Lawrence, Massachusetts was chartered by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1849. Its location on the Merrimack River provided plentiful hydroelectric power for the textile and other manufacturing industries that, at the peak of the city's development, employed more than 100,000 workers.
As the population grew in the late 19th century, the city and surrounding communities found they lacked the capabilities to provide basic medical care to their residents. In 1875, a group of concerned women who were active in Lawrence's churches and who were the wives of the city's prominent businessmen established the Ladies' Union Charitable Society. Their objective was to improve the lives of the city's workers through good works and social assistance. Their initial efforts centered on establishing a "day nursery" to care for sick children whose working mothers could not take care of them during the day.
The nursery opened with considerable demand for its services and that, in turn, encouraged the Society to focus on the larger goal of establishing a hospital in Lawrence. Following an outbreak of scarlet fever in 1877, the group opened an Invalids' Home on Montgomery Street. Subsequently, the Society constructed a three-story brick building on Methuen Street that combined both services in one location and changed the new facility's name from "Home" to "Hospital." Following the construction of an annex to the building in 1886, the name was officially changed to Lawrence General Hospital.
In 1882, the Society established a Training School for Nurses, considered an ambitious program for a community hospital at that time. The Lawrence General School of Nursing provided clinical instruction in nursing until 1977, and its 1,500 alumnae have played a vital role in the Hospital's patient care and in supporting the health of the entire region. Some of the School's graduates continue to serve as clinicians and Hospital administrators today.
In 1899, the need for more expansive facilities was answered when industrialist William A. Russell, founder of the International Paper Company, made a bequest to the Society of his 11-acre Prospect Hill estate, along with the necessary funds to renovate the home for a new Hospital. When construction finished on the site in 1902, Lawrence General had a modern facility that laid the foundation for its role in the health of the community over the next century and beyond.
Over the last 100 years, the Hospital's physical stature and technology has grown thanks to the support of individuals, businesses, and community groups. The Lamprey addition in 1941 launched this expansion, followed shortly by the Stevens Building in 1958. Modernization continued with the Hamblet Building in 1963, and the new Russell Building, named in honor of the original structure, completed the current physical plant in 1972. Over the last three decades, multiple internal renovations have facilitated new technology and functional requirements, keeping the Hospital in line with emerging clinical demands and the needs of patients for 21st century medicine.
In 2010, Lawrence General clinically affiliated with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center to usher in the next wave of advances and improvements, and to better serve our region. Additional recent advances at Lawrence General include a modern, 41-bay Emergency Center, a new Imaging Center featuring the only "Ambient Imaging" technology in the State, a new, top-rated Cardiac Cath Lab, a new 4-suite Sleep Center, a new MITS Clinic, an expanded and fully-renovated Pediatric Center in partnership with Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center and an expanded Diabetes & Nutrition Education Center.
Historical information from "Mill Owners and Missionaries: A History of Lawrence General Hospital." by Thomas W. Leavitt, 1975.