If you traveled to Philadelphia today to tour the historic part of the city, you’d probably skip the hospital. But, you’d be missing out.
The Pennsylvania Hospital, founded by Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Bond, became the first hospital in the U.S. (Colonial America at the time) when it opened its doors to patients Feb. 11, 1752. Originally opened in a converted house, the hospital at the current location was built in 1755. Tours of the hospital are offered Monday through Friday (both self-guided and guided) and include a visit to the oldest existing surgical amphitheater in the country. The amphitheater was built in 1804 on the top floor so that surgeons could operate with the light from the sun – since there wasn’t electricity. The hospital also houses a historic 13,000-volume library and a large garden.
Although hospitals are common now – and can be an important thing to know the location of when traveling – that wasn’t the case in early America. Founding the hospital took a significant amount of work from Bond and Franklin, who raised funds and convinced the state assembly to approve a bill to establish the hospital "to care for the sick poor of the Province and for the reception and care of lunaticks [sic].”