Otis House

Of Architects and Ether: The Growth of the Medical Community

Founded in 1799, trustee records indicate that Massachusetts General Hospital was chartered in 1811, and that by 1813 the search began to locate a suitable site for new institution. After considering sites at the foot of the Boston Common and another in Roxbury, a site in the West End was chosen in 1817 for its ability to provide the healthy benefits of good ventilation and natural light. The first MGH building, designed by architect Charles Bulfinch, was built between 1818 and 1821 and the operating theater had seating for observation beneath a sky-lit dome, becoming distinguished in 1856 as the place in which the first extensive surgical operation upon a patient under the influence of ether was successfully performed. By the mid-nineteenth century, the Harvard Medical School moved to North Grove Street in the West End, Massachusetts Charitable Eye and Ear Infirmary erected a new building at the corner of Charles and Cambridge Streets, and The Mount Sinai Hospital (later to become Beth Israel) was located on Chambers Street.