Serving mid-Missouri for more than 90 years
The history books describe it as a cold Saturday afternoon with a whistling wind.
Buggies and cars were parked on both sides of the streets for blocks around. People squeezed inside the doorway, crowded through the main corridor and up the stairway.
It was Dec. 10, 1921, and mid-Missourians were arriving to see their Boone County Hospital for the first time.
The guests admired the hospital’s rooms, equipment, furniture and immaculately polished floors — all done in tile except for the X-ray room, which had a wooden floor to reduce the chance the operator would be electrocuted.
There were refreshments, remarks, songs and a piano solo. It was a festive day. Boone Hospital was finally open.
Now, more than 90 years later, Boone Hospital Center continues to serve the community as a facility and staff focused on improving the health of the people and communities of mid-Missouri.
“Those of us here today, myself included, know we didn’t create this success ourselves,” said Dan Rothery, former Boone Hospital Center president. “We are just humble servants, just the current generation of a long line of stewards that stretches all the way back to 1921.”
The story of Boone County Hospital actually starts in 1917, four years before the hospital’s grand opening. That year, the Missouri General Assembly passed a law allowing counties to issue bonds to fund the construction of health facilities.
Among the law’s strongest proponents was Dr. Frank Nifong, who would later become Boone Hospital’s first medical chief of staff.
With the law in the books, Boone County became among the first counties in the state to pursue constructing a hospital. On April 29, 1919, Boone Country residents approved a plan to spend $100,000 to construct a hospital.
The supportive vote had been bolstered by full-page ads in county newspapers asking residents to consider, “What is your life worth?”
Following the success at the polls, five men were appointed as the first Boone Hospital Board of Trustees. Among their first tasks was selecting a site for the hospital. The trustees eventually settled on purchasing four acres along East Broadway from H.H. Tandy for $10,000. This would become the Boone Hospital campus.
In August, 1919, the trustees selected an architect. By October, they were receiving bids from contractors to build a 20-bed hospital.
However, the first round of bids all came in over budget. The trustees then decided to revise their plans and instead ask the public for an additional $75,000 in bonds to build a 40-bed hospital.
In the spring of 1920, the bonds were approved and construction officially began on May 30.
Work progressed throughout 1920 and 1921. In August of 1921, as the hospital neared completion, Nurse Eleanor Keely was hired as the hospital’s first administrator.
The rest of the hospital’s caregivers and support staff were hired in the months leading up to the grand opening on Dec. 10.
The first two patients arrived at Boone Hospital on Dec. 13 and 14. Then, on Christmas Eve, the hospital marked another significant first when the first baby was delivered at the hospital.
David Etheridge became the first Boone Baby, born to William and Fannie Etheridge.
The original hospital building that opened in 1921 still stands as part of the hospital campus. It has been remodeled and expanded several times over the years. It is still in use.
Reflecting BHC’s long history in mid-Missouri, in 2011 the hospital was named to the Boone County Historical Society Hall of Fame. Dr. Nifong was also inducted into the hall alongside the hospital he helped found.
Continuing a tradition
So much has changed since Dec. 10, 1921. The hospital has grown tremendously, medical practices have advanced, technology has developed and even popular culture has gone through many phases.
These changes are reflected in the hospital’s time capsule, which was last opened in 2011 as part of the 90th anniversary celebration. The time capsule has three boxes.
The box from 1921 has old yellow news articles and legal papers documenting the process the founders went through to build the original hospital.
There is also a flier from the local American Red Cross showing some health tips given out to children 90 years ago. It advises children to drink water, eat fruits and vegetables and play outside. It also tells youngsters that, “Cheerfulness promotes digestion.”
In the box for 1981, there is a t-shirt, button and other items displaying the hospital’s slogan during that time, “Boone Hospital Center makes me feel good.” There is also an old videotape of a hospital commercial where employees release colorful balloons into the air as the song "Up, Up and Away," by the Fifth Dimension, plays in the background.
The time capsule was opened again in 1996. That year, employees added a box with memorabilia from the 75th anniversary celebration, such as a hospital coffee mug and a VHS tape showing media coverage. Also included is a floppy disc with the hospital’s simple, but informative, www.boone.org website.
In 2011, the hospital added a fourth box to the time capsule. Modern technology is a big theme in this box. Included are a cell phone, pager, a model Vocera badge and photos of the hospital’s da Vinci robot.
There are also pictures showing the 2011 blizzard and the Boone Hospital staff rooting for the St. Louis Cardinals during the World Series.
The time capsule is one reminder to the hospital’s current staff of a tradition of caring that stretches back generations.
“I think that as we mark our 90th anniversary, the community and our staff can feel proud that Boone Hospital, today, is as strong as it's ever been,” said Rothery. “This is a time to pause and reflect on where we have been as a hospital and it serves as a reminder of how much Boone Hospital Center means to this community."