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Need for Sarasota Hospital Acute During the 1920s Land Boom

Articles: Sarasota History

Author: Ann A. Shank, former County Historian
Photo Credit: Sarasota County History Center

Sarasota History - Need for Sarasota Hospital Acute During the 1920s Land Boom photo

When Sarasota's first public hospital opened officially on November 2, 1925, a local journalist noted that it's physical appearance "denotes stability and permanence." Hundreds of visitors reportedly toured the $44,600 facility, the first of a three-phase project designed by the architectural firm, Martin Studios.

Until the early 1920s, small private hospitals and doctors' offices, some including operating facilities, had served most of Sarasota's ill residents. With the rapid growth of population during the 1920s land boom, however, existing facilities were overwhelmed. The Sarasota County Welfare Association, formed as a coalition of organizations concerned with charitable work in the community, recognized the need for an additional medical facility and assumed responsibility for the construction of a hospital.

Before the plans were complete, the need for a hospital was so acute that the Welfare Association established an emergency hospital in a five-room bungalow donated by Dr. O.A. Morton and J.C. Herrick. Opened in December 1924, the emergency hospital served more than 230 patients and was so busy during its 11-month use that an annex was built to handle the overflow.

Under the leadership its president, Mrs. George Prime, finance committee chairman, Mrs. E.A. Smith, and building committee chairman George Thacker, the Welfare Association raised the necessary funds and oversaw construction of the hospital. An initial donated lot was judged to be too small and was returned in exchange for cash. Dr. Morton and Louis Combs donated four lots on Hawthorne Avenue, then part of the incorporated town of Sarasota Heights. Construction began in the summer, when many members of the Welfare Association were out of town. Returning to Sarasota in August, Mrs. Prime discovered that the hospital was being built on the wrong lots. Several local businessmen arranged the purchase of the large parcel, and donated the profit to the hospital fund.

Press reports on the hospital's progress described the variety of donations received by the Welfare Association. The Elks' Girl Scout troop raised money from a cookie sale for the purchase of a floor lamp in the reception room. Honore and Potter Palmer Jr., contributed $5,000 for X-ray equipment in memory of their mother. Realtor A.S. Skinner covered the cost of equipping the operating room. When the hospital opened, the only equipment still being solicited was an elevator, a heating system and a frigidaire.

The following year, the residents of Sarasota approved a $175,000 bond issue. Using that bond, the city later took over operation of the hospital and built a second unit and nurses' home. With the addition, the hospital had space for 60 beds by the end of 1928.