Northern Dispensary

Art & Culture | History

The 19th Century Clinic that Treated Edgar Allen Poe’s Head Cold.

northern dispensary exterior greenwich village

About Northern Dispensary

 & why it made the Carpe City list

  • Built between 1827-1831 as a free medical clinic for the poor, the triangular Northern Dispensary is in a unique position. The building has one side on two streets, Christopher andGrove, and it has two sides on only one street, Waverly.  We’ll give you a moment to ruminate on that nugget of trivia. 
  • In 1832, the dispensary treated 3,296 patients. In1837, records show Edgar Allen Poe was treated here for a nasty head cold.  
  •  Other local luminaries like Clement Clarke Moore, author of The Night Before Christmas, Samuel Morse, inventor of the telegraph, and P.T. Barnum, founder of Barnum & Bailey Circus, were wealthy donors to the dispensary. 
  • The building has been vacant since 1998 because its deed requires it to be a medical care for the “worthy poor,” an image that didn’t sit well with the well-heeled neighbors in the area.  
  • The building’s most recent occupant was a dental clinic that closed in the late ’80s when the dentists refused to treat patients with AIDS. 
  • Then, in 1989, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York took over the space and planned to turn it into an AIDS hospice. 
    • However, that plan never came to fruition, and the building sold to its current owners in 1998, and the building sits unused on its triangle of land. 

Carpe City Trivia

There were once several dispensaries around town

The German Dispensary opened on Canal Street in 1857. These dispensaries are like Urgent Care clinics today. 

By: Lucie Levine

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