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A history of Shriners Hospitals for Children — Salt Lake City

A history of Shriners Hospitals for Children — Salt Lake City

Like many organizations founded on the precipice of the Great Depression, Shriners Hospitals for Children — Salt Lake City has a deep and inspiring history. One of its greatest foundations is compassion, the cornerstone of the Shriners International fraternity. The fraternity opened its eighth “unit” on January 22, 1925. To meet the immediate need for specialty orthopaedic care in the Intermountain West, the Shriners leased 20 beds from St. Mark’s Hospital. This mobile unit provided care for children with a wide range of musculoskeletal conditions for more than two decades.

Because of an increased need for medical care, the group decided to construct a new hospital in 1945 to help continue the fraternity’s commitment to changing lives through orthopaedic expertise. President Harry S. Truman, himself a Shriner, signed the document deeding approximately seven acres of land from the Fort Douglas military reservation to the Shriners. The new 40-bed hospital opened in 1951 on the corner of Fairfax Road and Virginia Street, on the eastern foothills overlooking Salt Lake City. Upon opening, it was considered one of the finest children’s hospitals in the United States. The new structure contained two large wards (one for boys and one for girls), as well as a kitchen, schoolroom, therapy rooms, a sunroom, surgical facilities, living quarters for nurses and even an apartment on the top floor where the administrator lived.

By the 1980s, an updated building was needed. The Shriners community considered moving to the campus of the nearby University of Utah, enlarging the current location or replacing it with a new hospital. Each option presented its challenges. The original land deed stated that if the hospital vacated the property, ownership would revert to Salt Lake City. Utah Senator Jake Garn pushed a bill through Congress amending the terms of the original land deed, allowing the Shriners to sell the property and use the profits to construct a new building. Ultimately, the team elected to demolish the 1951 hospital and construct a $33 million new hospital to the east of the site. The establishment opened in the fall of 1995 and included 22 semiprivate patient rooms, in-house prosthetics and orthotics, a hydrotherapy pool and therapy gym, a movement analysis laboratory, a 3,000-square-foot indoor play area, three operating rooms and four suites for parents.

Exemplifying Shriners’ time-honored and ongoing dedication to the cause of improving lives, the hospital has undergone subsequent improvements and renovations to accommodate an increasing number of children requiring both inpatient and outpatient care. While the location and look of Shriners Hospitals for Children — Salt Lake City has changed over the last 90 years, the commitment to caring for children has remained the same. This rich history of healing continues to inspire the current health care team, just as it did in 1925.

St Mark's Hospital in 1925Hospital in 1951