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A century of history - snippets and notes

In 1914, a leading citizen of Minneapolis named William H. Dunwoody died.  In his last will and testament, he left the private hospital he owned to Westminster Presbyterian Church.  Some years earlier Dr. Amos Abbott had operated successfully on Dunwoody’s wife Kate.  In gratitude, he built a new hospital and named it Abbott, after the doctor.
Seven years later, in 1921, the church received another hospital in the will of Thomas Janney.  Inspired by his friend Dunwoody, Janney had built a private children’s hospital next to Abbott, and he wanted the two institutions linked together.

In 1929 and again in 1939, the church added new wings to the facilities.  In 1963, Westminster chose to let the expanded Abbott Hospital break away from the church and incorporate itself.

The yellow Victorian residence that housed the original hospital was obliterated long ago. But a second facility, built for Abbott in 1911 by flour-milling magnate William Dunwoody, still stands. That building, where Susan Holmes labored for so many years, is now the City of Lakes Transitional Care Center, a 162-bed facility operated by the Duluth-based Benedictine Sisters of St. Scholastica.

Minneapolis held a promising future. Located on the western side of the Mississippi River, the city had an advantage in trading, as well as use of a powerful water source for milling purposes. The rich agricultural lands to the west and the dense forests to the north provided the materials needed to keep the lumber and flour industries busy. The milling industries brought people, wealth, and fame to the city, and Minneapolis established itself as the industrial capitol of what was then the Northwest. With growth in industry came growth in business and trade. This growth promised a wealth of jobs, and attracted a wide variety of people to the area. Wealthy Yankees from New England moved to Minneapolis in hopes of increasing their fortunes and becoming part of a new era in the Northwest, while immigrants from the Scandinavian countries, Germany, Ireland, and other countries were recruited from both the eastern states and their homelands with promises of land, jobs, and fresh opportunities.
As people continued to arrive to Minneapolis from near and far, neighborhoods began to develop around the city's center and the milling and industrial districts. One of these neighborhoods is presently known as Stevens Square-Loring Heights.

The hospital opened on March 5, 1902, headed by Dr. Amos Wilson Abbott, a well-respected physician and pioneer in the field of gynecology. The first patient to be operated on in the hospital died, but no more deaths occurred there for almost two and a half years--an extraordinarily good record for that time period. The average mortality rate for the hospital was only one per year. Doctors performed 112 operations in the first year alone, 70 of which were major procedures. A new, larger hospital building was built in 1910, funded by William H. Dunwoody, a long-time friend of Abbott. The hospital expanded further in 1920 with the addition of the Janney pavilion, a children's wing, donated by Mr. and Mrs. T.B. Janney. The hospital's success, failures, and eventual merging and relocation with Northwestern Hospital had a great impact on the economic situation of the community.

The hospital was designed by popular Twin Cities architect William Channing Whitney. Founded by Dr. Amos Wilson Abbott (1844 - 1927), the new building would determine the demographics of the neighborhood for years to come. Nurses and other medical professionals lived in the nearby apartment buildings which provided easy access to the hospital and the downtown area.

Although Abbott lived outside of Stevens Square-Loring Heights at 21 South 10th Street, his impact on the area is significant, and his contributions to Minneapolis, the Midwest, and the field of medicine are innumerable. Abbott was born on January 6, 1844, in India, where his parents were missionaries. At age four, Abbott returned with his parents to the United States. He remained there with his aunt who "was of the old New England type, very religious, stern, and unrelenting" when his parents returned to India three years later. He ran away at age twelve and worked a succession of jobs to support himself and pay for his education. He enrolled in Dartmouth College at the age of 15, but interrupted his education two years later to join the Union Army as a drummer boy. During the Civil War, Abbott was captured and taken to Libby Prison near New Orleans. He managed to escape from the prison with six others, nearly losing his life in the process.

After the war, Abbott worked in the Pay Department in Washington D. C. in order to pay for further education. He received his physician’s degree at the college of Physicians and Surgeons in New York and then interned at a "colored hospital" on Ellis Island. Afterward, he practiced in Delhi, New York where he met Helen Wright. Perceiving that Minneapolis needed medical practitioners, Abbott moved to the city in 1877. He married Wright in 1880.

In Minneapolis, Abbott opened and operated a small hospital for his patients at his residence at 613 Second Avenue South for about five years. He then closed the hospital and worked out of St. Barnabas Hospital (901 Sixth Avenue South), where he was chief of staff. He kept office at his new home on 10th Street and Harmon Place, and made frequent house calls by horseback, rain or shine, day or night. He had a well-equipped laboratory in his home where he and his assistant carried out routine work.

The Abbott Hospital opened on March 5, 1902, at 10-12 East 17th Street, a three-story building with the dining room, kitchen, and laundry in the basement. The nurses were housed on the third floor on one side with a well-equipped, good-sized laboratory and interne’s [sic ]room on the other. The first and second floors had rooms for ten patients. The operating-room was on the second floor...There was no elevator. The patients were wrapped in blankets and carried from the operating-room to their rooms by the doctors.

Later on, when more room was needed, 15 beds were added by moving the nurses to outside housing. Nurses’ residences existed at 1801 First Avenue South and 1714 Stevens Avenue South.

The first patient operated on in the hospital died, but no more deaths occurred there for almost two and a half years. The average mortality rate for the hospital was only one per year and doctors performed 112 operations in the first year alone, 70 of which were major procedures. Such accomplishments did not go unrecognized by others. Abbott was elected and served as President of the Hennepin County Medical Society, the Minnesota State Medical Society, the Academy of Medicine, the Pathological Society, and the Western Surgical Association. In addition, he was the first delegate to the first House of Delegates for the American Medical Association. He also cofounded the Minnesota Pathological Society and taught anatomy at the St. Paul Medical College. In 1881, he founded the Minnesota College Hospital.

Abbott’s friends and clientele included the social elite in the area, including milling magnate William H. Dunwoody and family. In an expression of gratitude for attending to his wife Kate, Dunwoody donated money for a new hospital building. Construction began in 1910, and the Dunwoody Building opened on August 28, 1911.

There were twenty-one private rooms and eight ward beds. The twelve student nurses were housed on the third floor. The one graduate nurse in charge was housed in the room on the first floor. The laundry and kitchens were well equipped for the size of the hospital; though there was no mechanical equipment in the kitchen, the arrangement was convenient, and work was easily carried on. There were one operating room with sterilizing-room, doctors dressing-room, cystoscopy room, and a good-sized laboratory opposite.


The wing served primarily as a children’s hospital. Dunwoody died in 1914, leaving the Hospital under the administration of Westminister Presbyterian Church, with an endowment of $100,000, recommending that "the said Trustees continue Dr. Abbott as the head of said hospital as long as in their judgment he shall be able to perform the said duties pertaining to that position." Abbott served as chairman of the Executive Staff of the hospital for the remainder of his life. The hospital expanded further in 1920 to include the Janney Pavilion, donated by Mr. and Mrs. T. B. Janney. The wing served primarily as a children’s hospital. Abbott Hospital more than doubled its original size due to these donations.