Founded on September 1, 1907 as the Baptist Sanitarium, Memorial Hospital began as a two-story, wood-framed building at the end of the trolley line on Lamar and Smith. It had 17 beds and eight trained nurses on staff. It was the second general hospital established in Houston after St. Joseph Hospital which opened in 1887. It was also the second Baptist-supported hospital in the United States. The other was the Missouri Baptist Sanitarium in St. Louis.
In 1904 the only general hospital in Houston, St. Joseph Hospital, had 125 beds. The lack of hospital care available in Houston at the time became a discussion between two Baptist ministers, Dr. L. T. Mays (South Main Baptist Church) and Rev. D. R. Pevoto (Clark Avenue Baptist Church). They wanted to open a new hospital to serve the people of Houston regardless of race, religion, or wealth. It remained only an idea for years as discussions began to involve more people in the community, like Dr. J. L. Gross (pastor of First Baptist Church of Houston), Dr. George Truett, and George Hermann. Mrs. Charles Stewart, member of First Baptist Church of Houston gave $1,000 as a down payment to purchase the two-story Ida J. Rudisill Sanitarium for $18,000. The building had only been in use for two years since 1905. Mrs. Rudisill stayed on serving as director of nursing until about 1912. In 1910, the Baptist Convention of Texas was officially affiliated with the hospital. Pevoto, who managed the hospital until 1917, wrote, “ In those days a hospital was looked upon with apprehension as just a place where one went to die. We decided to change all that.”
Memorial Hospital expanded “piecemeal” one building or building addition at a time, adding more beds as they could. The original Rudisill Building stood for over 50 years. Becoming the nurses quarters and even moved across the street at one point. Below is a brief timeline for the early expansion of Memorial Hospital:
1911: A four-story fireproof building was built and increased capacity to 50 beds.
1915: The hospital built an eight-story building and doubled the capacity to 100 beds.
1924: “A” wing was added, increasing the capacity to 215 beds.
1942: Another addition increased capacity to almost 300 beds.
1945: H. R. Cullen gave $2 million to Lillie Jolly School of Nursing for the construction of the Professional Nurses’ Building.
Through its history, Memorial Hospital was a leader in health care in Houston, establishing many “firsts”:
First chartered school of nursing, 1909
First general hospital to offer psychiatric care, 1920s
First “fever box” in the US to resuscitate newborns, 1930s
First therapeutic tank to treat polio, 1930s
First hospital in Texas to have air-conditioned operating rooms and nurseries, 1930s
First hospital in Texas to receive penicillin shipment, 1943
First hospital to expand services into the Houston suburban areas and developed the hospital satellite system, 1960s
In the 1940s, Memorial opted not to move into the Texas Medical Center, remaining in downtown where it was closer to patients. With the same, consistent mission to provide the communities of Houston with excellent health care at a reasonable cost, Memorial developed the hospital satellite system. In the 1960s, it open three community hospitals in the Southwest (1962), Southeast (1963), and Northwest (1966). The new system allowed regional hospitals to serve the community around them while sharing services, resources, and costs with other hospitals in the Memorial Healthcare System. As W. Wilson Turner, administrator of Memorial Hospital 1958-1981 remarked, “Memorial was a pioneer of multiple health care units under one administrative management in the country.”
In 1971, in order to accept federal and community funds, Memorial Hospital broke ties with the Baptist General Convention of Texas. After 70 years, Memorial closed its downtown hospital in 1977 and moved to the Southwest location on the Southwest Freeway at Beechnut. Everything was moved patients, equipment, supplies, furnishings, and even the Bowles Chapel, which was disassembled and rebuilt piece by piece.
In 1997 Memorial Hospital merged with Hermann Hospital, becoming Memorial Hermann Healthcare System. Today, it is one of the largest non-for-profit healthcare system in Texas with roughly 19 hospitals and several specialty service points throughout the Greater Houston area.
Other notable individuals in the collection:
Lillian Irene Wilson Burnett Jolly (Lillie Jolly) was born near Louisville, Kentucky in 1877. She graduated from the School of Nursing at the Kentucky School of Medicine in 1907. Before attending school she worked in mental health institutions. In 1908, she moved to Houston to be a surgeon’s assistant and director of nurses at the Baptist Sanitarium (later Memorial Hospital). Lillie Jolly was director of the Hospital Training School for Nurses for over 30 years, 1908-1947. In 1945 the school was renamed in her honor, the Lillie Jolly School of Nursing. From 1917 to 1920, she served as superintendent, leading the hospital for two years before re-focusing her attention to the nurses and the nursing school. Robert Jolly became superintendent and served in the position from 1920-1945. Robert and Lillie Jolly were married at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Day 1924. She retired in 1947. Lillie Jolly died in 1953.
Robert Jolly was born in Cave City, Kentucky in 1885. He was a Baptist minister. He became the Business Manager for the Baptist Sanitarium in 1919. In 1920 he took over as superintendent for the hospital, a position he held until his retirement in 1945. As superintendent, Jolly oversaw the development and growth of the hospital for 24 years. Jolly was a great fundraiser and worked to make Memorial Hospital one of the leaders in health care. In 1922, the American College of Surgeons awarded Memorial its hospital certification. Jolly also represented the hospital in national organizations, taking leadership positions in the Texas Hospital Association, American Protestant Hospital Association, American Hospital Association, and American College of Hospital Administrators. Robert Jolly died in 1952.
Lela Smith Hickey (Mrs. H. H.) graduated from the Lillie Jolly School of Nursing in 1933. She donated a collection of about 31 photographs that depict the nurses, nursing students, physicians, and facilities of Memorial Hospital in 1932, including the operating room supervisor “Birdie” Byrd. According to a note found in the collection, she was a distant cousin of D. R. Pevoto, founder of Memorial Hospital, and worked “CU” [perhaps, Intensive Care Unit] until early 1960s. Lela Smith Hickey died May 7, 1970.
Col. J. W. Neal and wife, Elizabeth Mitchell Neal, founders of the Cheek-Neal Coffee Co. that made Maxell House famous, were staunch Baptists who supported Memorial Hospital. He became a trustee in the 1920s, and they created two trust funds at the hospital in memory of their children Margaret Ophelia Neal for sick and disabled children and James Robert Neal for X-ray treatment of cancer. In 1944 Mrs. Neal gave Memorial Hospital the block used for their Nurses’ Professional Building in Downtown Houston. Hugh Roy Cullen provided the funds to construct the building, donating $2 million. The building was completed in 1948.
“History of Memorial Hospital Much Like city’s dynamic story” by Betty Ewing. Houston Chronicle, 1982, 11/27. Reference Files; Memorial Hospital System [Baptist Sanatorium], (Houston, Texas); John P. McGovern Historical Collections and Research Center, Houston Academy of Medicine-Texas Medical Center Library
“Memorial Hospital Facility to Celebrate Its 75th Anniversary at banquet Tonight” by Mary Jane Schier. Houston Post, 1982, 11/29. Reference Files; Memorial Hospital System [Baptist Sanatorium], (Houston, Texas); John P. McGovern Historical Collections and Research Center, Houston Academy of Medicine-Texas Medical Center Library
News clipping, Box 9, Folder 22, “Mrs. Lillie Jolly has Always Liked to Help People” by Bess Whitehead Scott, [unknown newspaper], Houston, TX. 1938, 01/09. Memorial Hospital records; IC 022; John P. McGovern Historical Collections and Research Center, Houston Academy of Medicine-Texas Medical Center Library
“Memorial’s 50th Year Observed” by George DeMenil. Houston Post, 1957, 08/25. Reference Files; Memorial Hospital System [Baptist Sanatorium], (Houston, Texas); John P. McGovern Historical Collections and Research Center, Houston Academy of Medicine-Texas Medical Center Library
Note and catalog card for P-176 in Lela Smith Hickey Collection. Memorial Hospital Photograph Collection; IC 103; John P. McGovern Historical Collections and Research Center, Houston Academy of Medicine-Texas Medical Center Library
Francis, Ted and Carole McFarland. 1982. The Memorial Hospital System: The First Seventy-Five Years. Special Commemorative Edition. Houston: Larksdale Press.
Memorial Hermann website, About us, http://www.memorialhermann.org/about-us/, Accessed: 10/12/2018
Handbook of Texas Online, Diana J. Kleiner, “MEMORIAL HEALTHCARE SYSTEM,” accessed September 19, 2018, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/sbm07.