Wednesday, August 8, 2012

National Register of Historic Places: Ether Dome

Interesting Places I've Photographed
Ether Dome
Boston, MA

GPS: N42° 21.798; W071° 04.076

Quick Description: 

The Ether Dome is located in the Bulfinch Building of the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Long Description:

The Ether Dome Amphitheater was the Massachusetts General Hospital's operating room 1821 until 1867. On October 16, 1846, the Boston dentist William Thomas Green Morton was the first person to use inhaled ether to anesthetize Edward Gilbert Abbott. This enabled the Dean of the Harvard Medical School, John Collins Warren, to painlessly removed a tumor from Abbott's neck. Afterwards the patient felt only as if his neck had been scratched; in contrast to a less than successful attempt by Horace Wells, the previous year, to use nitrous oxide. Before 1846 this site was simply called the surgical amphitheater. After 1846 it became known as the Ether Dome.

Originally, lighting was solely by natural sunlight, hence the purpose of the copper sheathed dome on the building. The room itself had seven tiers of wooden amphitheater seating. In 1849, gas lanterns were introduced to the operating site and late in the 19th century electrical lights were installed. In 1956 new light fixtures and motorized louvers were added to the skylight and all the windows were replaced. The dome and cupola are now lit by a ring of lights at the base of the cupola. The Ether Dome was used as a storage area until 1873, a dormitory until 1889, a dining room for nurses until 1892, and is now used as a conference room and teaching amphitheater. A statue of Apollo, casted in the Louvre in Paris, France, decorates the entrance to the Ether Dome. It was given to the Massachusetts General Hospital in March 1845 by Edward Everett.

The Bulfinch Building that houses the Ether Dome was designed by noted architect Charles Bulfinch. Construction began on July 4, 1818. During construction Bulfinch was called upon to the design the Nation’s Capitol. Construction of the building was completed under the direction of Alexander Parris. The facility opened in 1821 and between 1821 and 1868 more than 8,000 operations were performed in the operating room.

Hours and Admission
Monday – Friday
9:00 am to 5:00 pm
Closed during faculty meetings
Admission: Free

Street address:
55 Fruit Street
Boston, MA United States

County: Suffolk
Year listed: 1966
Historic significance: Event
Period of significance: 1825-1849 
Historic function: Health Care
Current function: Health Care
Privately owned?: yes

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