Saturday, July 21, 2007

Saint Anthony's Hospital

Saints, St. Ann's, St. Anthony's, Saint A's, whatever you want to call it, was established in Oklahoma City in 1898, 9 years after the Land Run. Its first "permanent" home, finished in 1899, is shown below, at 1000 N. Lee, then outside Oklahoma City's limits.

Click on the pic for a larger image
Credit Vanished Spendor by Jim Edwards & Hal Ottaway
(Abalache Book Shop Publishing Co. 1982)


It was Oklahoma City's first "permanent" hospital and was located near downtown in the area called "Midtown" today as is shown in the Oklahoma County Assessor's 2005 aerial view shown below. Plaza Court, Kaisers (Grateful Bean), and the Federal Campus are shown for reference.

Click on the map for a larger image

Modest Beginnings. How did it get started? A pair of Roman Catholic Franciscan nuns (Sisters Beata Vinson and Clara Schaff) traveled to Oklahoma City from Missouri in the spring of 1898. They were looking to raise funds here for a hospital there (in Maryville, Missouri), apparently thinking that 9 years after the Land Run they'ed find some benefactors here, and they sought permission from the local priest, Rev. D.I. Landslots, to solicit funds for that purpose. Whether he gave permission or not I don't know, but, at the least, he requested and charged the Sisters to go back to Maryville and carry a request that the Order to establish a permanent hospital here ... none existed at the time in the city or even in Oklahoma Territory, according to an April 26, 1998, Oklahoman article.

It worked. In July 1898, 4 Sisters returned and rented a pair of houses on NW 4th (one a residence, the other a temporary hospital ... which would later become the location of the Murrah Building ... so the ties between the Order and the later Murrah Building were/are longstanding).

When the initial hospital opened, it had no electricity, sewage, running water (water had to be hauled by the nuns from 4 blocks away) or natural gas. In fact, it had to close in November 1898 because of those problems.

A very nice summary of history is gleaned from the April 28, 1998, Oklahoman article mentioned above ... it commemorated St. Anthony's 100th anniversary. Click the image below for a readable version.


The main article says that phones were installed in 1900, electricity in 1902, and natural gas in 1904, and that the hospital's entrance faced NW 9th.


The same article notes that the St. Anthony School of Nursing was established in 1908, the first graduating (1911) class being shown below.


The Sisters had been instructed by their Mother Superior Augustine in her August 1, 1898 mandate, "Turn no one away." In the aftermath of the Murrah Building bombing, much beyond the death of Sister Augustine, 300 of the people injured in the 1995 Murrah bombing were brought to Saint Anthony's, the hospital nearest to the Murrah Building, and many were treated without charge. During the Great Depression, hospital Sisters served more than 2,000,000 free meals to the hungry. The hospital's bank balance was $19.07 on January 1, 1931 ... four years later, it was in debt by $331,060.

But, I digress! St. Ann's continued to grow after its 1899 facility was constructed. Below, images from my postcard collection show what Saint A looked like in the 1940s.

Click on the Images Below For A Larger Image


The card below bears a 1946 postmark

The above is Doug Dawgz hospital of birth in 1943! Hooahh! (Sorry ... had to do that.)

The Competition. Although St. Anthony's was the first, other hospitals came to occupy what we now consider "close-in" space. Some are shown below.

Click on the pics below for a larger image

Credit Vanished Spendor by Jim Edwards & Hal Ottaway
(Abalache Book Shop Publishing Co. 1982)
Rolater Hospital, 325 NE 4th, circa early 1900s


Wesley Hospital, 12th & Harvey (1911)


Credit Vanished Spendor III by Jim Edwards, Hal Ottaway & Mitchell Oliphant
(Abalache Book Shop Publishing Co. 1985)
The 1927 Wesley Hospital, 12th & Harvey
Became the Presbyterian Medical Center in 1964


City Hospital, 401 NE 2nd, 1912, apparently intended for charity,
later called "Post-Graduate Hospital", later used by the Dept. of
Health for laboratory space, in the 1940s the Stiles Community Center


Credit Vanished Spendor II by Jim Edwards & Hal Ottaway
(Abalache Book Shop Publishing Co. 1983)
Originally the State Baptist Hospital (1916), it
became Oklahoma General Hospital in 1922, Mercy
Hospital in 1947. Before Mercy moved in 1974, it
occupied the block between Dewey & Walker, NW 13 & NW 12


From My PostCard Collection

University Hospital on NE 13th (1919)


Polyclinic Hospital, NW Corner of 13th & Robinson (1929)
Later (?), the building was demolished and a newer facility
was built which has gone by various names, now Kindred Hospital

St. Ann Continues To Grow. St. Anthony's continued to grow over the years. The pic below is a rendering appearing in the March 16, 1958, Oklahoman showing then existing plans.

Click The Image For A Larger View

Not counting clinics (e.g., the McBride Clinic) and smaller hospitals (Kindred Hospital), St. Anthony's became the sole surviving major hospital in the city-center area. "Presbyterian" moved to NE 13th & Lincoln and is now part of the University of Oklahoma health care complex. Mercy moved to the far northwest on Memorial Road in 1974. Also moving or closing were many businesses, shops, etc., and the area around St. Anthony's became something less than desirable.

In 2002-early 2003, talk was that St. Anthony's might be moving also (I seem to recall that it might relocate to the north Moore area or something in that general vicinity which would not only remove the remaining major hospital from city-center but would leave yet another empty structure in the Midtown area, and a huge one at that.

But, that didn't happen. An August 1, 2003, Oklahoman article by Steve Lackmeyer reported a deal being offered to keep St. Anthony's downtown.

An October 25, 2003, Oklahoman article by Bryan Dean reported the good news:

Hospital staying downtown

St. Anthony Hospital and local government officials signed a deal Friday that could trigger more than $200 million of investment in the MidTown area and bring cutting edge cancer technology to the state.

The agreement to keep St. Anthony at its downtown location was signed less than four months after the hospital said it would either renovate its campus at NW 10 and Lee Avenue or move to another part of town.

"You cannot stress too much the importance of this day," County Commissioner Stan Inman said. "We have actually avoided a financial disaster for downtown Oklahoma City and this entire county, if not the whole state of Oklahoma."

The hospital’s main concerns were highway access, crime and blight in the area and a state Medicaid reimbursement formula that penalizes older hospitals.

Local officials have promised to correct neighborhood issues and will ask the state Transportation Department to help with highway access.

Steve Hunter, president and chief operating officer of SSM Healthcare, the hospital’s parent company, said he was surprised by the quick reaction of local officials.

"My expectation was that this thing was going to take forever," Hunter said. "To have this thing basically done in less than six months, I think shows a commitment by a lot of people."

State officials said they may have a solution to the Medicaid reimbursement issue.

Under the current formula, older hospitals tend to receive lower reimbursements because of a longer history with the Medicaid program, which is overseen locally by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority.

St. Anthony officials complained that the formula was discriminatory.

Nico Gomez, spokesman for the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, said a proposal before the authority’s board would raise all hospitals’ reimbursement rates to the state median before giving an across the board increase of 2 percent.

With most of its concerns addressed, the hospital plans to invest $200 million into its campus. City and county initiatives will improve the look of the area surrounding the hospital.
The deal struck was obviously a community-wide deal ... the pic below (taken by Paul Hellstern of the Oklahoman shows the agreement's signators to be (left to right): Fred Hall, board chairmen of Downtown Oklahoma City, Inc.; Stanton Youg, chairman of the Urban Renewal Authority; Roy Williams, executive VP of the Okc Chamger of Commerce; Steve Hunger, president of St. Anthony Hospital; Stan Inman, Oklahoma County Commissioner; and Okc Mayor Kirk Humphreys.


Midtown Resurgence. It certainly did no harm that Greg Banta became the primary mover and shaker in the Midtown area, together with the guy bankrolling many of the Banta Group's Midtown projects. Largely, that's another story for another day.

But it certainly does no harm that the Banta Group is restoring the historic Plaza Court, Oklahoma City's first shopping center, immediately northeast of the hospital's plaza. The images below were taken on July 20, 2007. Click any pic for a larger view.

Looking Northeast From Walker & NW 10th


Looking Southwest From Walker & NW 10th

The historic Kaiser's is now the Grateful Bean owned by Peter Schaeffer. It closed for a time in October 2004 because of construction of the traffic circle (aka "roundabout") ... but it did reopen. The building is more than 90 years old, and for decades was home to Kaisers Ice Cream. Schaffer bought the building in 1992, remodeled it, and got it listed on the National Register of Historic Places. He turned the landmark into a nonprofit restaurant that hired people who were either marginally employed or chronically unemployed. Though he feared it might not reopen, as you can plainly see, it did! Good for St. Anthony's, Peter's project, and for all of us.

Around NW 9th Looking West At New Construction


A Closer View


A Parking Garage on the South Side


On the West Side Looking Southeast



And, Of Course, St. Francis Himself,
Patron Saint of the Religious Order
That Started St. Anthony's in 1898


Today, St. Anthony's is reported to be Oklahoma City's largest hospital. I'm glad that I live nearby!

Go To Top

15 comments:

Prayerful Knitter - Shelly said...

Thanks so much for all the work you put into this post. I graduated from St. Anthony's School of Nursing in 1976 and worked there for several years of my nursing career. It has been and will always be special to me.

Doug Dawg said...

Thanks, Shelly! It's special to me, too, since that's where I was born! Glad you liked the post and if you have any pics pertinent to the article that you'd care to share I'd be glad to add them. My e-mail address is in my profile here. Regardless, thanks for your comment.

Norman Thompson said...

In the 1930's and 40's and 50's my grandparents lived at 10th and Lee. The hospital bought the property and moved the house, the psych hospital is there now.
St Anthony's was our playground.We would ride the elevators and sneak around and try not to get caught.
We had a rope swing on the Sycamore tree that is still there. Everyday we could watch the nuns pass out sack lunches to the line of homeless men by the old ER entrance.
Also I remember across tenth street from Kiaser's Ice Cream was a Moble gasoline station. It had a large Flying Red Horse that spun around on a pole.

Anonymous said...

Doug Dawg,

THANK YOU for your posts re: St. Anthony's. I began my medical career there and met my wife (a nursing student at St. Anthony).

We used to have ice-cream at "that shop" and the worlds best bean soup very near there. It's been a long, long time.

Doug Dawg said...

You're very welcome, anon. When were you there?

Anonymous said...

I'm not exactly sure of the year, Doug, but it was just before (and during) the time that the Psychiatric wing (and new emergency rooms) were constructed... must have been in the early '60s.

Do you remember the name of the place where we ate the white bean soup? It was a somewhat dingy (shabby) bar, on a corner, but they sure served great food. (sigh) those were the days.

I lived in a garage apartment on NW 22nd street. Just across from a open park area, as I remember... and just across from OCU.

I was just beginning my studies and "working my way through".

Doug Dawg said...

Thanks, anon! Can't help you with the bean soup ... maybe it was at the corner that Big Ed's Hamburgers eventually came to be (which, of course, is no longer there with the recent revamp & expansion). Big Ed's greasy hamburgers were good, too!

Anonymous said...

Hey Doug, thanks for the history and resources...Come have coffee some morning at Coffee Slingers,on North Broadway between ninth and tenth in the old Pierce Arrow/Cadillac building...

Doug Dawg said...

I'll be glad to do that very thing!

So, now that you've got your plug, say some more about the history of your building between ninth and tenth in the old Pierce Arrow/Cadillac building!

Anonymous said...

Do you have more about Mercy. It says it started as Baptist Hospital in 1916 then Mercy took over in 1947. Did they just move into Baptist's building from another smaller location? It is amazing to see all the smaller hospitals especially in the Deep Deuce district. I wonder if many opened to serve mainly Black people. I was born at Saints. I've been back a few times since then. I was a patient there about 5 years ago. The transporters often got lost as Saints was adding floors and building faster than they could learn them. Presby is now my local hospital because of my network being attached to HCA. I do miss Big Ed's though. Wow, that will not be replaced.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed reading more about the history of St. Anthony's. My mom graduated from there around 1976 if I'm not mistaken. Her and a couple of of her friends she graduated with speak very fondly of it and I love getting to listen to their stories from nursing school.

Anonymous said...

Glad to seee this post on the web. I graduated from Saints in 1967. I eloped and got married in 1965--I went back to school and my new husband went to his parent's home one day later because we were only allowed to have 2 "overnites" per week. Three days later he went to Viet Nam and I continued with school. He was gone for 2 years, and I was grateful to have school to keep me busy. I remember glass IV bottles, white uniforms and caps. I have not kept in touch with anyone from my class; I hope someone from my class gets in touch. I have done 24 years of OB and NICU, retired from Integris 4 months ago and went back to work becuse I missed it.Hve been working Outpatient day surgery for the past 11 years. I miss the babies. I'll probably go back to it. Thanks again....ELane

Sheryl said...

Doug, I was wondering if you know when they actually closed Mercy (downtown). THere was a discussion about my brother being born there. I know the oldest of my 2 brothers was, but I am not sure about the youngest one. He was born in Sept 1965. Thanks

Doug Dawg said...

Thanks, Sheryl. After your above message, I did a check of the Oklahoman's on-line archives. Although zoning was approved for the present NW Okc Mercy location in May 1970, protesters litigated that rezoning, finally decided by the Ok Sup Court in 10/1971. After that decision, construction began on the new facility in 12/1971 (groundbreaking). Oklahoman reports show that the old Mercy continued operations until, finally, on 8/17/1974 the old Mercy location was vacated and the new location began, seamlessly.

Anonymous said...

What an amazing amount of interesting history here! Thank you for putting all of this together. I have worked for Saints for a long time and have always been fascinated by her history. The photos are great too!!
Do you by any chance have any history on the buildings that were formerly Villa Teresa?