Humble, blue-collar, and often forgotten, this was a community hospital that was founded by the owners of a local dairy and that had a reputation for caring for the sickest and most vulnerable of its patients.
It was also the first to be built in Texas.
In the decades since, the hospital has become a symbol of the nation’s rising economic health, a symbol that helped inspire the city of Houston to build a third hospital, in 2020, and the fourth in 2021.
It has been a model for hospitals around the country, which is why the city’s leaders, including Gov.
Greg Abbott, are eager to see its future transformed.
In a way, the Houston community has been waiting for this moment for decades.
The hospitals were founded by dairy owners in 1910, when the city was in the throes of a milk shortage and the city wanted a hospital to take care of its most vulnerable.
The hospital was built at the corner of North Freeway and Houston Parkway, in the heart of the city.
In 1923, the city bought the property from the dairy owners, who gave the hospital a five-story brick building that now bears their name.
That building is home to a hospital, the Humble St. Elizabeths, that has been at the heart and heart of many of Houston’s most successful hospitals and a hospital known for its medical innovations, such as the early use of the ventilator to treat lung cancer patients.
But the Hutterites also had a special kind of generosity that made the hospital such a model of community and community service.
“We don’t have the luxury of waiting for the next hospital,” said Dr. Eric Lacy, who leads the hospital’s operations.
The city had already built a number of new hospitals during the Great Depression, and with more than 1,400 patients in its emergency room alone, Houston needed a place to treat more of them.
The Hutterite Hospital opened in 1924.
It took over a two-block-long block at the edge of town on North Freeways near the corner where the now-defunct First Methodist Church once stood, and it housed a dozen patients, including three nurses.
The first residents were mostly poor black men who lived in and around the former Union Pacific railroad station.
By the 1930s, the hospitals was considered a model in the region for how to build hospitals for low-income people.
A decade later, with the city struggling to meet demand for its hospital beds, the nurses were offered a new job in the hospital, which meant that they had to make do with what they had.
It wasn’t long before the hospital was in demand.
The nurses were also given some help from a group of local philanthropists, who had helped build the hospital and provided their own equipment.
But even with the hospital serving the needs of its new residents, the community was still trying to figure out how to pay for its health care, and in the 1950s, with Houston’s finances in tatters, the town of North Harris County began to look for help from the federal government to build the new hospital.
“The Hutteris wanted to help us build the city and help us rebuild the city,” said Mark D. Murchison, who was the county’s commissioner at the time.
“It’s kind of like the American Dream of the Huttis.”
The county’s leaders got together with the federal health agency, which had just been formed to help build the nation ‘s first hospital, and they secured a loan from the state of Texas, which then gave the county a $1.3 million grant to build what would become the hospital.
By 1962, the federal agency had awarded the county $3.3 billion to build more than 2,000 new hospitals and other health care facilities across the country.
In those days, the number of people needing health care was a small fraction of the population, and some people needed care at hospitals because they were poor or homeless or mentally ill.
“They were just going to get them through the year,” said Richard L. Grosch, who served as the health commissioner at that time.
The funding was part of the so-called Great Society programs, which were designed to improve the lives of low- and moderate-income Americans.
But it also gave a sense of ownership to the Hudders, said John M. Hirschberg, who has worked on health policy issues for the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services since 2005.
“That really helped give the Hutes the recognition that they were a really good place to be,” he said.
“If you had a hospital in South Bend, Indiana, you would probably not think twice about going there.”
But the hospital became a magnet for more money, and that was especially true for families who needed care.
When the first patients started arriving, they would walk past the hospital to their next hospital