The University of Michigan, an encyclopedic survey ... Wilfred B. Shaw, editor.
University of Michigan.
The Old University Hospital Buildings

The old University or "Catherine Street" Hospital included a group of some twenty buildings, large and small, the first of which was erected in 1891; Page  1655these were successively enlarged and added to until the completion of University Hospital in 1925. For many years the Medical Department had occupied, as a makeshift, a building on the campus, developed from one of the old professorial residences in 1876, with the intention of tearing it down after a few years of use (the Campus Pavilion Hospital, 1876-91; see Part V: The University Hospital). At the time of its construction modern methods of asepsis were unknown.

By 1890, however, the University's pioneer step in lengthening the medical course to four years, the prospective increase in the requirements for graduation, and the additional clinical courses made a new hospital imperative. The legislature in 1889 already had appropriated $50,000 for a new hospital unit to consist of two buildings, one, about 190 by 75 feet, to be used by the Homeopathic Department of Medicine, and one, about 235 by 60 feet, for the "regular" Medical School. Toward the construction of this hospital the city of Ann Arbor also contributed $25,000. These grants, as events proved, were far too small. Nevertheless, the two buildings provided 104 beds, of which the Homeopathic College had forty and the Medical School sixty-four.

The buildings were finally erected, after numerous modifications of the original plans, at the opposite sides of a ten-acre lot on Catherine Street, overlooking the Huron River. Construction was begun on the "regular" Hospital in 1890; it was occupied in 1891, and formally opened in January of the following year. The Homeopathic Hospital was not opened until 1892. Each building consisted of three stories, in addition to a basement, which was used for storage and other hospital uses, but these basements were so cut up that, in the words of Dr. Reuben Peterson in his "The History of the University of Michigan Hospital," they "resembled rabbit warrens."

The architects for the two buildings were Chamberlain and Austin, of Boston, and the contracts for their construction were carried out through the University Committee on Buildings and Grounds. At the time they were erected there had been comparatively little experience in hospital construction and this fact, as well as the limitations necessitated by the small appropriation, laid the buildings open to criticism in many respects. Dr. Peterson related that there were no classrooms, no teaching laboratories, and no preparation rooms, and that patients had to be prepared for operations in the bathrooms. The administration offices took up valuable space needed for other things. It may be said, however, that these buildings and those subsequently erected, faulty as they were, represented a great improvement over the facilities available before their construction, both for teaching and for care of the sick.

An amphitheater of the old-fashioned type was included in each Hospital, "a small pit from the center of which arose a steep central aisle with rows of uncomfortable wooden benches on either side" (Peterson). In these amphitheaters, for many years, operations and demonstrations were carried on before the students. The buildings also had two wards as well as a few private rooms; the space in the regular Hospital soon became so crowded that extra beds had to be provided.

At the rear, between the two buildings, a small heating plant was erected because the hospitals were too far away to be connected with the University heating system. This plant was used until 1897, when a much larger one, later used as the Wood Utilization Laboratory, was erected at the rear of the entire group of Page  1656buildings. The old heating plant was enlarged in 1897-98 at a cost of $10,000 to provide a dining room, dormitory, and laundry for twenty nurses. This new construction extended to the south of the old heating plant, occupying the space between the two buildings.

In 1901 Mrs. Love M. Palmer, wife of Dr. Alonzo B. Palmer, the first Professor of Anatomy, gave the University $20,000 for a building to be devoted to the care of children in the University Hospital and $15,000 for the endowment of it. The Regents added $5,000 to the original bequest (R.P., 1901-6, p. 224). This building was erected in the form of a special ward, measuring about 50 by 100 feet at the front of the building. It was completed in 1903 and after 1917 a part of it was used as an orthopedic ward. It served for some years as a tuberculosis ward after the opening of University Hospital in 1925 and later became the Radiation Laboratory.

In 1900, after the construction of the new Homeopathic Hospital (now North Hall), near the corner of North University and Washtenaw avenues, the old Homeopathic Hospital was taken over by the regular Medical School and became the Medical Ward, while the other building became the Surgical Ward. A long, narrow passageway was built in 1900 connecting these two buildings, crossing the Palmer Ward and the nurses' residence between them. From this passageway various subsidiary buildings extended which were designed for use as a bakery, an office for social service, and a housekeeper's room. A small office building was erected in 1896 for the use of the superintendent, and the space thus saved was used for much needed laboratories. This office building was enlarged in 1918. From 1925 it was used for school and recreational purposes by the Social Service Department, and later by the Red Cross. The old Homeopathic Hospital Building, later the Medical Ward, was burned to the ground in February, 1927.

The erection of a building for the departments of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology at a cost not exceeding $14,000 was approved by the Regents in November, 1905. Despite this favorable action, however, it was not until 1909 that the Regents directed the Buildings and Grounds Committee to work out a plan for such a building, and at the July meeting of that year the sum of $25,000 was voted for its erection. This amount was exclusive of equipment, purchased later for $9,600. The final cost of the building, completed in 1910, was $33,000. Known as the Eye and Ear Ward, this building was approximately 50 by 100 feet, with a floor area of 17,112 square feet, and stood at the rear of the main group of hospital buildings to which it was connected by a covered passageway. From the beginning these quarters were seriously limited, but a few extra rooms for patients, seriously ill, were thus provided as well as a limited space for the sectional teaching of students. With the opening of the new Hospital in 1925, the building was rearranged to care for maternity patients.

Provision for maternity cases in the Hospital was first made when they were temporarily housed in Palmer Ward after its erection in 1903. This, however, was a makeshift arrangement, and in January, 1905, the Regents approved the use of a building, originally moved from North University Avenue for use as a contagious hospital. This old house, which stood on the west side of the Hospital site behind the Medical Ward Building, with another which was moved to an adjacent site in 1908, served the Department of Obstetrics for many years, although neither of these buildings was at all adapted to the purpose it Page  1657was to serve. They have since been razed as fire hazards.

At the time the Catherine Street Hospitals were erected in 1891, a small shack on the property, just behind the Homeopathic Hospital, was taken over and used as a laundry. With the removal of the heating plant to a new building in 1897, the laundry was moved into a new building, and at a cost of $200 the old building was fitted up as a separate contagious disease hospital and equipped with furniture for an additional sum of $36.15.

Here cases of diphtheria, smallpox, and scarlet fever were cared for until 1914, when the city of Ann Arbor, gave the University the money for a Contagious Disease Hospital. Conditions in the first little building had been very bad, but no steps were taken to remedy them until a smallpox epidemic developed in Ann Arbor in 1908 and the patients had to be isolated in a building hastily prepared for the purpose. The city of Ann Arbor gave $25,000, which amounted to the cost of the building without its equipment, for the twenty-four bed Contagious Disease Hospital, which was erected in accordance with plans designed by J. H. Marks, then Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds (see Part V: The University Hospital). This hospital was designed for treatment under one roof of patients with various kinds of contagious diseases, at that time a radical departure in the treatment of such cases which, however, proved eminently practical and satisfactory. The building, completed in 1914 and measuring approximately 40 by 100 feet, was erected in an isolated spot well to the east of the entire Hospital group of buildings.

By 1914 the need for adequate quarters for the house physician and interns in the Hospital had become a pressing one, and the first interns' home was adapted from a residence moved to a site at the rear of the hospitals. An appropriation of $2,500 was made by the Regents for this purpose in March, 1912, and a further addition to the building was authorized in 1917. The building, which accommodated about fourteen men, was later used by the Laboratory of Vertebrate Biology. A nurses' home, known as the Pemberton-Welsh Residence, was also erected in 1921. This was a two-story wooden building, about 160 by 45 feet, which housed seventy-five graduate nurses. The design and construction of this building were carried out entirely by the Buildings and Grounds Department.

In addition to the buildings composing the Hospital group, the state of Michigan, in 1901, authorized the erection of a Psychopathic Hospital, just to the east of the Hospital buildings. This building, completed in February, 1906, was the first University psychiatric hospital and clinic in the country. While the cost of the building was borne by the state, the University also appropriated about $8,000 to make it fireproof. It accommodated forty patients. In its plan and equipment it was essentially an observation hospital. On the first floor were the offices and a small classroom. The wards were at either end of the building on the first and second floors.

The last addition to the rather extensive group of buildings which comprised the old Hospital group proper was a separate twenty-five bed Dermatology Ward, authorized by the Regents in December, 1917, and erected in 1918 at a cost of $7,445. It was removed in 1932.

With the completion of the Hospital in 1925, the old Hospital buildings were no longer needed for the purposes for which they had been designed. Many of the buildings, however, have been used as convalescent wards and as other adjuncts to the Hospital. The old Psychopathic Hospital for some time was occupied by Page  1658the School of Public Health, and the old Office Building was used by the Red Cross.