My old teacher Fred Shellabarger couldn’t say “Christian Science” without appending the parenthetic editorial observation “…neither Christian nor scientific.” There’s a Christian Science church in Agincourt—though a congregation whose numbers have probably shrunk to unsustainable levels; CSs have a low birth rate, which the Mother Church in Boston is loathe to admit—so Agincourt’s hybrid Arts & Crafts-cum-Neo-Classical building is apt to be occupied these days by someone else. Let’s hope it’s not snake handlers.
Mary Baker Eddy may have been onto something, though. My years have demonstrated a capacity to make myself sick, so why shouldn’t the converse be true; at least a few Agincourt residents seem to have been persuaded.
Christian Science, Adventism and several other religious groups, however, often claim special dispensation with regard to medical treatments such as vaccination or blood transfusion. Stephen Jay Gould to the contrary, the notion of “non-overlapping magisteria” is usually replaced with a broad overlap or even the nesting of Science within Religion. The medical history of Agincourt is already peppered with references to alternative treatment and even a smattering of faith with regard to healing. So, with the prospect of a hospital design, I wonder about the community’s broad acceptance of current medical theories.
The history of health care and medical treatment in Western culture, even during the last two hundred years, has been a shifting landscape of supposition, claim and counter-claim that muddles the conversation and mystifies laity. Today the dominance of an organization like the American Medical Association creates (or tries to) a unified face that belies the seemingly endless experimentation of the 19th century. One branch of 19th-century American medicine derives from the theories of European physician Samuel Hahnemann [1755–1843], founder of Homeopathy. Hahnemann’s influence has already been manifest in the careers of Doc Fahnstock and also his cohort in herbal medicine Sissy Beddowes.
If Louis Sullivan was right (and Form does follow Function), how would the interior arrangement of a Hahnemann-based hospital—like this one from San Francisco—differ from a more orthodox AMA-related institution? Rooms, wards, double-loaded corridors, nursing stations, treatment-consulting rooms, operating suites, dispensaries, kitchens and other support facilities: these would have been standard program elements, regardless of the underlying medical basis. How might they have been adapted to the theories current at the time and the circumstances of a town like Agincourt?