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Oakdale History: Lutheran Hospital

Lutheran Hospital, 1913, Demolished 2000

The origins of the Lutheran Hospital began in 1878 when members from several Missouri Synod Lutheran Churches organized to purchase property on the south side of Fort Wayne in order to some day build a hospital. In late 1901 The Evangelical Lutheran Hospital Association was formed under the guidance of Rev. Phillip Wambsganss of the Emmaus Lutheran Church, and by 1903 the association had raised sufficient funds to begin a hospital facility, which they started in the large brick homestead of the prominent judge and attorney, Lindley J. Ninde, located along Fairfield Ave. The old brick house provided about 25 beds for nursing care. The Lutheran Hospital opened on Thanksgiving Day, 1904 amidst great celebrations and a nursing school was organized in the same year (the nurses lived in the attic).

In 1905 the cornerstone for the first construction was laid at the site facing Fairfield Avenue. Residences for nurses were built in 1915 and 1918. The west wing of the hospital was added in 1927. It was a 90-bed structure, and aside from several limited improvements to the hospital, that was the basic building complex until the 1956 expansion, which gave Lutheran Hospital a 400-bed capacity. The Nurses Home on Home Ave. was built in 1948 and dedicated in 1950.

The “new” Lutheran Hospital was dedicated on Sunday, April 15, 1956. Actually a major expansion program, the $3 million building adjacent to the older wing facing Fairfield Ave. was the beginning of a series of Lutheran Hospital improvements in subsequent years, including the Moellering Unit on South Wayne Ave. a decade later. The expansion of Lutheran Hospital began with a fund drive launched in 1952. The five-story addition was red brick, stone and marble construction. Max Pohlmeyer & Associates were architects and Theodore Hagerman of Hagerman Construction Co., the builders.

The doors to the 105-bed unit dedicated in 1956 were formally opened by Henry Frey, president of the hospital. Walter E. Helmke, who headed the fund drive, was master of ceremonies at the dedication program. The Rev. Wilfred J. Schnedler, chaplain, officiated. The main speaker was Dr. Leonard Scheele, surgeon general of the United States. Speakers included Mayor Robert Meyers; J.B. Martin, of the Indiana State Board of Health; E.C. Moeller, administrator; Edgar Kruse, assistant administrator; The Revs. Herbert Lindemann and Herbert Luecke, members of the board; W.C. Dickmeyer, president of Wayne Candies, Inc.; Earl S. Ward, executive of the Chamber of Commerce; E. Robert Leach, president of the Fort Wayne Federation of Labor; Cecil Onion, president of the Fort Wayne Industrial Union Council; Rabbi Frederic Doppelt; Dr. N.H. Galdstone; Dr. Paul Krauss; R. Nelson Snider of the School of Nursing Advisory Committee; Dr. L.J. Mortenson, president of the medical staff; Mrs. Walter H. Lupke, Sr., head of the hospital Ladies Aid and The Rev. Edwin A. Nerger, pastor of the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church.

Included in the expansion were new clinical labs headed by Dr. Walter Griest, and a new X-ray department headed by Dr. Juan Rodriguez.

Over the next several decades the Lutheran Hospital grew, especially under the leadership of Dr. Herman A. Duemling. It expanded almost continually during the 1960s. The buildings were demolished in 2000 and a park was developed in its place.

  • The loss of Lutheran Hospital has had a huge effect on the Oakdale Neighborhood.  Think about it.  Hospitals and related services are one of the biggest employers in today’s society.  When Lutheran left Fairfield Ave. it meant that hundreds of people who lived and worked here, were faced with commuting five miles to the new location or moving closer to the new location.  Many chose to leave here which meant that their homes also went onto the market in a time of general economic decline in the whole city.

A Lutheran Hospital Timeline:

  • 1904: November 24, 1904 Lutheran Hospital opens on Thanksgiving Day.
  • 1906: New addition, facing Fairfield Avenue, is dedicated. Lutheran now has a 75-bed capacity.
  • 1913: Judge S. R. Allen homestead, adjacent to hospital, purchased. Home remodeled for new nurses’ residence.
    Additional bed capacity is gained when old quarters are vacated.
  • 1928: A 90-bed unit, known as West Wing, facing Wildwood Avenue is dedicated.
  • 1941: Roof on Fairfield Avenue (South Wing) raised to provide more patient beds.
  • 1943: Hospital purchases former Deaconess Home, adjoining the student nurses’ residence.
  • 1948: Ground acquired on Home Avenue for modern school of nursing.
  • 1953: Construction begins on the North and East wings. Total bed capacity at 339.
  • 1960: Property acquired at 2929 Fairfield Avenue and 3017-3019 South Wayne Avenue for parking.
  • 1962: West Wing adds sixth floor.
  • 1964: Remodeling and expansion of North and East Wings. X-Ray, laboratory, diet kitchen and new cafeteria placed in
    operation. Central supply and laundry areas enlarged. New emergency entrance, patient dismissal area, a
    modernized emergency room, relocation of the admitting offices and chapel.
  • 1972: Original Duemling Clinic structure purchased.
  • 1973: Stainless steel illuminated cross with Lutheran Hospital lettering donated by Virginia Yergens. Emergency
    Department enlarged and relocated.
  • 1975: Mobile Intensive Care Unit is in service.
  • 1979: 24-hour on-site Child Care Center opened.
  • 1981: Construction begins on parking garage to be connected to the hospital with an overhead walkway. Acquisition of
    50 acres near I-69 and U.S. 24.
  • 1983: Lutheran becomes the first Fort Wayne hospital to prepare a heliport for emergency air transport.
  • 1984: Established an Oncology Unit for inpatients and outpatients on Moellering-3.
  • 1992: April 25, 1992, Lutheran Hospital moves to West Jefferson Blvd. 129 patients were successfully moved from
    Fairfield to the West Jefferson location.
  • 1998: Plans announced for Lutheran Children’s Hospital (September).
  • 1999: Phase I construction of Lutheran Children’s Hospital complete (July).
  • 2000: Phase II construction of Lutheran Children’s Hospital complete (March).
  • 2003: Emergency Department renovation and expansion is complete, with more than 6,800 square feet of new space
    and fifteen additional treatment rooms (August).
  • 2003: Construction begins on the 19,000-square-foot Lutheran Heart Center, to be attached to the west side of the
    hospital (November).

Architect Henry W. Meyer (c.1863-1931)

Born in Allen County, Meyer was a graduate of Concordia College in Fort Wayne and worked as a draftsman in the office of John F. Wing before establishing his own practice. He designed many schools, churches and commercial buildings, including Concordia Evangelical Lutheran Church, a schoolhouse on Lower Huntington Rd. and Lutheran Hospital on Fairfield Avenue.

Duemling Clinic, 1922

The city’s first large medical clinic, was founded in 1922 at 2902 Fairfield Ave. by Dr. Herman A. Duemling, chief surgeon at Luteran Hospital. The later clinic building, erected in 1973 across Home Ave. from the original structure, was built by a medical group headed by Dr. Eugene Senseny.

Architect John M.E. Riedel: (1865-1948)

Riedel was born in St. Louis, but live in Fort Wayne from the age of one. He attended Concordia College, and received his architectural training working in the offices of T.J. Tolan and Son and Harry W. Matson. In his independent career, which began in 1889, Riedel specialized in the design of churches and schools. Churches of his design were scattered from Rhode Island to Nebraska, and were even built in China and India. Local examples of Reidel’s work include the Peter Nussbaum House, Engine houses number 7 & 8, St. Paul’s School, and the Duemling Clinic.

Sources:

Here’s Fort Wayne Past & Present: An Official Bicentennial Publication, By Michael C. Hawfield, ®1993
20th Century History of Fort Wayne, By John Ankenbruck, ®1975
The Lutheran Hospital website ®2007