Skip to main content

Records of the Children's Seashore House

Identifier: MSS 6/014-02

Scope and Contents note

The Children’s Seashore House Records are the institutional records of the Atlantic City based pediatric rehabilitation center from its establishment in 1872, through its move to Philadelphia in 1990, and its merger with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in July of 1998. The collection consists of 20 boxes, as well as books, bound volumes, and one oil painting of William H. Bennett, M.D. The records begin in the same year as the founding of the Seashore House, yet much of this early documentation exists as photocopies. The materials have been arranged into six series: “Administration,” “Correspondence,” “Departments,” “Press/Clippings,” “Registries/Bound Volumes,” and “Images.”

The bulk of the records are concentrated within the thirty year time span of 1965 to 1995. Primary types of materials include:

Photographs. Photographs of patients and staff were taken generously throughout the Seashore House's history. There are also many images of the construction of the new West Philadelphia building from the late 1980’s through to its completion in 1990. Many photographs were used in public relations material. Within the “Images” series, there are a great number of 35 mm slides and film negatives. Many duplicate images can be found within the “Prints,” “Slides,” and “Negatives” subseries.

Bound volumes. Materials from the late 19th to the early 20th century are almost exclusively in the form of bound volumes. These volumes consist of Annual Reports, and Patient and Visitor Registries. The Annual Reports are the most complete part of the "Volumes" series, with most of the 125 years included. As all of the volumes are fragile to a degree, folder stock enclosures have been made to protect them.

Public Relations materials. Documents originating from the Public Relations department are plentiful and consist of booklets, brochures, and newsletters. These materials begin in the early 1960s and stretch into the end of the 1990’s.


  • 1872 - 1998
  • Majority of material found within 1965 - 1995


Conditions Governing Access

Access to this collection is restricted and requires permission from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia PR/Marketing department. Reproduction is restricted and requires additional permission from the department.

History of the Children's Seashore House

The Children’s Seashore House (CSH) was established in Atlantic City in 1872 as a rehabilitation facility for children. Founded on the belief in the restorative nature of the fresh, seaside air, its establishment was funded by donations from wealthy Philadelphians. During its first year of operation, CSH operated from a converted cottage located at the corner of South Carolina and Pacific Avenues. One year later, in the summer of 1873, CSH moved to Ohio Avenue, also in Atlantic City, and accepted its first 55 young patients. Years ahead of its time, the hospital was the first pediatric rehabilitation hospital in the nation, and established itself as the fourth oldest pediatric hospital in the United States.

In 1873, the Seashore House was incorporated, with James S. Whitney serving as the first president. Dr. William Henry Bennett became physician-in-charge in 1874, where he remained until his death in 1919. Dr. Bennett molded the medical standards, ethics, and policies of the Seashore House, as well as oversaw the construction of additional buildings. From Ohio Avenue, CSH relocated into newly constructed buildings three times: in 1902 to Whitney Hall on the beach block between Richmond and Annapolis avenues, in 1953 to the Roberts Building, constructed on the same site as the Whitney Building, and in 1990, to 34th and Civic Center Boulevard in Philadelphia, at the former site of the Philadelphia General Hospital.

The Seashore House originally took in patients only during the summer months, but began year-round operations in 1909. It primarily served patients from Philadelphia and its suburbs, New Jersey, and Delaware. Through the years, CSH maintained a strong working relationship with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). The Children’s Hospital leased a number of beds at CSH and those patients referred by CHOP to CSH were each allowed a two week stay. This relationship between CSH and CHOP, as well as between CSH and the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine, both eventually evolved into more formal partnerships.

Formal training programs at CSH for healthcare professionals began after World War II. Training began in 1949 for members of the healthcare profession in the special needs of children with disabilities. Rotations were set up for pediatric residents for CHOP and orthopedic and physical medicine residents from the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. In 1951, a teaching program for interns from Atlantic City Hospital was added.

Over time, rehabilitation practices at the Children’s Seashore House were greatly affected by three major shifts in thinking in the medical community. The notion of convalescence was dismissed as antiquated, and replaced by modern concepts of short and long term rehabilitation. The emergence of Developmental Pediatrics also increased the quality of care at CSH. This movement placed new emphasis on the educational and psychological needs of children and emphasized children spending more time with their parents.

CSH patients were accepted for admission from infancy to eighteen years of age, and were so regardless of their race, color, place of residence, or financial status. Patients were sent from acute care hospitals in the tri-state are, children with chronic medical, physical, and neurological disorders, burns and other severe injuries.

The Seashore House in Atlantic City closed in 1990 upon the relocation to a brand new facility in Philadelphia. Upon relocating to Philadelphia in 1990, Children’s Seashore House added an academic training focus to its clinical program. CSH then drew on students from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Nursing, School of Social Work, and School of Medicine.

In 1998, the Children’s Seashore House was acquired by CHOP and remained as a medical care and rehabilitation facility for children with chronic illnesses and severe developmental disabilities. At the time of the merger, the Children’s Seashore House had 77 beds, had admitted more than 700 patients the previous year, and provided outpatient care to 5,000 to 6,000 patients a year. The merger technically made Seashore House a sister institution to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, as both were subsidiaries of the larger, umbrella non-profit organization, the Children's Hospital Foundation.



(Spring) Rental of small cottage, Pacific and South Carolina Avenues.

(July) Opening of Seashore House, with accommodations for seventeen patients and staff, Dr. Franklin Castle as physician-in-charge.


(February) Incorporation of “The Children’s Seashore House at Atlantic City for Invalid Children,” and receipt of charter from the New Jersey legislature.

(July) Opening of newly constructed building, a three-storied central block flanked by two-storied wings, accommodating about fifty children, on the beach at the seaward end of Ohio Avenue, with Dr. William F. Jenks as physician-in-charge. Appointment of William H. Bennett as physician-in-charge; experimental construction of the first mothers’ cottages, a program subsequently expanded.


Founding by Dr. Bennett of St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, in Philadelphia, as an outpatient facility, to serve children during the winter season and maintain continuity for the Seashore House staff.


Temporary experiment in year-round operation of Seashore House.


Purchase of new beach-front lot between Annapolis and Richmond Avenues as average daily accommodations reached 200.


Construction and occupancy of new building on Annapolis-Richmond Avenue site, with cottage accommodations for 37 mothers.


Permanent opening of Seashore House on year-round basis, with creation of extension, or “Winter Annex”, accommodating 16 children at a time.


Organization of Children’s Seashore House Fund, to help raise funds for erection of a modern fireproof building.


Death of Dr. Bennett.


Tenure of Edward Z. Holt, M.D. as medical director and major contributor to the evolution of Seashore House from a convalescent institution to a modern pediatric rehabilitation center.


Establishment by Mrs. Bennett of first chair in pediatrics in the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, in memory of Dr. William H. Bennett.


Number of admissions from founding totaling more than 100,000, with patients from 104 institutions in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.


In aftermath of September 1944 hurricane, reduction of cottage system, and its gradual elimination.


Receipt of major bequest from estate of Mrs. Mary Disston Roberts, permitting inception of practical planning for new fireproof structure.


Founding of the Children’s Seashore House Auxiliary.


Inception of postgraduate program of training in pediatric rehabilitation: institution of teaching program for Atlantic City Hospital interns; agreement for sharing services of pediatric residents with CHOP, and orthopedic residents with Graduate Hospital and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania; expansion of Atlantic City Hospital program to include residents.


Opening of new building, at Annapolis and Richmond Avenues; opening of physical therapy unit as gift of Children’s Seashore House Fund.


(April) Dedication of Peter Williamson Roberts Memorial building with capacity for 104 patients.


First full year with all beds filled to capacity, long waiting list, and tri-state representation; initiation of training for professional personnel in social service, physical therapy, and occupational therapy.


Development of comprehensive rehabilitation program; development of inter-institutional affiliations; establishment of division of psychological study.


Opening of Outpatient Treatment Center.


Inception of student nurse training program, with trainees from Atlantic City and Philadelphia areas.

1969 - 1988

Henry S. Cecil, M.D., begins his 20 year career as physician-in-chief and chief executive officer of CSH.


Inception of fellowship training in child development and chronic illness, in collaboration with CHOP.


Formal affiliation with University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, securing faculty appointments for all full-time senior clinical staff.


Centennial observance of Children’s Seashore House at Atlantic City.


Children’s Seashore House makes proposal to open a 12-bed unit at the newly built Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; later expands to 26 beds by 1989.


Philadelphia General Hospital closes; the city was looking for uses of the property, adjacent to CHOP and University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Hospital; Children’s Seashore House engaged in a series of talks with representatives from these organizations and an agreement was reached to develop the medical center known as the Philadelphia Center for Health Care Sciences.


Dr. Henry Cecil, M.D., physician-in-chief, negotiates contract for CSH to manage the Division of Child Development and Rehabilitation at CHOP.


(January) Groundbreaking for new state-of-the-art facility in Philadelphia to accommodate 70 beds.

Dr. Cecil retires and Mark L. Batshaw, M.D., is appointed physician-in-chief. Batshaw develops the hospital's academic program to include research, clinical care, teaching, and training.


Relocation of the Children's Seashore House inpatient services to the new state-of-the-art 70 bed hospital in Philadelphia.


(May) 125th anniversary celebration held at the Atlantic City Historical Museum.


Children’s Seashore House acquired by Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.


20.0 Linear feet

Language of Materials



The Children's Seashore House (CSH) was established Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1872 as a rehabilitation center for children. Founded on the belief in the restorative powers of the ocean and fresh seashore air, CSH was the first pediatric rehabilitation hospital in the nation, and the fourth oldest pediatric hospital in the United States. Today, CSH is located in Philadelphia, on the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia’s (CHOP) campus, after having been acquired by CHOP in 1998. Remarkable aspects of this collection include correspondence from the early 20th century, a number of bound volumes from the late 19th to the 20th centuries, and an extensive collection of photographs portraying the pediatric patients of CSH throughout its existence.

Related Archival Materials note

MSS 6/014-01, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Records, 1855 to 2006, The College of Physicians of Philadelphia Historical Medical Library.


  • Ditmar, Mark F., M.D. "Requiem for a Hospital." Pediatrics 88(2), August 1991.
  • Goddard Rhoads, Katherine E. M.D., "Children's Seashore House: In Perspective 1872-1994." 1994.
  • Children's Seashore House. "Children's Seashore House: The First Century, Founded 1872, Chartered 1873" pamphlet. 1973.
Records of the Children's Seashore House
Meredith McCusker and Peter Garavuso
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia Repository

19 S. 22nd Street
Philadelphia PA 19103 United States