Minneapolis / Saint Paul / Twin Cities urban exploration
   Half-Assed History

The "Building" and the nurses who worked there, in 1915

I'm too lazy at present to do the research that this historically rich site deserves, but here's what I've got for now. If you want more info, visit the MN Historical Society in Saint Paul. And send me what you find!

Oh, there is also a book called "The Privilege for Which We Struggled", which I understand is sold at the Historical Society. I hear that there's a whole chapter about Martha Ripley, the founder of the Maternity Hospital.

Or, you can settle for the half-assed history below ...

take this job and shove it

The hospital was founded in 1886 by Dr. Martha G. Ripley - one of America's first female physicians and an early activist for women's civil rights. It was built to care for unwed mothers and their "out-of-wedlock" children. Some historical context - at that time, there was no electric lighting, cars had not yet been invented (but bicycles had just been), women were not allowed to vote, and the "golden age" of the cowboys was just drawing to a close. This was a long time ago, kids.

As you can imagine, women who got pregnant outside of marriage were not treated well, and the abuses they and their children faced were what led Dr. Ripley to found her progressive, pioneering hospital, which was one of the first institutions to combine social care with medical treatment.

Martha Ripley's training was in medicine, but her interest was in the rights of women. She advocated for women's right to vote, and consistently argued against the abuses that led women to her hospital. In addition to providing maternity medical care, her hospital taught new mothers how to care for their babies, and helped them find work. She also specified that the medical department at her maternity hospital was to be under the care and control of only female physicians, a radical move at the time.

In 1915, the "Building" (as we called it during our exploration, as opposed the "the House") was built: the three-story brick, institutional structure upon which is carved "Ripley Memorial Hospital." Martha died shortly before the main hospital building's construction - her ashes are interred in the building's cornerstone. The building we called "the House" was actually the "Emily Paddock Cottage," and was built in 1910. It housed the nursing staff, and later was a home for unwed mothers.

The Ripley Maternity Hospital was eventually closed in the 1950's, presumably due to social reforms and public programs that happily made its original mission somewhat obsolete. On March 27, 1980, the site was added to the National Registry of Historic Places.

The matenity hospital became a a nursing home, which closed in 1999. The buildings have stood vacant since that time.

In mid-2002, a collection of organizations purchased the site, and have plans to renovate and reuse it, as a mixed-income, mixed use site including home ownership opportunities, rental opportunities, small neighborhood scale commercial, green space, and youth housing.

However, before the forces of progress could begin to gut, reshape, and rebuild the property, Action Squad seized our opportunity to explore the site in all its abandoned, institutional glory ...