April 8, 2011

Andrew Carney of Carney Hospital

The Caritas Christi~ Carney Hospital in Dorchester Lower Mills is a vitally important hospital that provides medical services to residents of the metropolitan Boston area. Spanning a large tract of land, the hospital is today one of the largest in Boston, however it began in 1863 with a modest gift from Andrew Carney. Andrew Carney (1794-1864) was born in Ireland of humble, God fearing people. He was apprenticed as a youth to learn the tailoring trade, and after his immigration to this country in 1814, he secured a position with the firm of Kelley and Hudson, tailors on State Street in Boston. Laboring long hours, he later joined with Jacob Sleeper and opened their own tailoring business, which not only succeeded, but prospered. For over two decades, Carney and Sleeper provided not just “ready made” suits, which were a novelty at the time, but expert tailoring. The partners had opened their shop on North Street in Boston’s North End, and Carney’s industrious and economical nature contributed to its success. After the business partnership was dissolved in 1845, Andrew Carney held positions of honor and trust in Boston. With no further business concerns to occupy his time, he took great interest in banking and assisted in the founding of the Bank of the Republic and the Safety Fund Bank (now Bank of America.) He was a director of the John Hancock Life Insurance Company and assisted in the founding and in the funding of Boston College, which was then located on Harrison Avenue in Boston’s South End, adjacent to the Church of the Immaculate Conception. Carney was considered a responsible and respected man in Boston and contributed liberally to numerous charities. One business associate said that Carney was “one of Boston’s many great Irishmen” and another said that he was “one of God’s best noblemen.” With such glowing accolades during his lifetime, one might consider his success, after such humble beginnings in Ballanagh, County Caven, Ireland as the impetus for his sincere interest in the less fortunate. In 1863, during the height of the Civil War, the Carney Hospital was founded “to afford relief to the sick poor; and, though it is in the charge of the Sisters of Charity, it receives patients of all religious denominations. Chronic, acute, and other cases are received, contagious diseases alone excepted.” The hospital, located in the once elegant Howe Mansion on Dorchester Heights in South Boston, had not just an elevated site with cooling breezes and magnificent panoramic views of Boston and the Boston Harbor islands, but convenience to downtown Boston. The hospital was founded upon the premise that it should be “a hospital where the sick without distinction of creed, color or nation shall be received and cared for.” Carney’s gift of $13,500.00 enabled the purchase of the property, and the conversions necessary top provide medical services for the poor and immigrant classes of Boston. The Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, after the request of Bishop John Williams, were presented with the hospital and began their care for the medically needs on June 9, 1863. Its director was Sister Ann Alexis, who was superior of the Orphan Asylum on Camden Street in Boston, and is said to have been “very quiet, but most active, energetic, and skillful [as a] manager.” With an addition to the former Howe Mansion in 1868, the Sisters of Charity commenced a hospital that supplied a much needed service in Boston. After his initial donation had allowed for the purchase of the Howe Estate and the supplies necessary top convert it to a hospital, Andrew Carney continued to donate large sums of capital to ensure that the hospital provided medical care to those who could not afford it elsewhere. His total donations amounted to $75,000.00 by the time of his death in 1864, an enormous sum in the mid nineteenth century when a family might expect $1,000.00 annually. Carney’s intention to endow Carney Hospital did not materialize, for he died prior to signing the codicil of his will bequeathing further monies. However, though his involvement with Carney Hospital was for only a short period of time, his commitment and interest in a hospital that would provide medical services and convalescence for those who needed it “without distinction of creed, color or nation” was to ensure its continued efforts. Today, the Caritas Christi~ Carney Hospital, which had moved in 1957 to a new hospital designed by Carney, Carney, Carney & Keefe in Dorchester, attracts a diverse staff who serve an equally diverse patient base. It’s mission statement says that the “Cariras Christi Health Care, rooted in the healing ministry of Jesus Christ, is committed to serving the physical and spiritual needs of our community by delivering the highest quality care with compassion and respect.” It clearly seems that Andrew Carney’s vision of the Carney Hospital still holds true to this day. We salute not just Caritas Christi~ Carney Hospital, but the man who was “a kind-hearted, whole-souled, generous friend and protector” to all.

The Carney Lot at Forest Hills Cemetery is one of the most prominent, sited near Like Hibiscus.

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