Hospital Gifts Councilors Seek for COVID-19 Aid Came From Haverhill’s ‘Who’s Who’ List

Haverhill City Hall. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Click image for Haverhill City Council agenda.

Haverhill’s legal department says nearly $600,000 is available in donations made to the former Hale Hospital, but state and court approvals are still needed before any spending takes place.

City Solicitor William D. Cox Jr. said he has been studying gifts to the hospital that go back to 1888—43 years before the city took over the business. As WHAV reported yesterday, Council Vice President Colin F. LePage and Councilor Mary Ellen Daly O’Brien plan to ask tonight whether the money can be used for pandemic-related health expenses. LePage received confirmation Monday afternoon.

“I am happy to inform that there is almost $600,000 in the Hale Hospital Trust Fund and it may be possible to utilize those funds to mitigate the costs of combatting this COVID-19 pandemic,” LePage said.

Cox told WHAV said it would have been nearly impossible to trace the donations if it weren’t for former City Solicitor Frederick H. Magison who compiled a list of donations in 1959. Cox said the first donations came from such well-known local luminaries as James Gale, who donated $3,000, and James Nichols, who gave $5,000. It was Nichols who built Haverhill’s Winnekenni Castle.

In the days before health insurance, Cox explained, donors would often earmark money to pay for a free hospital bed for a needy person. Such rooms were designated for “a resident of Bradford” or a mason, as examples. One of the largest donations was $20,000, coming in 1923 from benefactor George C. Wadleigh. The latest donation on file came in 1984—the same year the city opened a new building on Lincoln Avenue. In many cases, however, Cox believes amounts collected came from fundraising events. The money is spread across six different bank accounts.

Cox warns he has been working with Attorney General Maura Healey’s office to make sure any use of the money reasonably fulfills the wishes of original donors. Once the attorney general is on board, the final decision is up to the state’s highest court, the Supreme Judicial Court.

The Haverhill City Council meets remotely tonight at 7 p.m. As a public service, 97.9 WHAV FM plans to carry the meeting live.

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