing sarcoma.

“There is no field of hospital work so inadequately provided as are the needs of the inoperable cancer patient,” Dr. Ewing told the audience. “The new institution formally opening to-day…is destined to add much to our knowledge of human cancer.”