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Huntington, for the first time, renames a street to honor a woman

Cornelia Prime paid $17,000 in 1914 for a

Cornelia Prime paid $17,000 in 1914 for a 5-acre site that would become Huntington Hospital. Photo Credit: Huntington Historical Society

Huntington officials, for the first time, will rename a street to honor a woman.

The main street through the Huntington Hospital facility, View Acre Drive, is to be renamed Cornelia Prime Way for the local heiress who donated the money and land to build the hospital in 1914 after community efforts to raise funds and secure a site stalled.

When the hospital opened its doors in 1916, it boasted 22 beds and six baby bassinets. Prime said the hospital's completion meant “the desire of my heart is accomplished," according to the Huntington Historical Society. She died in 1923.

The town is also designating Aug. 1 as Cornelia Prime Day. A ceremony is planned at the hospital for that day, with a rededication of a newly rediscovered plaque in the boiler room of the hospital from when the building was first built.

"Dedicated in honor of Cornelia Prime, through whose generous gift and bequest the original building of Huntington Hospital was erected and endowed," the plaque reads.

Renaming the street for Prime is the first time a woman is honored that way in the town, town historian Robert Hughes said.

Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci said in a statement Tuesday that such ceremonial road dedications are “usually initiated by request of the family or organization looking to formally recognize an individual for something significant,” and the person’s gender isn’t a consideration.

The renaming will also coincide with the hospital’s reinstallation ceremony for the plaque dedicated to Prime's role in the facility's formation, Lupinacci said.

Prime's fortune was inherited from her father Rufus Prime, a retired New York City merchant and banker. She became involved in community efforts to build a new hospital for the area in the early 1910s and bought a 5-acre site on Park Avenue for the facility in December 1914, historian Hughes said.

"Everyone agreed that we need something, but nothing was getting done" to build it, hospital executive director Dr. Nick Fitterman said. "Cornelia Prime really spearheaded [the efforts] and said, 'OK, I'll step up and pay for it.' Because they had already raised, I think, $4,000 to that point, and she bought the land and the building, and committed to the construction of a new building."

Prime spent $75,000, which today would be "probably over $2 million," Fitterman said. "It's really a testimony to her commitments of philanthropy, a commitment to the health care of the community."

Prime's generosity did not stop at the hospital, but was also instrumental in shaping much of historic Huntington, Hughes said. 

"Cornelia Prime also donated the clock tower on Old Town Hall, the Trade School Building on Main Street, money for St. John's Church in Huntington village, Grace Chapel in Huntington Station [now Mt. Calvary Holy Church], and more," Hughes said in an email.

Her contributions are even more remarkable considering her era — years before women were granted the right to vote in New York in 1917.

"Think of the lack of women's rights back in 1914. And that she took the bull by the horns here to get it done, when these other committees were just floundering for a decade," Fitterman said. "It took Cornelia to make this happen."

CORNELIA PRIME

  • Paid $17,000 in 1914 for the original five-acre site that had a two-story house, garage, barn and workshop. She dedicated another $3,000 to convert the house to a hospital, although the plans eventually changed to build a new hospital building instead.
  • Kept her original gift founding Huntington Hospital a secret until 1915, according to a news report after her death in 1923.
  • Bequeathed the hospital a $100,000 gift upon her death in 1923.

Source: Huntington town historian Robert Hughes and published reports

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