There have been a lot of questions and comments on Facebook over the last few days about Madonna Hospital. I guess the demolition of Central Ward School last week renewed thoughts of other facilities like the old Denison High School and Waples Platter Building on Main Street and Madonna Hospital at 401 East Hull.
In answering several questions I received I thought there may be other questions, so I will attempt to answer some of them in this column with a little history and comments made recently.
To begin, Madonna was the successor to Denison City Hospital at the Hull location that was built in 1913. Then in the 1940s the Catholic Sisters of Devine Providence took over its operation and remodeled the facility. In 1945 the name of the hospital was changed to Madonna Hospital. In the 1960s the city had outgrown the small town hospital and needed a larger facility to meet the needs of the area to in 1965 a brand new Denison’s Memorial Hospital on Memorial Drive, north of town, was opened. About 10 years later the hospital became Texoma Medical Center as it is today just in a new location on Highways 75 and 691.
In 1977 Madonna Hospital was acquired by the Denison Hospital Authority and renamed TMC East as a 36-bed psychiatric unit until it was relocated to Sherman in the 1990s. The facility was approved for demolition in October 2015.
Now for the rest of the story.
More than 8,200 babies entered this world at the hospital during the years that Madonna Hospital was operated by the Sisters of Devine Providence who came here from San Antonio.
As Denison City Hospital it was first under private management and when it was taken over by the Sisters an agreement was made in exchange for a deed for the city to remodel the hospital as a first rate medical facility. That’s when it became Madonna Hospital.
The new Madonna opened on Sept. 1, 1945. By the mid-1950s it had become too small to serve the population in Denison and the surrounding area who utilized the services of the hospital. The Sisters had their own convent in a wing to the east of the hospital.
The first floor of the hospital housed the administration offices and St. Ann Hall, a nursing unit for medical and surgical patients. Madonna Hall was on the third floor for the maternity division and delivery room, labor room and nursery. Both my sons were born in that part of the facility
I have many memories of the hospital but there is one that comes to mind every time I think of the hospital. Before either of my sons was born – and that would be pre-1959 – I was a reporter for The Denison Herald and was sent to the hospital for a story. I walked into the hospital carrying one of those large speed graphic cameras that used film packs to take pictures. We didn’t have those small flash units that hooked on cameras so I was carrying a very heavy battery pack on my shoulder. Did I forget to mention that I was very pregnant?
I was met by one of the Sisters who grabbed the pack from me and took over the camera and with a stern command told me to never carry all that equipment again until after the baby was born. She went with me to take my picture, holding the pack all the while, the escorted me back to my car. I wish I could remember her name but I do remember that she was always very friendly and reminded me about carrying heavy things every time I saw her after that occasion.
A few years after both my sons were born, they shared a room in the expansion wing onto the back of the hospital for both to have tonsillectomies. There was no danger of them making a lot of noise because neither would talk for several days even after they came home. They loved the attention they got as well as all the ice cream that was brought to them.
I can’t recall names of any of the Sisters today, but I became friends with most of them at the time and attended some of the hospital volunteers’ activities held in the convent for the Sisters.
In addition to the maternity ward on the third floor there was the surgery suite and rooms for surgical patients. On St. Joseph Hall, the ground floor, were the clinical laboratory, the X-ray department, drug room, central service room, blood bank, emergency room and laundry, along with patient rooms. The chapel was situated on the main floor of the Convent and patients were free to visit there.
The medical and surgical staff of Madonna included Drs. J.W. Ackert, W.D. Blassingame, Donald W. Brandt, S.L. Clayton, Robert W. Duncan, F.F. Fowler, Don W. Freeman, Rene G. Gerard, John D. Gleckler, E.L. Hailey, Reed W. Jones Jr., Corliss Kepler, S.Q. Levin, James E. McFarling, T.A. Moorman, Paul Pierce, and Maurice A. Weisberg. I know that Drs. Andrew Jensen, W.H. Brown, and possibly others joined the staff in later years.
I never saw the hospital from the air, but it was said that from above it was in the shape of a cross.
While looking for historical information about Denison Hospital and Madonna Hospital I found a little information on the Grayson County Tx Gen Web Page maintained by Elaine Nall Bay. I came across comments by people who were born there, had their tonsils removed, were surgery or just sick patients, worked or visited family or friends there. In those days there was no insurance requirements about being hospitalized so many people went there for a lot of different reasons and stayed much longer than today’s hospital stays.
Almost anyone who has lived in Denison during the years that Madonna Hospital operated has memories of the facility. Denison has been fortunate to have Texoma Medical Center carry on in such a grand way to take care of hospital needs here. TMC is still growing and just added a giant addition for emergency and other needs with plans for even more expansions.
Donna Hunt is former editor of The Denison Herald. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. She has been a longtime contributor to the Herald Democrat with her bi-weekly column, which appears in the Wednesday and Sunday editions. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.