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100 Years

1908: Building a Hospital

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Building a Hospital

Building a HospitalPatients who are unable to walk use "banana carts"  

By the summer of 1907, the board of trustees moves ahead with its vision to build a hospital.

The Search and Sale

The Search and SaleQueen Anne Hill circa 1907  

Trustees Maude Parsons and Betsey Wilson climb the water tower on top of Queen Anne Hill to scout for an appropriate site. From the catwalk, they see an undeveloped tract of land served by multiple streetcar lines. The location is also a safe distance away from Seattle's smoky and unsanitary downtown – important, since fresh air is believed to be a key to recovery and health.

On June 11, 1907, the trustees approve the purchase of three lots on Queen Anne Hill for $5,670.10.

Scaling Back the Vision

Scaling Back the VisionQueen Anne Hill circa 1907  

The board envisions raising $50,000 to build a fully functional hospital, but they scale back their plans when a sharp recession hits the nation in 1907. The fallback plan unfolds as "Fresh Air House," a convalescence house where Children's Orthopedic Hospital patients recover from surgeries performed at Seattle General Hospital.

The construction budget is set at $2,500, although the final project comes in under budget at $2128.53.

Neighborhood Opposition

Neighborhood OppositionGirl on crutches  

When Children's Orthopedic Hospital Association's plans for Fresh Air House become known, several neighbors near the new site object that the presence of "deformed children" will disturb their quiet surroundings and depress their property values. They argue that pregnant women in the neighborhood will suffer risks to their own unborn babies if they view crippled children.

The neighbors draft an ordinance that all children convalescing after surgery be sent to Pest House on Seattle's Beacon Hill, an infirmary where the county sends citizens with contagious diseases such as diphtheria and tuberculosis.

Fortunately, the city engineer supports the Hospital Association's mission and the trustees receive the needed building permits.

A Place of their Own

A Place of Their OwnFresh Air House, 1908 

On June 1, 1908, the Fresh Air House opens its doors.

It is a simple cedar-shingled house with one fireplace, two sleeping porches with awnings, three bedrooms able to hold up to a dozen beds, a doctor's room, a room for bandaging and casting, a kitchen, a combined dining and reception room and a basement where the matron nurse takes a room.

The physicians serving Fresh Air House order the cook to give patients the best food available in local markets so that the children have the strength to recover from surgery.

The trustees manage everything – except for care of patients – from gardening to finances. Pound parties – where the price of admission for the general public to visit Fresh Air House is one pound of staple food per visitor – help fill the kitchen's cupboards with flour, sugar, produce, jams and jellies.

Patients are allowed a 90-minute visit on Wednesdays and Sundays with no more than two visitors over the age of 14. Nurses stand guard at the front door to confiscate sweets being brought in for patients.

By the end of 1908, Fresh Air House admits 39 children, including the daughter of a local physician who pays $10 to have her treated there.

In 1909, trustees display an exhibit of photographs documenting the work of Fresh Air House at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle – the state's first world's fair.

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