“Building for a Healthy Future” is the theme chosen by the Clay County Hospital Foundation Board of Trustees for the upcoming expansion project. The old hospital building will soon be removed from its physical location. However, it will live on in our collective memory and in the old photos and newspaper clippings recording its history.
The first publicly owned hospital in Clay Center was built in 1925. The building was erected at 2121 Seventh Street for $48,184.60. According to oral history, the first baby born in the “new” hospital was Bruce Chestnut on November 3, 1925. His parents were William (W.B.) and Martha Chestnut. Buchmann’s Jewelery store presented Bruce’s parents with an engraved “Humpty Dumpty” cup for being the first baby born in the hospital. Bruce still has possession of that cup.
Years later, Bruce and his wife Lavone returned to the hospital for other births. Dr. McIlvane delivered four of their five children at 2121 Seventh Street. Bruce recalled, the delivery room was located in the northwest corner of the third floor and it was cold place to have a baby! The hospital bill was one hundred dollars and the delivery charge was fifty dollars. Times have changed a bit!
Ownership of the old hospital was transferred to the county in 1954. The present hospital facility located at 617 Liberty was built by Clay County in 1962. The open house material boasted of new features such as air conditioning, piped-in music, 37 beds of which four were electrically operated, conductive flooring, and modern kitchen equipment. According to family legend, Bruce’s niece, Maureen Pfizenmaier was the first baby girl born in the new hospital. The following year, Bruce and Lavone’s last child, James was born at 617 Liberty Street. At the time of that birth, who would have known James would marry Sally, who serves as a social worker at Clay County Medical Center?
These stories communicate the importance of access to healthcare in a community. A hospital provides care from the time of birth, through life and often in death. From its earliest days, our community has a history of supporting efforts towards providing quality medical care. The following sentences are taken from a publication called, 90 years of Health Care, Clay County Kansas 1902-1993. “In 1924, J.H. Kerby, Emil Hartman and W.G. Robinson collected $40,000 towards equipping a new hospital. The city made a levy for the building. Margaret K. Morgan and Mrs. Wm. Kehoe gave the lots on the northeast corner of the block in which the hospital was built. The old “Hospital Association” donated the equipment that could be used in the new hospital. The Chamber of Commerce appointed a committee to solicit funds to complete the furnishings of the hospital.”
Interestingly, ninety-two years ago, dedicated and concerned citizens were collecting money towards equipping a new hospital. Instead of having the Chamber of Commerce appoint a committee; we now have a foundation and campaign council of volunteers fulfilling the roll of soliciting funds for the furnishings of the hospital. The equipment and technology has changed through the years, but the need for quality medical care has remained constant.