Bellevue Woman’s Center: New digs, old touches
Roomy $16.8M addition opens; more upgrades coming soon
SCHENECTADY The addition at Bellevue Woman’s Center is here, bringing regional women’s care into modernity, but preserving pieces of its past, as well.
Ellis Medicine and community officials cut the ribbon on the two-story, 32,000-square-foot addition Friday, marking the completion of the year-long, $16.8 million construction project and the arrival of more spacious and private rooms for women and newborns.
“The amenities that we had were not what society is looking for nowadays,” said Karen Mantas, Ellis Medicine director of advancement. “It was dated. You needed bigger rooms. When somebody comes to deliver a baby, it’s not just Mom and Dad. It’s the whole extended family and they stay for the whole experience.”
Patients will begin using the rooms Monday.
The project created 28 private and six semi-private rooms that are larger than the old ones, featuring televisions, Wi-Fi and full bathrooms. A nurses’ station was installed at the corner of the new wing and the old wing, allowing for more centralized communication.
The new wing is visually striking for its serene, soft design touches.
“The colors are so warm,” said Mantas. “They’re just so soothing and comforting for a healing environment, and that’s something hospitals are really making a change toward. It’s no longer the sterile environment and white walls that you used to walk into.”
A day room at the end of the wing lets in natural light — helpful to the recovery process for new moms and beneficial for babies in their first few days of life. Its soft green walls and curtains, arched windows, warm brown wood floor, and baroque furniture are soothing, but also reminiscent of the original Bellevue Mansion.
The new wing actually sits on the footprint of the old mansion, a Georgian manor built at 2210 Troy-Schenectady Road in 1920 and torn down in January.
In 1931, nurse and Bellevue founder Mary Grace Jorgensen turned the mansion into the Bellevue Maternity Hospital. A decade later, it was converted into a women’s hospital. And in 1973, it was divided into offices for hospital doctors and administration when a newer building went up to serve as the birthing facility.
“There was a lot of passion and a lot of emotion about the importance of the mansion being the beginnings of this hospital,” said Ellis Medicine President and CEO James Connelly. “And so when we were taking it down — because the mansion physically on the inside was in pretty tough shape — we said, you know, we’ll do everything we can to retain that look and feel of the mansion.”
Older members of the community might notice that the dentil molding lining the red brick addition is a throwback. They might also notice the largely flat, mansard roof line and the arched windows trimmed in white.
Officials also preserved architectural elements from the former mansion — some original fireplaces, a partial staircase, an original arched window, and the mansion’s front door frame. These items currently sit in the basement, but will eventually be used or installed on a history wall.
Perhaps most significant to Bellevue veterans was the garden. New mothers would grab a breath of fresh air among the trees and shrubs, but others would place a memorial rock for a stillborn baby there. Most of the plaques had to come out during construction, and next spring they will go back in to a newly planted garden.
“There’s an enormous amount of emotional ties to the garden,” said Connelly. “They used to have candlelight ceremonies there once a year to get together and just remember the children.”
Ellis Medicine officials on Friday also unveiled the building’s cornerstone — an arch made of brick and keystones preserved from the Bellevue mansion. It frames a black and gold plaque picturing the mansion in its earliest days.
Hospital officials compared the Bellevue project to dominoes. Starting today, the entrance to the old wing will be closed off for renovations to begin. Up next, crews will renovate the lobby, nurses’ station, nursery and neonatal intensive care unit to contemporize them with the new addition.
In mid-January, the Neil and Jane Golub Breast and Heart Health Center will open on the addition’s second floor, where renovations are still being completed. Staff will provide mammograms, ultrasounds and bone density screenings with state-of-the-art technology.
The Golubs, among the project’s largest philanthropists, attended Friday’s event. Neil Golub reminded the crowd of about 100 gathered outside the center just how close Bellevue was to being shut down six years ago when the state’s Berger Commission had ordered it to close.
Even after Ellis Hospital included Bellevue in its merger plan, hospital officials were nervous about its future. But the center was ultimately deemed the best option for the community’s care of women.
“We were all involved in conversations with the Health Department about whether this facility would ever exist again,” said Golub. “And fortunately it is here today. What we know today and what we didn’t know then has really come a long way.”
Other community officials attended the Friday ribbon cutting, including Niskayuna town Supervisor Joe Landry, Assemblymen-elect Phil Steck and Angelo Santabarbara, Schenectady County Legislator Jim Buhrmaster, Chamber of Schenectady County President and CEO Chuck Steiner and representatives for state Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, and U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam.