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Huntington dedicates first street for woman: Cornelia Prime, Huntington Hospital benefactor

From left: Susan Knoepffler, RN; James Romanelli, MD; Town Clerk Jo-Ann Raia; Councilman Mark Cuthbertson, Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci; Huntington Hospital's Chairman of the Board Keith Friedlander and Councilwoman Joan Cergol.
From left: Susan Knoepffler, RN; James Romanelli, MD; Town Clerk Jo-Ann Raia; Councilman Mark Cuthbertson, Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci; Huntington Hospital's Chairman of the Board Keith Friedlander and Councilwoman Joan Cergol.

Town honors Huntington resident and early 20th century philanthropist

HUNTINGTON, NY —

The Town of Huntington and Huntington Hospital were joined by New York State and Suffolk County officials to dedicate View Acre Drive as Cornelia Prime Way to honor Huntington Hospital’s female benefactor, Cornelia Prime, on Cornelia Prime Day, Thursday, August 1, 2019, to coincide with the installation of the original plaque honoring Cornelia Prime's gift at the main entrance of the hospital the same day.

 Town Supervisor Chad A. Lupinacci; Councilman Mark Cuthbertson; Councilwoman Joan Cergol; Town Clerk Jo-Ann Raia; Receiver of Taxes Jillian Guthman; and staff members from Councilman Ed Smyth and Highway Superintendent Kevin S. Orelli’s offices represented the Town at the ceremony. In addition, representing Huntington Hospital were Keith Friedlander, chairman, board of trustees; Susan Knoepffler, RN, vice president and chief nursing officer; and James Romanelli, MD, chief of staff.

“Cornelia Prime was one of the most generous philanthropists of the early 20th century, and we, as residents of Huntington, have reaped the benefits of her generosity. The movement to establish the original Huntington Hospital was an effort largely spearheaded by women,” said Supervisor Chad A. Lupinacci.

 At the turn of the 20th century, discussions arose about the need for a hospital in Huntington, the closest hospital at the time was in Mineola. Many attempts were made to fundraise for a new hospital, but it was only until 1911, when Ms. Roland Conklin of Rosemary Farm was selected as chair of the Huntington Association committee, that any movement ensued.

Determination of will

Ms. Conklin, along with 16 other women, put on a performance of Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” and raised $2,000, spring-boarding a push for a new hospital. Another woman, Lucie Winkworth, is also attributed with the inspiration for Huntington Hospital. Ms. Winkworth began her own small private hospital, Winkworth Hospital, the day-to-day operations of which exposed the need for an up-to-date, better-equipped facility.

 When fundraising finally picked up, disputes emerged over the location of the new hospital, but Ms. Prime took matters into her own hands. She purchased a five-acre site on Park Avenue in December 1914, paying $20,000 for the property and its conversion into a hospital. When it was later decided that a new hospital should be built, Ms. Prime remained supportive of the cause, and agreed to underwrite the full cost of construction. The total gift, including the land purchase and construction of the new buildings, amounted to $75,000, the equivalent of $1.17 million today.

“We were so honored to celebrate Cornelia Prime's legacy with Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci and other elected officials,” said Mr. Friedlander, Huntington Hospital's chairman, board of trustees. “Ms. Prime's generosity and vision to purchase land for a much-needed hospital for the community speaks to how one person can make such a difference. It is a lesson for all of us, that when we want something done, we have to pick up that mantle and make it happen. Ms. Prime would be so happy today to see how Huntington Hospital has grown over the decades, which was recently ranked by US News & World Report as the 12th best hospital and the highest ranked community hospital in New York State, and also received a national ranking for the hospital's orthopedics program. We continue to carry on Ms. Prime's legacy in making Huntington Hospital the premier destination for the community to receive the best possible care on Long Island's North Shore.”

Recognition for Ms. Prime

Councilwoman Joan Cergol added, “When we look at Huntington Hospital today, its ranking as the top community hospital in New York State and how much it means to our residents, we should all reflect on how much we owe to Cornelia Prime’s civic-mindedness and her generosity. She was one of the first in a long line of women who have made significant contributions to our Town, and deservedly the first – but certainly not the last – to merit a street name.”

 Town Clerk Jo-Ann Raia stated, “It was a pleasure to see the Town of Huntington and Huntington Hospital honor Cornelia Prime, a philanthropic woman who had the foresight to donate the funds to purchase the land and build a hospital for our residents. The dedication of Cornelia Prime Way will bring attention to another noteworthy historical site.”

 Last year, the original plaque honoring Cornelia Prime's gift was found, covered in paint, in the basement of the original 1915 hospital building. The hospital restored the plaque and has permanently reinstalled it at the main entrance of the hospital for Cornelia Prime Day.

 In a letter addressed to Supervisor Lupinacci in May 2019, Nick Fitterman, MD, Huntington Hospital’s executive director, asked the Town to rename View Acre Drive as Cornelia Prime Way and declare August 1st Cornelia Prime Day to honor Cornelia Prime – perhaps the most influential female resident in Huntington's history – and her extraordinary gift to the Huntington community.

 At their June 18, 2019 meeting, the Town Board designated August 1, 2019 as Cornelia Prime Day and renamed View Acre Drive as View Acre Drive/Cornelia Prime Way, after philanthropist Cornelia Prime, whose most notable gift to the Huntington community was the donation of land, the original building and an endowment for Huntington Hospital.

 To view the street dedication ceremony go to: http://huntingtonny.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=4&clip_id=1905]