December 10, 2013

Revisiting Providence, R. I., 70 Years After My Birth



Hugs for Darlene and Peter, birthed by my mother 10 and 20 years after me. She had a baby every decade: 1943, 1953, and 1963.



St. Joseph Hospital, now closed

St. Joseph Hospital, now closed

It was a cold and snowy December 9th evening in 1943, when a cab stopped in front of the doors of St. Joseph Hospital. The driver helped a woman, perhaps screaming in pain, up the snowy steps. He probably didn’t know that her water had broken in his cab, ruining her fashionable fur coat. Was this the first time he had transported a pregnant woman to the hospital who was so close to giving birth? Did the severe snowstorm delay his getting her to the hospital? According to the woman she was mighty close to delivering her child in the taxi.

In the excitement and urgency of the moment did she even pay the taxi driver?


Hospital entrance

Hospital entrance


It was 1:15 a. m. on December 10th that Dr. Monroe Rosembloom, in the service of the U. S. Naval Air Station, delivered a 6 pound 12 ½ ounce baby girl whose mother named her Carolyn Virginia Cornell.

Her father, Chief Navy Photographer Robert William Cornell, wasn’t present for the birth of his daughter. It is likely he was on duty somewhere with Navy business. IMG_5396

Fast forward to September 7, 2013, when my husband Monte and I traveled up the New England coast during a 32 day trip.

Two of my goals were to see the hospital where I was born and to locate where my first home, 11 Neville Street, was. We visited the Cranston Library for help.

Monte and librarian Lisa Zavodi studied old and recent maps for an hour and 15 minutes (1:35 to 2:50 p. m.), working diligently to calculate where Providence, Rhode Island, streets were 70 years ago. In 1889 Neville Street was in Ward 3, off of Smithfield Avenue. In 1909 most of Providence was industrial. At that time the American Enamel Company was located at 54 Neville St., in close proximity to my first home.

Lisa met the challenge of sifting through a series of old maps, some of which were in the David Rumsey Map Collection, helping Monte determine that if my first home still existed it would be located just before Main street turns to Pawtucket. The path followed 342 Fenner to Jackson Avenue (streets which don’t actually connect), where Lisa said there is now a new housing development. Neville, Jackson, and Fenner are streets that no longer exist today. They disappeared in several reroutings of river paths (according to Lisa) and the 1950s construction of Interstate 95.

My first home gave way to Providence progress

Window detal

Window detal

Monte and Lisa moved on to locate information on St. Joseph Hospital.

A library patron, Arthur A. Rice Jr., heard our conversation and provided us with the information we needed to locate St. Joseph Hospital. IMG_5405

We found it easily. After taking a few photographs I entered the current clinic, where I was told the hospital was no longer in use. The clinic was located in a wing added to the hospital. They said the maternity ward was probably on the sixth floor when I was born. I could learn about St. Joseph Hospital online, they said. I’ll post this history on Thursday.

Light at entrance

Light at entrance

My father was stationed at Quonset Point Naval Air Station at the time of my birth.

When the United States entered World War II following the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, St. Joseph Hospital offered its facilities to the armed forces. The Navy designated the facility as a dependents’ hospital to care for the wives and children of Navy servicemen until adequate facilities were made available at the Quonset Point Naval Air Station and the Newport Naval Hospital.*

Back side of hospital

Back side of hospital

My mother told me that there were so many military wives giving birth that they were sent home from the hospital as quickly as possible. Because she had a problem moving her bowels the nurses gave her a cigarette to stimulate the action so they could release her. Before that she didn’t smoke. After that she continued to smoke.

It was an interesting adventure, trying to locate my beginnings. It wasn’t a life or death search, but it did provide me with pertinent background information.

FYI: In 1954, the Diocese of Providence opened a new 175-bed facility, Our Lady of Fatima Hospital, in North Providence… By the end of the 1960s, the Diocese decided to merge St. Joseph and Our Lady of Fatima Hospitals under a single administration and identity.*

Poetry Magazine---December 1943

Poetry Magazine—December 1943

I think now that I will get rested so I can enjoy the 70th anniversary of those beginnings. Have a cup of tea, coffee, hot chocolate—whatever—at either 3:00 p. m. or 8:00 p. m. I’ll be doing the same, and will find joy in knowing others are sharing a part of their day with me on my very special day, the day I reach three score and ten years.

By the way: they say 70 may well be the new 65—so I have 5 more years before I reach that three score and ten!



Playing Santa’s Elf on My Birthday

CAROLYNNancy’s 70th Birthday: 9/15/2012



  1. Hope you have a very Happy Birthday and you & Monte Have a very MERRY CHIRSTMAS

    Comment by LaVere Bennett — December 10, 2013 @ 9:26 am | Reply

  2. Very Best Wishes for a Happy Birthday & a Wonderful Holiday
    Season! Interesting birth story.

    Comment by Gladys — December 10, 2013 @ 9:29 am | Reply

  3. Happy Birthday Carolyn, love your articles. I read them every morning while drinking my coffee. If I don’t see you have a blessed and Merry Christmas and the a happy New Year!!!!!

    Carol Demi

    Comment by Carol P. Demi — December 10, 2013 @ 9:46 am | Reply

  4. Carolyn, happy birthday wishes to you. May you enjoy your special day all day and the comings days! 🙂
    Christmas Blessings to you and Monte.

    Comment by merry — December 10, 2013 @ 6:18 pm | Reply

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