Volume 74, Number 37 | January 19 -25, 2005


Villager photos by Jefferson Siegel

Clockwise from top right: The Bendiner and Schlesinger medical buildings on Third Ave. and 10th St.; the medical labs were already almost 50 years old when this plaque commemorating a memorial pear tree to Peter Stuyvesant — whose descendants formerly owned the buildings — was dedicated in 1890; an old wooden staircase that once led to offices and labs, now empty; unused microscopes gather dust on a shelf; a water faucet formerly used to fill and rinse beakers.

Historic Village blood lab’s days draw to a close

By Jefferson Siegel

Another longtime Village business is leaving the area, but this departure doesn’t involve bagels, books or clothes. In fact, chances are most locals have never set foot inside the Bendiner and Schlesinger medical buildings on the northeast corner of 10th St. and Third Ave.

One of the oldest medical labs in the United States, Bendiner started out as a pharmaceutical manufacturer in 1843. By 1902, as advances in science established the importance of blood analysis, Bendiner began offering laboratory tests.

Charles Schlesinger, the current owner, recalled the old days of the business while speaking from Bendiner’s new lab facilities at the Brooklyn Army Terminal. “My grandfather bought B&S in 1892,” he said. “We bought the building from the last of the Peter Stuyvesant brood in 1959. We’ve been there ever since.”

On a recent visit to the trio of three-story interconnected buildings, now mostly emptied of diagnostic equipment, the subtle but pervasive odor of antiseptics evoked memories of the lab’s bustling past.

Ceil, the office manager, talked of her first days as a phlebotomist in 1976. “When I started here there were 30 employees,” she said. “Now there are five of us.” The office still acts as a collection station for blood and other samples, but analysis is done at the new Brooklyn lab.

Ceil recalled when the staff arrived in the office last year on the day before Thanksgiving, they learned the lab was moving out. Two days later, most employees were relocated to Brooklyn. By the end of that holiday weekend, on Nov. 29, the building’s sole function was as a patient service center and collection station.

In the small back rooms, technicians and phlebotomists still draw blood. The old, intricately carved wooden staircase leads to rooms that once held laboratories and offices but are now mostly empty. One room still has an old sink with test-tube drying racks hanging above it. Against the wall of another room is a ventilated workstation, its pull-down protective glass gone foggy. An old sink in another room holds a curved water faucet head, once used to rinse beakers, now collecting dust. And in each room underfoot is a different style or color of floor linoleum, dating that room’s age, like the growth rings of an old tree.

Next to the ground-floor reception area there was once an X-ray lab. When this service first opened, a radiologist performed all the steps in taking an X-ray, with no technician or other assistance. The separate waiting room here once served as a holding area for manacled prisoners, bused in by the Department of Corrections. They would have medical tests performed before being returned to jail.

Back in the main waiting room, an occasional patient came in late on a Friday afternoon for a blood test, but the two-dozen cloth chairs remained empty. Still visible and still polished was old wooden molding running along the tops of the walls. Other details were either removed or hidden behind a recent cloth wall covering.

Outside of the building, a bit of history is still visible to passersby. On the exterior wall is a historic plaque that once hung on the side of the original Stuyvesant family chapel, now the site of the Church of St. Mark’s-in-the-Bouwerie, on Second Ave., where Peter Stuyvesant is buried. The plaque, mounted in 1890, commemorates Stuyvesant’s return — after his recall to Holland in 1664 — with a pear tree, which was planted nearby as his memorial and which bore fruit for 200 years.

Charles Schlesinger recounted how, decades ago, the plaque kept falling off the church wall. Finally, his father took it and mounted it on the 10th St. side of the building. In the next week or two, he plans to remove the plaque and present it to William Van Winkle of the Holland Society of New York.

Sometime early this year, demolition of the buildings will begin, and Schlesinger is planning on erecting a six-story apartment building with ground-floor retail stores by January 2006.

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