Serving mid-Missouri for more than 90 years
The history books describe it as a cold Saturday afternoon with a whistling wind. Parked cars and buggies filled several blocks. People squeezed inside the doorway, crowded through the main corridor and up the stairway.
It was Dec. 10, 1921, and mid-Missourians had arrived to see Boone County Hospital for the first time. The guests admired the hospital’s rooms, equipment, furniture and immaculately polished floors. It was a festive day with refreshments, remarks, songs and a piano solo.
More than nine decades later, Boone Hospital Center continues to serve the community and to improve the health of the people and communities of mid-Missouri.
The story of Boone County Hospital 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 Missouri to pursue building 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?”
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 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 and solicited bids from contractors to build a 20-bed hospital. When the first round of bids all came in over budget, the trustees revised their plans and asked voters for an additional $75,000 in bonds to build a 40-bed hospital. In spring 1920, the bonds were approved, and construction officially began on May 30.
Work progressed throughout 1920 and 1921. In August 1921, as the hospital neared completion, Nurse Eleanor Keely was hired as the hospital’s first administrator. The hospital’s caregivers and support staff were hired in the months leading up to the December 10 grand opening.
Boone Hospital's first two patients were admitted on December 13 and 14. On Christmas Eve, the hospital marked another significant milestone 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 on the Boone Hospital Center campus. The Nifong Building is still in use, after being remodeled and expanded several times over the years. Plaques from the original building are on display in the lobby of BHC's south tower, opened in 2011.
In 2011, Boone Hospital Center was inducted into the Boone County Historical Society Hall of Fame, along with the hospital's founder, Dr. Frank Nifong.
Continuing a tradition
Since December 1921, Boone County's hospital has grown tremendously, medical practices have advanced, technology has developed, and 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 boxes for 1921, 1981 and 2011.
The box from 1921 has yellowed newspaper clippings and legal papers, documenting the process the founders went through to build the original hospital. A flier from the local American Red Cross includes health tips for children, advising them to drink water, eat fruits and vegetables and play outside. It also tells youngsters that, “Cheerfulness promotes digestion.”
The second box, made for the hospital's 60th anniversary, contains a T-shirt, button and other goodies displaying the hospital’s slogan from 1981, “Boone Hospital Center makes me feel good.” There's also an old videotape of a hospital commercial, where employees release colorful balloons into the air while the Fifth Dimension's "Up, Up and Away" plays in the background.
In 1996, the time capsule was opened so employees could add a box of memorabilia from the hospital's 75th anniversary celebration, including a hospital coffee mug and VHS tape of media coverage. An enclosed floppy disk contains files for the hospital's first, simple, but informative website at boone.org.
In 2011, the hospital added a new box to the time capsule, emphasizing the role of technology in health care. This part of the time capsule includes a cell phone, pager, Vocera badge and photos of the hospital’s da Vinci surgical robot. There are also pictures of Boone Hospital staff working through the 2011 blizzard and rooting for the St. Louis Cardinals during that year's World Series.
The time capsule, which is on display by the entrance to the hospital's Conference Center, serves as a reminder to our current and future staff of our generations-long tradition of caring.