1800 Central Avenue
I remember my grandmother taking me to Safeway and telling me all about the massive hospital that opened in that location when she was five years old. At the time, I couldn’t understand why it was built at what was then the ass-end of nowhere. That led to the history of St. Mary’s, et cetera, and so on…which I will leave for another day.
If you look at the master page of the 1918 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, you will see the northernmost street was Magnolia. Comanche Street was still a county road.
The famous McCarty Hospital was located on Spruce Street just west of Central Avenue.
In May of 1922, the Sisters of St. Joseph began managing McCarty Hospital.
The Sisters then assumed responsibility for the Thompson-Pine Hospital (building on the right) located at 1405 Central Avenue in July of 1922.
Side note: The home on the left belonged to Dr. Thompson.
The Sisters continued operating the two hospitals, which I will discuss in later posts, until they could construct a new facility. Property for the new building was purchased in January of 1925.
I should stop here and note that there was plenty of anti-Catholic sentiment in Ford County at this time. Letters to the Editor expressed concerns the Catholics were taking over! First St. Mary’s Academy, then the new Roman Catholic Church, and now a Catholic hospital. Horrors! Many locals felt any new hospital in Dodge should be operated by Protestants. They were the majority, for heaven’s sake!
I’m not sure why it was assumed the hospital would be called St. Mary’s. As if she were the only one. There also seemed to be some subtext regarding the use of Wichita firms.
Construction of the new hospital was projected to cost $215,000 with an additional $85,000 in equipment and furniture. Excavation began in July of 1925 with St. Anthony’s opening on May 28, 1926.
The article went on and on and on and…I…spared you the fluff. You’re welcome.
The 1926 Sanborn shows St. Anthony’s but it still way out there. Comanche still wasn’t Comanche at that time.
As an aside, I have learned that the records from these closed adoptions still exist in many cases. So if all the parties are deceased, you can obtain the records from a family member’s adoption.
Anyway, I’m a big fan of this entrance. Yuge. I love what they did there.
As a surprise to precisely no one, St. Anthony’s quickly ran out of space. It was regularly over capacity in 1927, much like every other institution in Dodge. By 1930, an addition was in the works which would increase the capacity to 100 rooms. It would also include space for the nurses’ living quarters.
The tone of this local article about the new wing was much more positive than those which had been printed earlier.
Here’s a surprise! The addition was initially (maybe?) planned to run along Central Avenue. I never saw another mention of this configuration.
The new addition was dedicated on January 29, 1931. Imagine the photographer waking up in 2023 with the ability to straighten photos digitally.
Somehow, the planned capacity of 100 rooms turned out to be only about 80 when the wing was completed. In addition to the emergency room, St. Anthony’s also had three operating rooms and a nursing school.
The 1932 Sanborn shows the new wing with that weird angle along the front. You will also note that Highway 50 followed Central Avenue north to the bypass at that time.
The extension looks better on the post cards but still…awkward.
In case you’re wondering why I keep including photos from the same angle, it’s because I appreciate the changing styles of the cars parked out front.
A separate building for the nurses’ living quarters was built in 1938.
In 1951, the capacity at St. Anthony’s was 75 beds and 15 bassinettes. Improvements were made in the spring of 1956.
And more renovations in 1957. I’m just thinking about how miserable that third floor would have been during the summer.
In 1960, the former laundry was remodeled into a new Physical Therapy Department.
By 1961, the hospital only advertised 56 beds.
The chapel was renovated in 1962.
The Sisters were still investing in St. Anthony’s in 1966.
On November 30, 1970, Sisters of St. Joseph announced that St. Anthony’s would close the following March.
When St. Anthony’s closed in March of 1971, a lot of the equipment was installed at Trinity Hospital on Sixth Avenue. The closing caused a general panic in Dodge since it left us with only one small-ish and older hospital.
In August of 1973, Safeway announced they would build a new store on the site of St. Anthony’s once a zoning change request was approved. This Ford County GIS map shows how the St. Anthony’s land was subdivided in December of 1973.
Here are the actual drawings:
The demolition of the hospital buildings was quite a process.
Local legend Alle Craig took her students to sketch the wreckage.
After all attempts at finding another use for the building failed, it was literally picked apart brick by brick.
Safeway held an auction at their old location on First Avenue in December of 1974. And this…THIS is what replaced that hospital with all of the ornate details.
Safeway did one of their famous reshuffles in 1988 and the store became a Homeland.
Heartland sounds much more wholesome. I just can’t remember if it was simply “Heartland” before it was “Gene’s Heartland” or if it was always Gene’s. Regardless, that change was made in the early 2000s. Gene’s Heartland Foods became Carter’s Thriftway in September of 2014 and the store was remodeled at that time.
1800 Central Avenue is currently home to Farmers Country Market, Hilltop Liquor, and a Shell gas station.
The statue of St. Anthony was recently relocated to what was then Western Plains Medical Complex. It’s kind of interesting because that hospital recently became part of St. Catherine’s. Very fitting!
Here’s how the old St. Anthony’s site looks now:
Clearly, the building’s appearance has been improved over the years. It no longer stands out like a pair of brown corduroy bellbottoms (with the exception of the clashing royal blue awning.) Normally, I’m all about leaving buildings as original as possible. But this one really sucked! So kudos to whomever un-sucked it (To whom, Brother).
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