St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children is proud to continue our tradition of caring for children and families in our community.
1875-1900: A Tradition Begins
Open doors. Open hearts.
St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children opened its doors on November 30, 1875. At the time, we were a charitable ambulatory pediatric clinic, which meant children and families from the community could walk in to receive care. Our hospital took up one small room on the second floor of 552 Dauphin Street in Philadelphia.
This clinic was the vision of Dr. William H. Bennett, who saw the need for a pediatric clinic in the Kensington community of Philadelphia. The neighborhood had about 100,000 working class people — many who had children in desperate need of healthcare. At the time, rates of acute infectious diseases (like tuberculosis and cholera) and infant mortality were distressingly high.
Along with high rates of infection, public assistance was not available. This left many families unable to seek out and pay for healthcare for their children.
In one of our first, long-standing commitments to community partnerships, Dr. Bennett worked with the Children’s Seashore House of Atlantic City to open the clinic. The clinic on Dauphin Street would help meet this need.
Dr. Bennett worked as a physician, apothecary, recorder, and business manager. He treated all patients and prepared all medications. The cost of this essential service was just five cents and only charged to families who could afford it.
Care in the community.
Social service and community outreach were an important part of St. Christopher’s mission from day one. The Board of Lady Visitors was created as the brainchild of Job Lewis Smith in 1880.
The idea was for volunteers to visit families and children in their homes and create a trusting and helpful relationship. They offered advice and assistance on:
- Best practices for hygiene
- Cleanliness of the home
- Health and well-being of children
- Safe cooking methods
As the service grew, the women of The Board of Lady Visitors evolved into an important link between the hospital and the community. They would:
- Distribute coal, food, milk, and other necessities
- Provide transportation to the hospital
These efforts, and many others, secured the hospital’s Mission: a commitment to community pediatric medicine and preventive medicine.
Expanding our services to meet a growing need.
Under Dr. Bennett’s leadership, St. Christopher’s expanded to include overnight bed space and isolation areas to protect children from airborne contagions, like diphtheria.
In 1890, the main building was completed, raising the number of beds to 43. A legacy from Dr. George S. Pepper subsidized the Pepper Ward. The purchase of nearby buildings continued. This would increase nursing space and pharmacy services until the Great Depression halted expansion for many years.
1901-1969: A New Era
Educating tomorrow’s providers.
After WWII, Dr. Waldo Nelson moved St. Christopher’s academy affiliation from the University of Pennsylvania to Temple University in 1947. This marked a new era for St. Christopher’s.
Dr. Nelson rapidly built a department of pediatrics that attracted worldwide attention. Teaching and research assumed equal importance with patient care, and St. Christopher’s exploded into one of the world’s greatest comprehensive pediatric medical centers.
Additional highlights during this time include:
- 1952 — Weekly programs offered continuous medical education for general practitioners. This continues to be a proud and long-standing service.
- 1952 — The hospital’s first hearing and speech clinic opens.
- 1955 — The Child Psychiatric Center opens with 19 professionals caring for 43 children.
- 1959 — The largest cystic fibrosis center for children on the east coast begins to welcome patients.
1970-2000: Advancing Care in the Community
Proven programs. Proven outcomes.
As the decade ushered in new music, clothing, and changes in society, St. Christopher's continued to rapidly expand to meet the changing needs of the community. We were quickly becoming a leader in pediatric care.
- 1970s — St. Christopher’s becomes the first hospital in the U.S. to establish a tracheotomy unit for infants and children.
- 1972 — Physicians at St. Christopher’s performed the first pediatric kidney transplant in the Delaware Valley.
- 1985 — The hospital quickly became a major transplant center with the first of many transplants in the region, including:
- Pediatric liver transplant
- Pediatric heart transplant
- Pediatric kidney/liver transplant
- 1985 — The first pediatric burn center between Boston and Washington, DC, is established.
- 1985 — St. Christopher’s becomes the first hospital in the world to use oxygen-rich liquid vent.
The 1990s brought even more significant advances in the delivery of pediatric medicine to St. Christopher’s, including:
- Expanded transplant services
- Electrical mapping to locate and remove brain tumors in pediatric patients
- Offering the region’s first grief support group
In 1990, after 106 years at its location on Fifth Street and Lehigh Avenue, St. Christopher’s relocated to our present location on 160 East Erie Avenue in Philadelphia.
2001-Today: Always Here for You
Honoring our past. Looking forward to the future.
The innovations and advancements in care kept pace with the new millennium. We proudly received many awards that recognized our commitment to patient safety and quality outcomes, including the Top Children’s Hospital by The Leapfrog Group.
In 2014, the Center for the Urban Child opened to continue our commitment to giving back to our community. This center provides children with comprehensive services to help break the cycle of food insecurity, violence, and childhood illness.
Another notable expansion occurred in April 2016, when St. Christopher’s opened its Critical Care Tower. This is home to a new neonatal unit expanded dental unit, a larger gym for physical and occupational therapies, and more.
Growing into our community.
Today, St. Christopher’s is a 188-bed hospital that is committed to delivering high-quality family and patient-centered care to children throughout the greater Delaware Valley.
St. Christopher's also has one of the busiest emergency departments for children in the country, with more than 70,000 annual visits.
Stronger than ever.
In 2019, St. Christopher’s Hospital was purchased through a partnership of Drexel University and Tower Health. This partnership enables us to continue to advance the health and well-being of the children throughout Greater Philadelphia and the region.
This new partnership, and our affiliations with Temple University School of Medicine and Albert Einstein Medical Center, strengthens our Mission as a teaching hospital, helping to train the next generation of leaders in pediatric medicine.
For more than 60 years, the hospital has been dedicated to the education and training of not only physicians, but also nurses and other allied health professionals.
We see undergraduate and graduate nursing students from several colleges and universities, including Drexel University, Villanova University, Thomas Jefferson University, Holy Family, and LaSalle University.