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A History of Minneapolis: an Overview by Staff at the Hennepin County Library

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Featuring historical photos and items from the collections of the Hennepin County Library, with contemporary photos from the Phototour of Minneapolis by Chris Gregerson.


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The area's first certified physician, Dr. J.H. Murphy, arrived in St. Anthony in 1850. In 1851, Doctor A.E. Ames (father of A.A. Ames, future six-term mayor) arrived and set up practice. Shortly thereafter, the two set up an active partnership tending to those in need in both the communities of Minneapolis and St. Anthony. In 1870, Cottage Hospital, under the auspices of the Episcopal Churches of Minneapolis, was the first hospital organized. It later became St. Barnabas.

St. Barnabas Hospital, 920 South 7th Street, opened in 1871. The building now houses the Beth Mensing House, a medical housing facility.
Minneapolis Collection Uncat Photo. Hospitals: St. Barnabas

Dr. Martha G. Ripley (ca. 1900).
Minneapolis Collection, VF. Biography: Ripley, Martha Dr.

Another influential early doctor was Martha G. Ripley, who attended the Boston University Medical School in 1879. She began her practice in Minneapolis in 1883. Maternity Hospital developed from a clinic opened in 1886 by Dr. Ripley in a small Minneapolis house.

Harriet G. Walker (1841-1917).
Minneapolis Collection, VF. Biography: Walker, Harriet G.

Harriet Walker, the wife of T.B. Walker, was a strong health care advocate and was instrumental in the establishment of the Harriet Walker Hospital, a charitable organization that served many unwed mothers. According to newspaper articles the maternity hospital opened in 1875. Walker Hospital operated until the 1940s; in 1945 it was reopened by the Minnesota Methodist Conference as a home for the aged. It continues today as the Walker Methodist, Inc. care facility.

Harriet Walker also led the way in the organization of Northwestern Hospital for Women and Children. Founded in 1882 as a charitable hospital to serve women and children, it evolved into a general hospital. The eight room hospital moved into more comfortable quarters in 1887 on Chicago Avenue and East 27th Street.

Scene of an operating room at Northwestern Hospital for Women and Children (circa 1890-1892).
Minneapolis Collection, Uncat Photo. Hospitals: Northwestern

Nursery at Northwestern Hospital for Women and Children (circa 1890-1892).
Minneapolis Collection, Uncat Photo. Hospitals: Northwestern

General Hospital (also called the City Hospital) opened its doors in 1887 in a series of remodeled buildings in the area that is now bounded by Portland & Park Avenues and Fifth & Sixth Streets. The new city hospital served its community including people who could not afford to pay. A modern brick structure was built in 1901 to consolidate patient care. In 1940 Sister Elizabeth Kenny, who had discovered that moist hot packs relieved muscle tightness and pain for polio sufferers, began working at General Hospital. Soon her famed treatments began bringing in patients from all over the country. In 1942 the Lymanhurst School-Hospital, a branch of General Hospital became the first Sister Kenny Institute building. In 1975, by which time polio had been largely eradicated, the Sister Kenny Institute merged with the Abbott Northwestern Hospital.

Waiting room at Lymanhurst Clinic, 1935.
Minneapolis Collection, Uncat Photo.

Aerial view of General Hospital Complex, 1973. Years show the date when building was constructed.
Minneapolis Collection, Uncat Photo. Hospitals: General

In 1963 General Hospital's operations were transferred from the city of Minneapolis to the county of Hennepin (name change effective 1964 Hennepin County General Hospital) and then in 1976 a new facility opened bearing the name Hennepin County Medical Center. Today HCMC is the third largest hospital in the Twin Cities based on operating revenue. Its emergency department is the largest in the state with an annual volume of more than 93,000 patient visits. More than 400,000 patients visit the hospital and its clinics annually.

Hennepin County Medical Center under construction (1976). Originally City Hospital, HCMC became a county-owned facility in 1964.
Municipal Information Library, Slide Collection, MIL0174.

Methodist Hospital was founded by a group of women affiliated with the Methodist Deaconess Movement in 1891. The first Asbury Hospital building was located at 6th Street and 9th Avenue South in Minneapolis, occupying the quarters formerly operated by the Minnesota Medical College, which merged with the University of Minnesota Medical School. Named after the first American Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Asbury Hospital was committed to charitable work, demonstrated by provision of free ambulance service. The hospital moved to a site at 915 East 15th Street. By 1954, Asbury Hospital facility was overcrowded and in need of modernization. The hospital board had been searching for years for a new site for a hospital. In 1954 the St. Louis Park site (just west of Minneapolis) was selected and plans were made for the new hospital's building construction. The formal opening of the Methodist Hospital was February 1, 1959.

Abbott Hospital was started in 1902 by Dr. Amos W. Abbott, who was a gynecologist and pathologist, previously the chief of staff at St. Barnabas Hospital. Abbott Hospital's first building was at 10 East Street 17th Street. This hospital for many years had one of the Midwest's leading nursing schools. In 1954 the hospital expanded to help meet the need for more hospital beds. In the 1970s it had 230 beds. In the 1960s, Abbott became a partner with Northwestern Hospital. Abbott and Northwestern Hospitals merged in 1970 as a result of significant change taking place in the health care field including the rising cost of health care with its specialty equipment and increased government regulations. The merged hospital consolidated into one facility and in 1979 the Abbott Hospital building was sold to the Ebenezer Society to use as a nursing home.

In 1905 a group of men with Lutheran church affiliation formed an organization called the United Church Hospital Association (UCHA). In 1907, the UCHA began construction on the Thomas Hospital, a tubercular institute located at 2314 6th Street South (on the street that was called "hospital row"). Then, in 1916 the UCHA organized Fairview Hospital, a general hospital that had a 200-bed capacity. In 1929, Glen Lake Sanatorium took over the tuberculosis cases and Thomas Hospital was discontinued as a hospital. It was converted into dormitories for hospital supervisors and student nurse housing. In 1961 an expansion brought the number of beds for Fairview Hospital to 415. Fairview Health Services now has hospitals and medical centers in the Minneapolis areas of Riverside and the University Campus as well as suburban locations.

Fairview Hospital at 2316 South 6th Street (circa 1920).
Minneapolis Collection, Uncat Photo. Hospitals: Fairview

Today many hospitals have formed alliances and partnerships to continue with the strong tradition of quality health service to their community.

House for babies at Maternity Hospital.
Minneapolis Collection, Uncat Photo.

Another early hospital, Eitel Hospital, was located at 1375 Willow Street. Eitel operated from 1912 until 1985. For a brief period in the 1950's it was called Doctor's Memorial Hospital. In 1982, 144-beds Eitel Hospital began a formal affiliation with the Abbott Northwestern. By 1985, the Eitel hospital building closed after 73 years of operation. Its facility was converted to the Willow Street Center for Youth and Families.

Hillcrest Surgical Hospital was a private hospital that operated from circa 1910 until 1931. It was located at 501 West Franklin Avenue. It was called Franklin Hospital for a period of time.

The first post-World-War-II hospital was Mount Sinai Hospital, located at Chicago Avenue and 22nd Street. It opened as the most modern hospital in Minneapolis. Beginning in the 1940s, surveys had demonstrated a role for a hospital in Minneapolis that would serve the Jewish community and also help fill the need for more hospital beds. During this time there was an acute shortage of beds in the area. The seven story, nonsectarian hospital opened in 1951 with a patient capacity of 197 beds.

Swedish Hospital at 10th Avenue South and 8th Street.
Minneapolis Collection, Uncat Photo. Hospitals: Swedish

Then in 1970, St. Barnabas (founded in 1871) and Swedish (founded in 1898) Hospitals merged to avoid costly duplications of services and equipment. The name of the new joint hospital complex was Metropolitan Medical Center (MMC). MMC continued to grow and in 1990, Mt Sinai Hospital joined it. Costs of doing business in the health care field in the 1990s was costly and competitive. MMC-Mt. Sinai closed in 1991.

Today many hospitals have formed alliances and partnerships to continue with the strong tradition of quality health service to their community. There are over 40,600 health care practitioners and technical workers in the West Metro area according to figures compiled in 2000. In 1997 (latest figures compiled) the health services field was one of the top five fields for job growth for the city of Minneapolis. In November of 1999, UnitedHealth Group ranked Minnesota as the healthiest state in the Union.

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