Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Hawthorne Memorial Library

Last Friday, in addition to receiving the small collection of Saslow Papers from the Department of Psychiatry here, I also had the distinct pleasure of seeing the department's Hawthorne Memorial Library, a small but richly appointed room just inside the main entrance doors of Multnomah Pavilion (originally the front entrance to the Multnomah County Hospital, 1920s-1970s).

The Library, dedicated in 2002, honors James C. Hawthorne, the state's first psychiatrist and founder of the Oregon Hospital for the Insane. Namesake of a major Portland thoroughfare and one of the bridges connecting west Portland to east Portland over the mighty Willamette River, Hawthorne came to Oregon in 1857 and began care of patients at the Multnomah County Hospital the following year. On the occasion of his death in 1881, Simeon Josephi--fellow psychiatrist and soon-to-be dean of the University of Oregon Medical School--wrote:
The sad news of his death cast a gloom over the community, and was felt throughout the State as the announcement of a public calamity. I was associated with the Doctor for a period of fourteen years, and in his death I feel that I have lost one of the strongest links that bind me to life.
For more information on Hawthorne and psychiatry in Oregon, you might want to start with the short history on the department's website, or the one on the website for the Oregon Department of Human Services.

The Hawthorne Library itself is quite lovely: a Persian carpet covers the floor and brown leather chairs and sofa offer respite for the weary scholar. An original settee from Hawthorne's home compliments the sturdier furniture. The original bell from the Oregon Hospital for the Insane (which is all that remained after a fire destroyed the building in 1886) rests on a small table; large oil portraits of Hawthorne and his wife look down on visitors. An oil painting showing the hospital hangs next to an antique book cabinet holding several rare and valuable titles. On two of the walls a timeline of psychiatry in Oregon unfolds, and above it hang the photographs of past department chairs. If you have an opportunity to visit the library, I highly recommend it; requests to open the room for special visits need to be made through the Dept. of Psychiatry.

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