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Beginning in the early 1980s, under the management of the sisters of Charity, an organization within the Catholic Church, St. Vincent’s Hospital was “ground zero” that the AIDS epidemic in new York City and housed the an initial and largest AIDS ward ~ above the east Coast.

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It was likewise the site of numerous LGBT actions against discrimination and violence as early as 1970. Surrounding is the brand-new York City AIDS Memorial, committed in 2016.


Nursing students law a patient in the AIDS ward the Saint Vincent’s in the 1980s. Source: America – The Jesuit Review. Courtesy: Archives, sisters of Charity of new York.


ACT UP activity at St. Vincent’s emergency room wait area in 1989 to protest homophobic policies. Source: just how to make it through a torment Facebook page.


Spellman Building, place of the an initial AIDS ward in ~ St. Vincent’s. Photograph by Ken Lustbader/NYC LGBT historic Sites Project, 2021.



Drawing the the Spellman building designed through Crow, Lewis, and Wick. Source: new York Times, march 14, 1941.

O’Toole Building, website of the AIDS clinic. The was constructed as the National naval Union Headquarters and also sold come St. Vincent"s in 1973. Source: Untapped cities by Nicole Saraniero.

AIDS Memorial, draft by Studio a+i. Picture by Christopher D. Brazee/NYC LGBT historical Sites Project, 2019.


Founded in 1849 by the sister of Charity of new York, an company within the Catholic Church, the former St. Vincent’s Hospital Manhattan, activate in Greenwich town for over 160 years till it claimed bankruptcy and closed in 2010. At the time, the hospital complex consisted of nine buildings, constructed between the 1920s and also 1980s.

St. Vincent’s was started as one of the few charity hospitals in the city v a mission to offer the poor and also disenfranchised, frequently regardless of their capability to pay. (The middle name the one-time Greenwich village resident, Edna St. Vincent Millay, derives native the hospital, wherein her uncle’s life to be saved before her birth.) The surrounding community emerged together an LGBT enclave in the early 20th century when it started attracting a significant number of LGBT people, establishments, and also organizations. In the 1980s, St. Vincent’s to be the hospital in new York City most closely linked with the AIDS epidemic and also was considered to it is in the national epicenter the AIDS.

Beginning in 1981, the emergency room at St. Vincent’s (demolished) witnessed huge numbers of acutely ill young gay and bisexual males exhibiting unusual weight loss, rare infections, pneumonia, and/or indicators of compromised immune systems. By the moment HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, was first identified in 1983, St. Vincent’s had end up being the epicenter the the epidemic in brand-new York City with patients overwhelming the emergency room, the hallways, and also beds. At the time, that was among the few hospitals in the city the did not turn away world with HIV or AIDS, also though many of its policies were base in roman Catholic doctrine (i.e., anti-LGBT and versus the distribution of condoms) and also many administrators and physicians were felt to it is in homophobic. Over time, attitudes and policies changed, lot to the credit of the sister of Charity that cared for patients. Up until it close up door in 2010, hundreds of the more than 100,000 brand-new Yorkers who had died of complications from AIDS were treated or died at St. Vincent’s.

In 1984, in an answer to the growing epidemic, the hospital opened the very first and largest AIDS ward ~ above the eastern Coast. The principle of a hospital floor exclusively dedicated to AIDS patients to be modeled after mountain Francisco General’s Ward 86, which opened in 1983. That same year in new York City, the community Health project (CHP) – today’s Callen-Lorde ar Health facility – started operating native the LGBT ar Center as the nation’s an initial community-based HIV clinic, which had actually a significant number the St. Vincent’s employee as volunteers. CHP was, however, the result of a merger in between the enlarge counter–cultural St. Mark’s neighborhood Clinic and the Gay Men’s health and wellness Project, whose clinic, founded in 1972 at Liberation House, was the an initial for gay males on the eastern Coast. As the require for AIDS treatment increased in brand-new York, in 1985, St. Clare’s Hospital (426 West 52nd Street) responded by opening dedicated wards because that AIDS and, by 1987, the entire facility to be transformed right into the state’s an initial all-AIDS therapy facility.

By 1986, more than half of St. Vincent’s 650 hospital beds were inhabited by AIDS patient and, 3 years later, it was deemed among the city’s very first Designated AIDS Centers by the new York State room of Health/AIDS Institute. To fulfill the needs of outpatient care and also research, the hospital opened up its an extensive HIV facility in that is O’Toole structure (extant) on seventh Avenue in between 12th and 13th streets in 1988. (O’Toole was built as the National naval Union Headquarters and also sold come St. Vincent’s in 1973. That is the only structure in the facility not built for the hospital.) once HIV-related deaths peaked by 1995, the hospital had come to be one of the nation’s biggest HIV treatment centers providing HIV main care, co-located specialty care, combination inpatient and outpatient services, an onsite pharmacy, and accessibility to the latest AIDS drugs through a range of clinical trials.

Hospital administrators at first located the AIDS ward on the seventh floor of Spellman (facade extant), an older structure with little rooms for single beds. Together the patient pack increased, patient bed in Spellman to be doubled up and the ward was broadened to the seventh floor the the interconnected, and much more up-to-date, Cronin building (demolished), which became the main unit. At the height of the epidemic, when the ward to be at capacity, the medical team situated patients throughout the complex as required through the production of a scatter bed program.

Many medical professionals, patients, lovers, friends, and also family members had actually ambivalent feelings in the direction of St. Vincent’s, psychic as much for that is excellent and also appreciated team of health care workers and also staff as for its homophobic policies and overwhelming lose of life. End time, the policies of the hospital adjusted to keep pace with the epidemic and new information around transmission and also treatment.

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The AIDS ward to be a unique part of the hospital whereby medical professionals flexed hospital rules, thereby permitting patients to have actually privacy (and apparently sex) through lovers, unsanctioned parties, and drop-in visits by friends and family without adhering to constant hours. In one instance, a patience unsuccessfully check to have the yearly Greenwich village Halloween Parade diverted to the AIDS unit. Come console his disappointment, among the nuns allowed him come wear she habit because that the day.