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ACP History: ACP Headquarters Buildings - Part 1

The American College of Physicians (ACP) was founded in 1915 and headquartered in New York City. ACP's Founder, Dr. Heinrich Stern, and all of the College's officers lived in either New York City or its surrounding suburbs. After Dr. Stern's death on December 30, 1918, the College had a brief period of turmoil and disagreement over leadership and the institution's future. This was concluded with what could be described as a "benign coup d'état" by Drs. Frank Smithies of Chicago, Clement Jones of Pittsburgh, and William Gerry Morgan of Washington, D.C. As a result, all current officers of the College resigned and the administrative framework of College was nearly completely restructured by a new leadership. One of the first changes implemented by the new regime was to move the College's headquarters to Chicago, as it was believed that establishing a location near the center of the United States would enable the College to be more likely viewed as a national institution. It is also likely not coincidental that the College's new Secretary-General, Frank Smithies, who at that time was the principal leader in the organization, practiced in Chicago.

Under Frank Smithies' leadership, the College prospered with its membership increasing along with a revived sense of enthusiasm among the leadership. From the beginning of Dr. Smithies' tenure in 1918, he gradually exercised greater authority, and by 1925 he completely dominated the College's policies. This brought him into conflict with Dr. Alfred Stengel of Philadelphia, who had assumed the Presidency of the College that year. While Dr. Stengel and many members of the BOR appreciated Dr. Smithies' contributions to the College, they were increasingly concerned about his dictatorial style over all aspects of College life. During the College's 10th Annual Session in Detroit and Ann Arbor, Michigan, on February 27, 1926, Dr. Stengel and a majority of the BOR attempted to fire Dr. Smithies. This potential change was met with great resistance from Regents loyal to Dr. Frank Smithies, and as a result, no action was taken.

Shortly thereafter, a self-appointed group composed of the President and Drs. Charles F. Martin, William Gerry Morgan, and Charles Jennings drew up a plan that they hoped would remove Dr. Smithies from power without embarrassing him further or damaging the College's reputation. The plan called for Dr. Smithies to be elevated to President-Elect, becoming Dr. Stengel's successor by 1927. The Secretary-Generalship would then be vacated and replaced with a paid non-medical administrator to be known as the Executive Secretary. This would, therefore, transfer the management of the College from a medical to a non-medical administrator who would be viewed as free of factional affiliations. It was further agreed that the administrative headquarters of the College, including all its files and records, should be moved from Chicago to the Eastern Seaboard, preferably Philadelphia. (Dr. Stengel taught at the University of Pennsylvania.) These suggestions were agreed to by Dr. Smithies and approved by the Board of Regents.

First ACP Headquarters

With the hiring of Edward R. Loveland as Executive Secretary of ACP, the headquarters was officially moved to Philadelphia in 1926. In order to provide a Philadelphia headquarters and an office for the Executive Secretary, quarters were rented in the Covington Hotel at 37th and Chestnut Streets, Philadelphia, which was situated near Dr. Stengel's office at the University of Pennsylvania. By 1928 the Covington Hotel was no longer considered an appropriate location for the College, and a newer and more modern headquarters was needed. Accordingly, the College leased a new headquarters from the Integrity Trust Building at 36th and Walnut Streets. Prior to 1935 it had became obvious to many that the College required a permanent headquarters. A special committee was authorized to begin searching for properties to be purchased. As a result, the College would actually own its next headquarters.

-Prepared November 2012 by Eric Greenberg, based on Morgan, William G. The American College of Physicians: Its First Quarter Century. Philadelphia, 1940. And Piersol, George M. Gateway of Honor: The American College of Physicians, 1915-1959. Lancaster, PA: Lancaster Press, 1962.