In 1919, St. Louis had an African American population of about 70,000 people. The segregated city maintained a 177-room hospital named Hospital No. 2 for the growing African American population. In reaction to the severely limited medical services available to African Americans, an attorney named Homer G. Phillips made it his dream to establish adequate health care facilities for his community.
Homer G. Phillips led a citywide campaign centered on an eighty-three million dollar bond issue announced in 1923. The bond was challenged with intense opposition, which resulted in a ten-year suspension in construction. Sadly, during the decade long delay, Homer G. Phillips was shot and murdered before he could see his dream become reality.
Construction reconvened in 1932 on the seven-story hospital designed by City Architect Albert A. Osburg. The hospital was built with yellow brick and terra cotta trim in an extended H-plan with Art Deco detailing.
The hospital was completed fourteen years later, contained 685 patient beds, and required 800 employees to operate. In addition, a nurse’s home was built to provide housing for 147 nurses and 24 interns. After fourteen years of long, hard fought battles to make Homer G. Phillips a reality, 4,000 people attended the grand opening celebration on February 22, 1937.
Homer G. Phillips was one of the few hospitals in the United States where African Americans could train to be doctors and nurses. Just seven years after it opened, Homer G. Phillips Hospital was responsible for training one-third of all African Americans in the United States; including Dr. Helen Elizabeth Nash, who is famous for breaking down racial and gender barriers in the medical field. By 1961, the teaching hospital had trained the largest number of African American doctors and nurses in the world. In addition to providing training programs, the hospital established schools for laboratory and x-ray technicians and was a leader in providing intravenous feeding, treating gunshot wounds, ulcers and burns.
The hospital was abruptly closed in 1979 to consolidate the two public St. Louis hospitals. Homer G. Phillips was listed as a St. Louis City Landmark in 1980 and a National Register of Historic Places in 1982 for significance in architecture, education and history. After sitting vacant for 20 years, Homer G. Phillips reopened as a senior apartment community in 2003 and has since been reaffirmed as a symbol of pride for the community and those who call it home.