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Celebrating LVHN’s 125th Anniversary

Learn about the incredible history of our health network, starting with the opening of LVH–17th Street in 1899

Celebrating LVHN’s 125th Anniversary

For 125 years, Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) has been the Lehigh Valley’s hometown health network, providing exceptional care to the community. LVHN’s legacy of patient-centered care began with the vision of 13 compassionate, civic-minded women who cared deeply about the well-being of the community. These women, along with the community, raised money and provided resources to begin a tradition of compassion, excellence and high-quality care close to home.

When Allentown Hospital, known today as Lehigh Valley Hospital (LVH)–17th Street, opened in 1899, its mission was “the relief of human suffering by ministering to the wants of the sick and injured who may apply for such relief, without distinction of race, color, creed or condition.” This created the foundation for LVHN’s mission to heal, comfort and care for the people of our community.

Planning Allentown Hospital

In 1892, community leaders decided Allentown was in need of a local hospital and drafted a charter to build Allentown Hospital. To show its support, The Morning Call newspaper in Allentown started a fund to collect donations for the land purchase.

The project stalled for three years, but regained momentum in December 1895, when The Morning Call announced it raised $1,900 toward the hospital effort. This donation electrified interest in the construction of Allentown Hospital, and donations from private citizens began pouring in. Local plumbers and a brick company also offered services and construction supplies. Despite the donations, more money was needed, so the Ladies Auxiliary stepped in. They planned a fair and bazaar, and wrote and sold the Up-to-Date Cookbook. The Ladies Auxiliary’s hard work paid off and they collected $3,890.16 for the land purchase.  

Prime real estate, with a catch

In 1897, a piece of land at the corner of 17th and Chew Streets was available for sale, but there was a catch; it was not to be used to build a hospital. So, acting as individuals, Col. Harry Trexler, Henry Leh, Frank M. Trexler, J.H. Pascoe and Dr. C.S. Martin purchased the property and transferred the deed to the Hospital Association. The land was purchased for $5,297.51 and paid for by the Ladies Auxiliary.

Building a legacy

Construction of Allentown Hospital began in 1898. It opened a year later with 30 beds. Colleagues cared for 30 patients per day in the first year. The number of patients steadily grew to more than 100 per day, which led to the hospital’s first expansion.

In 1902, two wings were added, making room for 45 additional beds. The added space also provided rooms for nurses who entered the School of Nursing that opened in 1899.

A decade after opening, colleagues who worked at Allentown Hospital had cared for 7,929 patients, so it was evident the hospital needed to grow once again.

A three-story building was completed in 1912. A fourth floor was added in 1927. This provided room for 75 more beds, a delivery room and nursery.   

A demand for care spurred several more expansions over LVH–17th Street’s 125-year history, including the addition of the Edward Harvey School of Nursing, which was completed in 1914.  

Edward Harvey served as a judge in Allentown. He was an early supporter of Allentown Hospital and served on its first board. He left the hospital $100,000 in his will and because of his contribution, former president William Howard Taft officially dedicated the nursing school to Harvey in 1915.

The Edward Harvey School of Nursing was the first step in LVHN’s commitment to nursing excellence. Over the years, nursing education and services have expanded with the Joseph F. McCloskey School of Nursing, an accredited nurse residency program and graduate nursing opportunities. 

Today, LVH–17th Street continues to serve the community and meet critical needs for vulnerable populations. It provides comprehensive, leading-edge care to the community with breast health services, geriatric care, emergency care, community clinics, sub-acute care in a skilled nursing and rehabilitation unit, dental medicine and HIV care.

In 1974, Leonard Parker Pool expanded LVH–17th Street’s mission with his vision for LVH–Cedar Crest, a world-class hospital for our community. Pool wanted to build a local hospital so people living in the region could stay close to home while receiving leading edge care.

His vision was realized and expanded again and again. LVHN has transformed into a hospital system with 14 hospital campuses, comprehensive care in 95 clinical specialties, numerous ExpressCARE and health center locations and the first and most trusted children’s hospital in the region.

Continued compassion, leading-edge care

A single hospital built on determination and compassion was the first step toward the formation of Lehigh Valley Health Network, the region's hometown health network serving our community with comprehensive, leading-edge and compassionate care. 

LVH–17th Street’s mission served as the foundation for LVHN. The health network has grown and changed significantly over 125 years, but its mission remains very much the same: to heal, comfort and care for the people of our community.

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