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Centennial Photo Display: 1950’s, Part I

by Alethea Drexler
archives assistant
Aficionados of midcentury modern architecture, hold onto your hats.

IS042 TCH 1952 Disney back cover 600dpi JPG 1500
Institutional Collection 042 Texas Children’s Hospital, back cover of information booklet, 1952.

. . . as was almost everything else in the Texas Medical Center during the 1950’s.  This somewhat tipsy 1954 aerial includes, from left, Texas Children’s Hospital, St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital, Methodist Hospital, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in the foreground, the University of Texas Dental Branch under construction (it would open for the 1955-1956 academic year), Baylor College of Medicine, the brand-new Jesse Jones Library building, and both Hermann Hospitals.  Rice University is in the background; its stadium (1950) is in the upper left.
1954-tmc-aerial crop
1954 aerial view of the Medical Center

Texas Children’s Hospital would eventually look like this:
P-2729 Texas Childrens 1953July17 600dpi JPG
P-2729 Texas Children’s Hospital, July 1953

Their 1952 information booklet had a cover designed by Walt Disney:
Institutional Collection 042 Texas Children's Hospital, 1952.
Institutional Collection 042 Texas Children’s Hospital, 1952.

Next to it was St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital, which was chartered in 1945 but, because the plans for it were continuously changed and expanded, didn’t open until 1954.  That’s the Prudential Insurance building (1952-2012) in the background.
P-2723 St Lukes construction 1953 600dpi JPG crop
P-2723 St. Luke’s Hospital, 1953

Methodist Hospital (1919) relocated to the Medical Center in 1951:
P-2715 Methodist 1951 JPG
P-2715 Methodist Hospital, 1951

The new Library opened in 1954:
P-932 TMC Library Jones Building
P-932 TMC Library Jones Building

U.T. M.D Anderson Cancer Center:
P-2582 UT MD Anderson Cancer Center, 1953.
P-2582 UT MD Anderson Cancer Center, 1953.

Constructions workers’ cars outside of U.T. M.D. Anderson.
The sedan at left is a 1941 Ford. Its battered companion to the right is a postwar Crosley. Crosley (1939-1952, omitting the war years) was one of midcentury America’s few manufacturers of compact—in this case, subcompact–cars. This car had an 80-inch wheelbase; the famously diminutive Volkswagen Beetle had a 94 ½-inch wheelbase.
Crosley debuted the term “sport utility” in 1948 and was the first American car company to offer four-wheel disc brakes, in 1949.
The owner of this Crosley had a sense of humor: The elegant swan hood ornament originally belonged to a Packard luxury car. [1]
[1] Crosley Automobile Club:
Cars in front of M.D. Anderson, 1953.
Cars in front of M.D. Anderson, 1953.

Downtown, Memorial Hospital expanded.
The white building in the background was once biggest Woolworth’s in the world (1949):
P-473-02 Memorial Hospital, April 1951
P-473-02 Memorial Hospital, April 1951

P-2720 Southwestern Poliomyelitis Respiratory Center (1952).
P-2720 Southwestern Poliomyelitis Respiratory Ceter at Jefferson Davis Hospital, 1952
P-2720 Southwestern Poliomyelitis Respiratory Center at Jefferson Davis Hospital, 1952

Harris County was hit especially hard by poliomyelitis in the 1940’s and early 1950’s. The tenth floor of the second Jefferson Davis Hospital (1939) became the Southwestern Poliomyelitis Respiratory Center in 1950. It moved into the annex seen here in December 1951. The new building was air-conditioned and provided state-of-the-art care for sixty acute and twenty recuperating patients at a time. It was also the first hospital program in Houston to treat patients in an integrated setting; there was no separate ward for minority patients.
Word of the Center’s treatment capabilities spread and it began to accept cases from other parts of the United States. In 1953, eight patients traveled from Kentucky in iron lungs, in a modified baggage car of the train.
The Center had to stop accepting out-of-state patients for a time during a surge in cases in 1952. Hermann Hospital, Arabian Temple Crippled Children’s Clinic (now Shriners Hospital), Methodist, and the Veterans Administration Hospital provided room and support for additional patients. The Center also conducted workshops on polio treatment and public health. Methodist Hospital supported Center orthopedist Paul Harrington in developing the Harrington rod procedure to alleviate polio-induced scoliosis, for which existing physical therapy-based treatments had been inadequate[2].
[2]Wooten, Heather Green, The Polio Years in Texas: Battling a Terrifying Unknown, Texas A&M Press, 2009.