About the History of Children's Hospital

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia was founded in 1855 by Francis West Lewis, MD. After visiting the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children in London, Dr. Lewis decided to create the first hospital in the United States dedicated to finding cures and treating illnesses and injuries specific to children. He persuaded two friends — T. Hewson Bache, MD, and R.A.F. Penrose, MD —  to join him in the venture.

In the Hospital's first year, it had 12 beds and a dispensary. Physicians served 67 inpatients and 306 clinic patients. Today, Children’s Hospital has 546 beds and more than 1 million outpatient visits and inpatient admissions each year.

The Hospital has also moved three times since first opening its doors in downtown Philadelphia. On June 23, 1974, we moved all of our equipment and patients to our current location in West Philadelphia, at 3401 Civic Center Boulevard.

Over the years, we’ve continued to expand:

  • We added the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute, now one of the largest pediatric research facilities in the United States.
  • We acquired Children's Seashore House, a comprehensive pediatric rehabilitation center.
  • We also created the CHOP Care Network, the largest pediatric healthcare network in the U.S., which includes more than 50 pediatrician offices, specialty care centers and surgical centers located in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

At the center of every decision is a commitment to advancing healthcare for children through the integration of safe, high-quality, family-centered care with innovative research and professional education. Today, patients around the world benefit from our major research advances in a variety of areas including cardiac, genetics, cancer, fetal surgery, neonatology and automobile safety. Our scientists have also pioneered several vaccines against childhood illness and continue to investigate new vaccines to fight deadly diseases.

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Foundation

As a charitable, nonprofit hospital, CHOP depends on philanthropy to advance its mission. Throughout the Hospital’s history, generous families, individuals, companies and foundations have made significant contributions to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Foundation.

In its first year, Children's Hospital collected just over $4,000 in donations. When the Hospital moved to its Bainbridge Street location in Center City Philadelphia in 1916, and funding was urgently needed, the community contributed $500,000 in 10 days! Such vivid illustrations of generosity carry on to this day: Last year, the Hospital raised more than $100 million in gifts and pledges.

This support has helped make Children's Hospital a beacon of hope — where research leads to cures and families find the best care for their children.

Children's Hospital's pediatric firsts

We have always remained true to our founders' vision and continue to nurture many of the nation's pioneers and innovators in pediatric medicine. We’ve also contributed a number of firsts to the field:

  • First hospital in the nation devoted exclusively to pediatric medicine
  • First formal medical training for pediatric doctors
  • First pediatric day surgery unit in the U.S.
  • First neonatal surgical and pediatric intensive care unit in the U.S.
  • First multidisciplinary homecare program in the U.S. for children who need medical ventilators
  • First designated Level I Pediatric Regional Trauma Center in [eastern] Pennsylvania
  • First follow-up program for long-term survivors of childhood cancer
  • First clinic in the nation for the treatment of childhood speech defects
  • First closed incubator for newborns
  • First balloon catheter for treatment of heart defects
  • First to discover the cause of infectious mononucleosis
  • First vaccines for mumps, whooping cough, influenza and rotavirus
  • First book on Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome
  • First test to diagnose a form of congenital hyperinsulinism, enabling a surgical cure.
  • First program in which family members teach physicians and staff about their experience with illness from the patient and parent perspective.
  • First specialized training in Pediatric Emergency Medicine