The Origin of Memorial Hospital, Colorado Springs
Honoring the People Who Created What We've Inherited
In 1886, the Colorado Conference Women's Home Missionary Society was established by Methodist women in Denver.
"These groups were interested in the Social Gospel; they were convinced that practical ministry would result in a transformed society and ultimately a Christianized nation. They focused their efforts on meeting the needs of the poor, the ill, the illiterate, immigrants, working women, and other marginalized groups" (Sherry L. Nanninga, pp. 5-6).
The Bellevue Sanitarium
In 1890, a group of physicians in Colorado Springs established the Bellevue Sanitarium, which was located on Institute Street, not far from St. Francis Hospital.
Mary E. Dean, RN, an 1889 nursing graduate of the Waltham Training School in Waltham, Massachusetts, was matron.
The National Deaconess Sanitarium
In 1900, the Methodist Episcopal Deaconess Society, a Methodist women's organization in Chicago, bought the Bellevue Sanitarium, which had been established in 1890.
Its new name was the National Deaconess Sanitarium (1900-1902), a.k.a. "The National Consumptive's Sanitarium" and "The New Bellevue Sanitarium."
The Colorado Conference Deaconess Hospital
In 1903, following the closure of the National Deaconess Sanitarium (1900-1902) — at the suggestion of Frances Potter Peck, president of the Colorado Conference Women's Home Missionary Society — Belle Lennox of Colorado Springs decided to organize a movement to replace it with a new healthcare facility run by Methodist Deaconesses.
"Called meeting at the home of Mrs. William Lennox to consider organizing a Protestant sanitorium under the supervision of Deaconess nurses, a large number of women were present. Mrs. Lennox was called to preside. Meeting opened with prayer by Mrs. A.C. Peck . . . . Mrs. Peck then presented a proposed plan formulated by herself and Mrs. Lennox . . . and at the close of the meeting the motion prevailed that we call a deaconess to Colorado Springs with a view to establishing a Deaconess Sanitorium . . . ." (report of the Colorado Conference Deaconess Hospital Board of Managers, November 4, 1903, quoted by Sherry L. Nanninga, pg. 26).
In November 1903, the Methodist Episcopal Deaconess Society — the Methodist women's organization in Chicago that owned the National Deaconess Sanitarium in Colorado Springs — sold the property to the Colorado Conference Women's Home Missionary Society.
In January 1904, the National Deaconess Sanitarium became the thirty-bed Colorado Conference Deaconess Hospital and Nurses Training School. The name was changed from "Sanitarium" to "Hospital" to avoid confusion about its mission.
Deaconess Emma Deaton became director of the hospital in May 1904, and Belle Lennox, the Methodist laywoman who had been instrumental in establishing the hospital, was president of the Hospital Board of Managers for five years.
Deaconess Hospital soon came to have multi-denominational sponsorship, and was nicknamed "the Protestant hospital." It remained at the facility on Institute Street in Colorado Springs until 1911, when it moved to the present location of Memorial Hospital.
"The Colorado Springs hospital enabled many Methodist Episcopal women to expand their community roles. Frances Potter Peck, president of the Colorado Conference WHMS who was based in Denver, provided extraordinary leadership in terms of fundraising. Deaconesses such as Mae Adams served as liaisons between the hospital and the Methodist Episcopal churches, representing the hospital's work and soliciting donations, some of them quite generous.
"Nurse deaconesses ran the hospital's complex day-to-day operations and coordinated the education of their proteges, i.e., student nurses. Local laywomen used their influence with community leaders to convince bankers to play baseball to raise funds or businessmen to donate badly-needed supplies." (Sherry L. Nanninga, pg. 25)
The nurses training school, with the mission of training Deaconess nurses, opened with one student in February 1904.
In 1905 Protestant churches in Colorado Springs established a Hospital Guild to support Deaconess Hospital and its nurses training school.
In 1911, Bethel Hospital — formerly known as the Colorado Conference Deaconess Hospital and Nurses Training School — opened its new facility on East Boulder Street in Colorado Springs. The land had been donated by General William Palmer, founder of Colorado Springs, and the hospital was supervised by the Colorado Conference Women's Home Missionary Society until 1925. In 1913 the spelling was changed to "Beth-El Hospital."
In 1912, Beth-El Hospital and the Visiting Nurse Association collaborated to open and staff a Crippled Children's Ward and Pavilion at the hospital in Colorado Springs.
In 1918, the City of Colorado Springs and El Paso County opened Contagion Hospital next to Beth-El Hospital; it was a facility for people with influenza and other contagious diseases. Staffed by Beth-El Hospital, it treated local influenza patients during the epidemic of 1918-1919.
Beth-El General Hospital
In 1922, control of Beth-El Hospital was transferred from the Colorado Conference Women's Home Missionary Society to the Board of Hospitals, Homes and Deaconess Work of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The hospital became Beth-El General Hospital, and the nurses training school became the Beth-El School of Nursing. Guy N. Hanner became superintendent of the hospital and nursing school complex.
In November 1926, Beth-El General Hospital opened the four-story National Methodist Sanitarium for the treatment of people with tuberculosis; it was on 29 acres east of the hospital — a property that now includes the United States Olympic Training Center — and treated patients from across the United States.
Beth-El General Hospital and the National Methodist Sanitarium
In 1943, Beth-El Hospital — founded by those Methodist women back in 1904 — was sold to the City of Colorado Springs for $76,500. It had 145 employees, 177 beds, and 17 bassinets.
The City renamed it Memorial Hospital, and it's been operated ever since as a non-profit facility that serves the people of Colorado Springs. In 2012, Memorial Hospital became part of University of Colorado Health.
Sherry L. Nanninga: Built with Women's Hands: A Deaconess Hospital in Colorado Springs, 1900-1912. An Early History of Beth-El Hospital and The Colorado Conference Deaconess Hospital of the Methodist Episcopal Church. A Thesis Submitted in Candidacy for the Degree of Master of Arts. Denver: The Iliff School of Theology, 1994. An indispensable resource for understanding the institutions that became Memorial Hospital.
Patricia Sherwood, et al. (eds.): Thy Kingdom Come. 125th Anniversary Edition. Colorado Springs, Colorado: First United Methodist Church, 2002. Includes a helpful account of the origins of Beth-El Hospital, which in 1943 became Memorial Hospital.
Special thanks to Brenda Hawley at the First Methodist Church in Colorado Springs for sending information from Thy Kingdom Come, and to Laura Harris — archivist at the Ira J. Taylor Library at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver — for friendly and professional assistance beyond the call of duty.
Nancy Lonergan and Brian Newsome at Memorial Health System in Colorado Springs provided valuable information and guidance — and Brian was able to locate the historic photographs on this page.
Contact book [at] coloradohealthcarehistory [dot] com or @ColoradoHealth on Twitter with additions, corrections, suggestions, or for more information. Thank you!
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