Lansdale Characters: Dr. Frank Boston

Relating to my last post regarding a clock in town to honor the late Mayor Mike DiNunzio’s legacy, some people suggested a statue be erected to honor him instead. Most cities have statues of famous people or events: Philadelphia has quite a number of statues including William Penn, George Washington and Joan of Arc; Norristown has a statue dedicated to 9/11, which shows a set of hands holding a piece of wreckage from the World Trade Center; Doylestown has one of a World War I soldier giving aid to another wounded soldier; Pottstown has a Grand Army of the Republic Statue and yes, Lansdale has a statue of sorts. Lansdale’s statue or more accurately a bronze relief, is of Dr. Frank Boston. Dr. Boston was the physician who founded the hospital that would eventually become North Penn Hospital, then Central Montgomery Medical Center and now, Abington Hospital at Lansdale. He also helped to establish Lansdale’s First Aid Corps which would later become the Volunteer Medical Service Corps that we know today.

A bronze relief statue of Dr. Frank Boston was erected at the northeast corner of Broad and Seventh Streets facing Elm Terrace Gardens which used to be North Penn Hospital. Why was the statue placed across the street facing the hospital instead of in the hospital or on the hospital grounds when Dr. Boston was so integral in its establishment? This a question with an interesting answer.

Dr. Boston was a World War I veteran who came to Lansdale from Philadelphia in the ’30s to practice medicine and surgery. Generally regarded as an exemplary surgeon, a compassionate doctor who frequently treated the needy without compensation and a civic leader, he was nontheless shunned by the Board of Directors of the hospital at the time. Of the suspected reasons for this are the often inflated egos associated with doctors on hospital boards, rumors of philandering on Dr. Boston’s behalf, the fact that he was an ‘outsider’ from Philadelphia in a predominately Pennsylvania Mennonite town– and perhaps, because he was not quite white. He was light-skinned with green eyes, but he had African-American facial features and hair.

Dr. Boston was diagnosed with cancer in 1958 and passed away in 1960 before his memorial was built and dedicated by his ardent supporters and patients. This is the story of Lansdale’s only statue. No Rocky, no military heros, just a bronze relief of a country doctor from the other side of the tracks at the edge of town looking across the street at the hospital he helped establish.


11 responses to “Lansdale Characters: Dr. Frank Boston

  1. At one time there was a large home on the corner were the bronze relief is and there was a maternity ward there. When i was in the Volunteer Medical Service Corps in the 50’s we slept on the third floor when we were on call. Also had to carry the woman up an down the stairs from the deliver room to there bed before and after they had there babies as there was no elevator I know my sister and brother were born there. I believe this property was the first hospital. Across the street were elm terrace gardens is was also a large home that at one time was also the main hospital and they added on to that over the years before they took it down. I had my tonsils taken out there.And the second floor was the OR area. I remember being carried up the stairs in the arms of a hospital worker as there was no elevator.

  2. Sherrianne (Stevens) Rocchino

    Dr Boston, was not a character, he was a very well respected in Lansdale.
    The location where his memorial is located, is also the same site as the small house, where the maternity section of the hospital . I was born in that small house. I am sure there are many people who were born and raised in Lansdale who still remember Doc Boston. I was born here in the forties, and I am sure many people of my generation had him as their family doctor,

    • Ms. Rocchino,

      Thank you for your input. It is very much appreciated. I mentioned that Dr. Boston was a character, by that I meant that he was the aggregate of features and traits that are representative of Lansdale. My father knew Dr. Boston well and he remembers Dr. Boston very fondly as he helped my father start his practice.

      Thank you again for your response.

  3. Sherrianne (Stevens) Rocchino

    My dad and my uncle had to carry my mom up those steps the night I was born. I also remember visiting my grandfather when he was in the old hospital for surgery. I had to stand on the wrap around porch because of the circular structure of the building. I wasn’t allowed in the hospital because I was too young, so I visited him through the window of his room, which was a ward at that time.

  4. I was born in North Penn Hospital in 1962. At that time, the maternity ward was in the old Victorian house on the corner where Elm Terrace Gardens is now and to which the modern hospital (now Elm Terrace) was built onto. The old house portion of North Penn Hospital burned down in the early to mid-1970s and was replaced with the one-story structure that is presently on the corner and attached to the multi-story former hospital. As a child, I recall asking my mother about Dr. Boston’s plaque on the corner opposite the hospital. She told me that he was the man who started North Penn Hospital, and she sounded like she had a lot of respect for him. Thank you, Mr. Mayor, for writing this great piece on Dr. Boston, who was certainly one of Lansdale’s most important residents over the past 140 years.

  5. Robert Lars Olson (son of Emil Olson, MD)

    Yes, Dr. Boston deserves all the credit for establishing the Elm Terrace Hospital, then a private, proprietary established owned by Dr. Boston. Due credit should also be noted for the four local physicians who supported Dr. Boston and the establishment of the facility. The supporting physician included: Dr. Jules Weiner (Lansdale), Dr. W. Anders (North Wales), Dr. Emil Olson (North Wales) and Dr. Towe (spelling questionable, Lansdale). Without the support of these physician it is questionable if the Elm Terrace hospital would have been successful.

  6. Dr. Boston’s biography appears an a book entitled “African American Doctors of World War I: The Lives of 104 Volunteers”. He was a most remarkable man. You can see the book on Amazon. I am one of the co-authors.

    • Hi Doug Fisher….
      My Aunt’s father was a physician in Lansdale and Dr. Boston was his mentor. She has a piece of artwork that hung in his office painted by Albert Rue Bailley. She is trying to track down any of his family that may still be in the area to pass along the artwork. It may be a long shot but I wanted to reach out and see if you may have any information on this painter and the family.

      • Hi Wendy,
        I’m sorry I don’t know more about Dr. Boston’s family. It appears he never married (nor had children). According to his obituary in 1960, he was survived by his sister Mae Boston (who apparently lived with him for many years and assisted in his medical office) and by his older brother, Edgar Boston (who became a floral decorator in Philadelphia.) Don’t see anything more. Maybe a search of obituary records for Mae or Edgar would produce something helpful.
        I’m not surprised he had a nice painting because he traveled to Europe on several occasions after WWI, and again after WW2. I found an artist named Albert Bailly (1897-1964) when I googled “Albert Rue Bailley” and found a highway in northern France near Lille and the Belgian border named “Rue Albert Bailly”. Maybe the highway was named for the artist. Don’t know if there is any connection.
        If you uncover any family I would be pleased to share what we have about him with them.
        Best, Doug Fisher

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