100 Years

1951 to 1953: A New Campaign

A New Campaign

The Children's Orthopedic Hospital trustees and guild members begin in earnest on their $5 million campaign to build a new hospital — the largest fundraising goal for a single charitable project in Seattle's 98-year history.

A New Campaign Construction photos of the new hospital in Laurelhurst, 1951  

The board hires a public-relations director — a role previously filled by volunteers — to publicize the campaign. Industrialist Paul Pigott heads a committee of 24 prominent businessmen who commit to raising $1 million.

By January 1950, the campaign secures less than $3.5 million — partly due to an economic slowdown around U.S. involvement in the Korean War. The trustees consider delaying the project, but reason that they can qualify for priority in construction materials as part of national defense if they stay on schedule for a spring 1951 groundbreaking.

By fall 1951, the general outline of the new hospital is evident as workers pour concrete for the walls. Although the press reports regularly on construction progress, the community is not moved to help cover the $1 million–plus campaign shortfall. Trustees vote unanimously to borrow the needed balance, using the principal in the endowment as collateral.

On April 25, 1952, nine months after construction begins, the still-incomplete hospital complex is dedicated. The final cost is $4.6 million.

The hospital comes to be known as the Pink Palace, a name that references its exterior color.

Preparing to Move

Preparing to Move Children exercise outside the Queen Anne Hill hospital  

Moving-company owner Claude Bekins arranges for the Truck Owners Association to donate their vehicles and members of the Joint Council of Teamsters donate their backs. Far West Taxi Company volunteers to deliver patients.

For several months prior to the move, only urgent or short-term cases are admitted and Children's Orthopedic Hospital's census is gradually reduced to 56 children.

Trustees develop a color-coded system for all hospital items so that movers will know exactly which entrance of the new hospital they should be delivered to. Volunteers tag everything from X-ray machines to bedpans. On the day of the move, even the patients wear tags!

An Amazing Day

At 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 11, 1953, moving vans with banners on their sides proclaiming "Operation Orthopedic" crowd the streets around Children's Orthopedic on Queen Anne Hill.

Patients who are able don their street clothes. Every child receives a sack lunch, and some clutch brightly colored balloons provided by the Far West Taxi drivers who will take them to their new home. Some children, including three premature infants, travel by ambulance.

An Amazing Day Volunteers pitch in to move children and equipment to the new hospital in Laurelhurst  

Approximately 1,000 people participate in the move, including teams of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts who hold signs at intersections, ready to direct drivers along the eight-mile route from Queen Anne to Laurelhurst.

As cabs and ambulances arrive at the new Laurelhurst facility, patients laugh and shout with excitement. Contractor Howard H. Wright asks board chairman Frances Owen to shield him from public view as he wipes away tears of pride.

By 2:30 p.m., all of the equipment is in place and the kitchen staff starts cooking dinner.

After the new facility opens in 1953, the average hospital stay is seven days, down from 52 days in 1929 (By 2006, the average length of stay is five days).

Shifting Traditions

Shifting Traditions Nurses and patients enjoy an outside break at the new hospital in Laurelhurst  

With Children's Orthopedic's move to Laurelhurst, many accustomed practices begin to shift. The first to go is housing for nurses and a separate house for the hospital superintendent. Trustees cite cost savings as the reason, but the change also reflects women's growing self-reliance.

Chief of staff Dr. Vernon Spickard summons the volunteer medical staff for an orientation and briefing at the new hospital. He hopes that at least 250 will attend and 420 show up — an indication of the prestige attached to staffing at the Orthopedic.

In 1953, the Orthopedic employs only two physicians, a pathologist and a radiologist. The rest of the hospital's physicians are community doctors, including Spickard, who volunteer or discount their services for charity cases and maintain private practices that are not part of the hospital.

The dean of the University of Washington School of Medicine urges the trustees to employee a full-time chief of staff, and the trustees move cautiously toward the direct employment of more physicians.

First Heart Procedure

First Heart Procedure Physician and patient, 1950s  

In October 1953, Dr. Dean Crystal performs the hospital's first heart catheterization — a procedure in which a tube is inserted into a patient's arm and guided to the heart to repair malformed blood vessels.

Within six months, physicians at Children's Orthopedic Hospital perform one of these operations each week.