It’s About Time column: Nursing in Glenwood Springs
It’s About Time
A disclaimer needs to be made before more words get slung onto paper. There is a special place in my heart for nurses. My mother was a nurse’s assistant for a few years, my ex-wife Linn is a retired nurse and my daughter Shandra is a pediatric nurse.
What would hospitals be without nurses?
Glenwood’s first hospital was housed in the original two-story Old Barlow (or Yampa) Hotel where today’s downtown fire station is located. The building was remodeled and opened as St. Joseph Sanitarium in August 1900 by two ladies known as the Sisters of Charity.
On July 1, 1900, the ladies were out of business through foreclosure, their “institution for the preservation or recovery of health, especially for convalescence” gone.
In 1903 a Dr. Berry leased apartments upstairs in the Deacon Building at 818 Colorado Ave. for a hospital and nurse’s training. Miss Buersh was the registered nurse in charge.
Dr. Berry in 1908 constructed a large two-story hospital at 512 10th St. It also contained a nurse’s school with Edith Johnson the nurse in charge of training. The hospital operated until 1937 when J. E. Sayre purchased the building, turning it into an apartment complex.
Our archives mention Miss Edith Johnson and two other nurses going to work at the Women’s Hospital in New York in 1917 to help with the World War I effort. Otherwise we have little mention of the nurse’s contributions to Glenwood’s history during this time period.
A house on 803 Bennett Ave. was purchased by Dr. Granville Hopkins in September 1927, and a west addition was added to create a 22-bed hospital. It lasted until 1938 when it was converted to apartments.
Dr. R. B. Porter opened a hospital Jan. 11, 1932, leasing the third floor of the First National Bank Building at 802 Grand Ave. now occupied by Colorado Mountain College and the Glenwood Springs Chamber. By the time the hospital closed in 1955 there had been 13,183 admissions and 2,070 babies born there.
The Hotel Colorado was commissioned as a U. S. Naval Convalescent Hospital from 1943 until decommissioning by the Navy in 1947. It was used for the recuperation of thousands of World War II sailors.
An undated xeroxed document on “Dr. Porter’s Hospital” letterhead mentions a Glenwood Springs Clinic closing in 1953, but that is all we have on the clinic.
After the Garfield County Poor Farm was destroyed by fire in 1933 the county opened a hospital at 2014 Blake Ave. in March 1935. The hospital was retired from service in 1957 after Valley View Hospital was constructed in the same area and opened for patients Aug. 30, 1955.
Recently, a young volunteer for the Frontier Museum started working with us to begin her capstone project for high school. Her idea is to portray an authentic character, a female nurse. How many young people want to help bring history alive?
As her research dug deeper into our files, she discovered there was little material to be found on a young nurse’s life experiences to build an authentic portrayal of a historic character.
With all these Glenwood Springs hospitals existing over the last 120 years why don’t we have recorded stories, diaries, journals or books about our area nurses?
To create a script of a nurse from the past and build a composite character to bring to life what a nurse’s experience was like back in the day, we need help.
Since our archives are missing even anecdotal stories, we are asking our community to let us know if you have such items in your family treasure trove. You can do so by simply sending the museum an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
After all, what’s a museum without nursing history?
It’s About Time is a monthly column by Glenwood Historical Society executive director Bill Kight.
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