On July 5, 1871 the General Assembly approved an act incorporating the Hartford Dispensary.
April 9, 1872 the Dispensary opened its doors to the general public in the Brownell building at the corner of Ann Street and Asylum Avenue. Hartford Dispensary became the first outpatient medical clinic in the State of Connecticut.
In 1874, the Dispensary moved to the Hartford Hospital although the Hospital never considered the Dispensary a department or part of the Hospital.
In 1884, Dr. Joseph E. Root and Dr. M. Johnson both felt that there was a real need to continue to offer quality medical services to patients who could not afford private medical care.
On December 8, 1884 they hung out a sign on their Pearl Street office reading “Hartford Dispensary.” They operated from Dr. Root’s back room and during the first year they treated 467 patients, the second year 516 patients, and during the first none months of the third year, a record breaking 1,454 patients.
In September 1887, the Hartford Sunday Gazette suggested that the churches set aside the last Sunday of each year to raise money for the Hartford Dispensary. On the first “Dispensary Sunday.” Nearly $350 was raised reflecting the strong community support that Hartford Dispensary received.
From 1909, the Dispensary continued to grow in size and scope until it became one of Hartford’s most important community resources.
In 1915, a Social Service Department came into being and in 1919 Dr. F. Heublein gave the Dispensary its first x-ray machine.
In the 1920’s, the important work of the Hartford Dispensary was recognized by The Community Chest.
In step with a city-wide movement in 1927, the Hartford Dispensary’s Social Services Department integrated and coordinated its activities with private and public health agencies. The Dispensary provided many highly specialized medical services which were not available through any other public resources.
In 1931 the Hartford Dispensary’s facilities were again renovated and expanded; thereby, allowing the Dispensary to organize more diagnostic services and employ additional staff. During the war emergency, the Hartford dispensary served an important function as a center for draft board exams. The Hartford Dispensary received a commendation from President Truman for the valuable role they played during the war.
In the late 1940’s the most frequently asked question was, “can anyone go to the Dispensary?” The answer was anyone living in Hartford County who could not afford the services of a private doctor or dentist. During this time, the medical staff was composed of 35 physicians and 12 dentists.
In 1949, a special donation of $5,000 from the Hartford Foundation of Public Giving enabled the organization to renovate its dental clinic, one of the busiest and most needed departments.
In 1960, the Dispensary moved to 45 Retreat Avenue where it remained for the next 20 years, In 1960, the Dispensary operated thirty clinics and was staffed by 25 doctors and 13 dentists, along with other supportive personnel. In 1960, a fee of 50 cents was still the average charge for most clinic visits.
In the 1971 Annual report, Wilson Fitch-Smith commented, “One hundred years after the Hartford Dispensary was founded we need to find the best way it can fit into this community now. Responding to a critical unmet community need, the Hartford dispensary’s Board of Directors decided in 1970 to sponsor a health care program specifically and exclusively geared for the treatment of heroin addiction. At this time, Hartford was experiencing an acute heroin epidemic and treatment resources for addicts were virtually non-existent.
In the spring of 1971, the Hartford Dispensary started a methadone maintenance treatment program.
Since then, thousands of heroin addicts have enrolled in treatment at Hartford Dispensary.