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Okmulgee Black Hospital

Okmulgee Black Hospital

City/Town:
Location Class:
Built: 1922 | Abandoned: 1993
Historic Designation: National Register of Historic Places (1984) African American Heritage Site
Status: Under Renovation
Photojournalist: AbandonedOK Team

Check Out the Restoration Process of the Okmulgee Black Hospital at Landmark for All Generations Inc.,

Okmulgee Black Hospital
Okmulgee Black Hospital ca. 1980s

In February 1922 the Okmulgee Board of City Commissioners named J.M. Whitehead to gather together plans to construct the first Black hospital in Oklahoma. Plans for a two-story brick building with a capacity of 18-20 beds and living dormitory-style quarters for a staff of half a dozen nurses. Total costs of the building were estimated to be around $50,000, half of that was given as donations raised by the African American community citizens, clubs, and organizations for construction. Citizen Buster Hayes was generous enough to donate a parcel of land along the newly paved road which today is Highway 75.

Coining the name Okmulgee Black Hospital it formally opened on February 22, 1924, with hundreds of spectators showing up to the grand opening. A few Black physicians there made donations to a ward fund and donations of surgical equipment. The hospital was located perfectly to serve the community of around 3000 African Americans and was just a few blocks from the Black Business District. The second floor was for patient care containing two wards, a nurses station, a semi-private room, operating room, delivery room, and a sun porch for patients to relax on. The hospital was state of the art with electricity, indoor plumbing, steam heat, and arguably most impressive hot and cold water.

In the year 1956-57, the Civil Rights Movement and calls for desegregation especially in schools and hospitals were widespread in America. This called for the Okmulgee Black Hospital to open a ward for Black citizens in the city’s municipal white hospital. This caused the building to stop functioning as a hospital but the building shortly after was repurposed as Grays Nursing Home for a few years from 1958-1961. It was then purchased in April 1962 by the Lester Smiths and would operate it under state supervision with nurses on duty 24/7 as a segregated nursing home. The Smith Nursing Home operated at the location until 1969. In its later years, it served as the Deep Fork Community Action Center, the Okmulgee County Youth Shelter, and the local chapter of the American Red Cross.

With the historical and cultural significance, the building met requirements to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984 being described as the “oldest facility of its type in Oklahoma which remains intact.” The building was officially abandoned and boarded up in 1993, a saddening day for the community and for history.

Restoration

In 1998, The Okmulgee County Multi-Cultural Heritage Association, formed with the objective to rehabilitate the historic site and turn it into a historical-cultural center showcasing the importance and history of the Black Hospital. But the project never took off the ground and the building sat for another decade until Landmark for All Generations Inc. came along.

In 2015 Landmark for All Generations Inc., was established with the goal of restoring the defunct hospital and making it an African American cultural center. Since purchasing it they have made great progress on bringing the building back to its former glory. Covington Aircraft volunteered to replace the roof helping to shelter the inside from any leaks. Volunteers also helped to gut the building and haul away debris. Clean-up on the outside has been completed with a new granite marker, flowerbed and general maintenance. ​This year they have moved forward with the next phase of restoration which includes knocking down all unoriginal walls to bring it back to its original floorplan. 




Bibliography

https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=https%3A%2F%2Fstatic.wixstatic.com%2Fmedia%2F892585_754be0d11eb3400f844c820ff2fb1645~mv2.png%2Fv1%2Ffill%2Fw_823%2Ch_1080%2Cal_c%2F892585_754be0d11eb3400f844c820ff2fb1645~mv2.png&imgrefurl=https%3A%2F%2Flandmarkforall.wixsite.com%2Fokmulgee%2Fgallery&tbnid=HYb3NLIp2XGA6M&vet=12ahUKEwjU1dGLk6LuAhUGgK0KHfpcDwIQMyheegQIARB_..i&docid=FfByORKNI5BX1M&w=823&h=1080&q=okmulgee%20black%20hospital&ved=2ahUKEwjU1dGLk6LuAhUGgK0KHfpcDwIQMyheegQIARB_

https://www.newspapers.com/image/700026295/?terms=grays%20nursing%20home%20okmulgee&match=1

Emily Cowan

Okmulgee Black Hospital

Emily is a two-time published author of "Abandoned Oklahoma: Vanishing History of the Sooner State" and "Abandoned Topeka: Psychiatric Capital of the World". With over two hundred published articles on our websites. Exploring since 2018 every aspect of this has become a passion for her. From educating, fighting to preserve, writing, and learning about history there is nothing she would rather do.

If you wish to support our current and future work, please consider making a donation or purchasing one of our many books. Any and all donations are appreciated.

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Emily Cowan

Emily is a two-time published author of "Abandoned Oklahoma: Vanishing History of the Sooner State" and "Abandoned Topeka: Psychiatric Capital of the World". With over two hundred published articles on our websites. Exploring since 2018 every aspect of this has become a passion for her. From educating, fighting to preserve, writing, and learning about history there is nothing she would rather do.

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