History

Charlotte Hungerford Hospital is a 109-plus bed, acute care facility serving the regional health care needs of thirty towns in northwest Connecticut. The Hospital was founded in 1916 as gift by industrialist Uri T. Hungerford in memory of his mother Charlotte, who had a “boundless energy and dedication for helping others.”

He envisioned a community hospital to be a beacon of hope and a place of comfort for the ill and injured of our region, and through his generosity and support, made it a reality.

Today, CHH offers a comprehensive range of inpatient and outpatient services including general medicine and surgery, maternity and pediatrics, radiology, obstetrics, cardiology, urology, Orthopaedics, and behavioral health.

The Hospital is a not-for-profit organization, member of the American Hospital Association and the Connecticut Hospital Association, and accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations and by the American College of American Pathologists.

Our Story Begins…

On June 5, 1820, only one year before Bellevue Hospital was established in New York, Charlotte Austin of Wolcottville, the 20-year-old daughter of a prominent local farmer and public official, married John Hungerford, a Torrington merchant. It was their son, Uri, whose generosity made The Charlotte Hungerford Hospital a reality.

John Hungerford would become one of the area’s leading industrialists—an owner of the Wolcottville Manufacturing Company and of the Coe Brass Manufacturing Company—while his wife became active in almost every religious and civic activity in Torrington. This redoubtable woman was known for her courage, cheerfulness and moral strength. At age 20, she took on her husband’s two children from his first marriage and then went on to add 12 children of her own to the family.

Uri Hungerford, her 11th child, was born in 1842 when Charlotte was 41. Her husband died when Uri was 14 and Charlotte took over his business, supporting herself and her family while continuing her charitable endeavors. Uri attended school in the Wolcottsville District before being sent to a military academy in New York for two years. Upon graduation in 1858, at age 17, he headed west to seek his fortune. Over the next 30 years he made his fortune in the hardware industry and by the time his mother died in 1895 the Uri T. Hungerford Brass & Copper Company was fast becoming the largest company of its kind in the United States.

Sometime after 1910, Hungerford let it be known that his will held a substantial bequest for construction of a hospital to be named after his mother, commemorating her “boundless energy and dedication for helping others.” While his intentions were deemed admirable, his friends argued that the need was imperative and should not wait for his demise. Persuaded, he sent word back to Torrington to “buy a suitable site and build an adequate hospital.” He accompanied this injunction with a $500,000 contribution. He would continue his active support of the hospital until his death in 1926, when his will stipulated that $500,000 be donated to the hospital immediately and that, upon the death of his wife, three-quarters of his estate—approximately $4 million (or about $48,000,000 in 2008 dollars)—would go to Charlotte Hungerford.

One of the friends encouraging him to build the hospital sooner rather than later was James Doughty, who had come to Torrington in 1882 as a salesman for the Coe Brass Company. He and Hungerford became friends and he was one of those pushing for construction of the hospital during Hungerford’s life time. With experience gained as a trustee of the Norwich Hospital, Doughty became active in the planning stages for Charlotte Hungerford and ultimately became its first president. Another hospital promoter, long-time Torrington physician Dr. Elias Pratt became the first president of the medical staff.

The search for a suitable site began soon after Hungerford made his initial contribution and a location on Four Story Hill was found about a mile from the Litchfield town line. Construction began in late summer 1914 and 16 months later, in October 1916, Charlotte Hungerford Hospital opened its doors in what is today the Memorial Building. Only days later, on Oct. 22, 1916, Charles Hungerford Grunn, the first baby to be born there, came into the world

The original hospital had 50 beds, fewer than half the 109 beds the hospital has today, but it must have seemed a modern miracle for the residents of the little industrial city in 1916. It featured “intercommunicating telephones” (intercoms); a silent call system, seven fire hoses connected to standpipes and even electrical clocks. Electrical service was still relatively new in Northwestern Connecticut, however, and hand-wound clocks were also included in each room in case the power went out.

Torrington was expanding rapidly, its population burgeoning from about 18,000 in 1914 to 24,000 by 1927. Home care continued to decline and more doctors were joining the hospital staff. In less than 10 years the hospital added a pathologists’ laboratory and medical records library and the hospital received full accreditation from the American College of Surgeons and the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals. As orthopedics, pediatrics, urology, psychiatry, anesthesiology and dietetics departments were added, it became obvious a larger hospital was needed.Uri Hungerford’s wife died only a year after her husband and with the bequest her death brought plans were laid for a 1929 addition that tripled patient capacity. The enlarged hospital—seven stories high—opened in 1930 and was considered so important it was included in the next edition of the Encyclopedia Brittanica to illustrate the acme of a modern American hospital. The hospital was praised as “the best equipped hospital of its size in the world” in the local paper.

The Depression of the 1930s brought hard times but the hospital did not stand still. During the polio epidemic of 1932, the Torrington Electric Light Company donated a Drinker Respirator to treat young patients and in 1934 Mrs. Swayze, wife of a charter corporator, provided a new Buick ambulance that was maintained by the local Red Cross chapter and housed by the local fire department. World War II brought profound changes with doctors, nurses and other employees going off to war. Shortages of labor and important commodities were made worse by increasing numbers of patients and rising costs. The facility survived only through the dedication of its volunteers recruited and led by the Hospital Auxiliary.

In 1957, plans were made for a $2.5 million expansion and in 1960 a larger, thoroughly modernized hospital was opened. New additions included additional space for the pharmacy, x-ray unit, physical therapy and dietary departments. A post-operative recovery room was also built.

In 1962, a gift from the Torrington Area Mental Health Association enabled the hospital to open its psychiatric clinic and subsequently a day treatment program was established so that people could be treated while remaining in their home environment. In 1967 an Intensive Cardiac Care Unit was added and by the end of the decade an active volunteer program had completely renovated nursing stations on the third, fourth and fifth floors. New emergency and physical rehabilitation departments were funded in large part through community donations and in 1976, the Memorial Building was completely renovated and a new laboratory was opened on the second floor of the main building.

The transition to ambulatory care has continued over the decades and a 60-000-square-foot Ambulatory Care/Critical Care Complex—a $10 million addition—went up in 1987. It was part of a $21 million expansion and modernization project. The complex included a five-unit operating suite, a post-anesthesia unit and a 10-bed intensive and coronary care unit. On the floor below it a complete outpatient service corridor and admission area was created.

During the 1990s and into the new millennium, Charlotte Hungerford continued to expand its campus and to build off-site facilities. Off campus sites now include the Center for Cancer Care, The Hungerford Sleep Laboratory, the Hungerford Center for cardiac rehabilitation and diabetes care, the Hungerford Emergency and Medical Care Center and the Hungerford Imaging and Mammography Center. Also off campus, is the Bridges Extended Day Program, an intensive group treatment program for children ages 6 to 12 with significant behavioral and emotional health needs. It, in turn, is part of the hospital’s Center for Youth and Families, a professional mental health service equipped to assist children, adolescents and their families with emotional, behavioral, developmental and family difficulties.

In October 2007, the hospital dedicated its new front entrance and Auxiliary Garden. The new entryway and lobby, built onto the hospital’s existing entrance, includes a wide overhead vehicle canopy to offer protection from the elements when entering or leaving the Hospital. The upgraded entrance gives Charlotte a new look and feel as it continues to serve the residents of Northwest Connecticut.

In 2011, the hospital adopted an exciting 5 year strategic plan to ensure that we remain a strong and dedicated member of our community. As we begin plans to celebrate our 100th Anniversary in 2016, we have much more to come!