Swedish Hospital dedicates its new building on Summit Avenue in Seattle on March 16, 1913.

  • By Jennifer Ott
  • Posted 11/15/2010
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 9623
See Additional Media

On March 16, 1913, Swedish Hospital dedicates its new building on Summit Avenue in Seattle. The hospital, formed by a group of Swedish Americans in 1908, has quickly outgrown its facility in a converted apartment building and has been planning to move to a larger facility since August 1912. In the fall of 1912 the widow of Dr. Edmund Rininger (1870-1912) had offered Summit Hospital, a newly established, but not yet open, hospital with nearly twice the number of beds, better facilities, and a new X-ray machine. Swedish Hospital's board of trustees purchases the hospital and renames it Swedish Hospital.  The facility will go on to become a cornerstone of Seattle's medical community.

Swedish Medical Center, now Washington's largest hospital, began in a converted apartment building with 24 beds on Seattle's Capitol Hill. The hospital opened in June 1910 and soon proved inadequate to meet demand for its services. In August 1912 the hospital's board of trustees authorized the issuance of $100,000 in bonds to finance the purchase of land and construction of a new, larger building.

That same summer, another new hospital neared completion. Named Summit Hospital by its founder, Dr. Edmund Rininger, it occupied the former Charles J. Smith mansion at 803 Summit Avenue in Seattle's First Hill neighborhood, just east of downtown. In July 1912, Dr. Rininger drove to Kent to visit a patient and on his return collided with a Puget Sound Electric Railway train. He was killed and the nurse who had accompanied him was seriously injured.

Dr. Rininger's death left his soon-to-be-opened hospital without a doctor. His widow, Eleanor Rininger (1869-1960), hoped to find a buyer for the hospital rather than abandon the project. The Swedish Hospital Board of Trustees quickly discarded their plans to build a hospital and purchased the 40-bed Summit Hospital for $90,723. They also paid $4,200 for the hospital's furnishings, including china conveniently monogrammed with the initials "SH." Eleanor Rininger donated her husband's medical library and the hospital's X-ray machine.

The Swedish Board of Trustees issued bonds for the hospital purchase and Swedish Americans from across Washington and Alaska made donations and held fundraisers. A bazaar held by the Swedish Club raised $5,000 in a week. Community members also held banquets, concerts, and made individual donations to furnish the hospital.

The hospital opened in early March and quickly filled with patients. On March 14, 1913, the first baby born at the new hospital, Carl Leonard Johnson (1913-1998), arrived. He was the first of more than 200,000 babies who would be born at the hospital over the next century.

On March 16, 1913, a ceremony marked the hospital's dedication. Seattle mayor George Cotterill (1865-1958) and Washington governor Ernest Lister (1870-1919) spoke at the ceremony, as did Dr. Nils A. Johanson (1872-1946), the hospital's director, and John E. Chilberg (1867-1954), a prominent Seattle businessman. Three local ministers, E. August Skogsberg, Emil Friborg, and Martin L. Larson, participated in the dedication. Esther Nelson, wife of hospital trustee Israel Nelson, sang a solo during the ceremony.

Swedish Hospital's trustees, though they had nearly doubled the hospital's capacity with the move, hardly stopped to rest. The following fall they purchased a nearby home to use as a nurses' residence and in 1916 opened the first of many additions, adding 90 beds.

The hospital regularly expanded over the next nine decades. It grew to cover several blocks around the original building, which was demolished in 1942 to make way for the south wing. In 1980, with the opening of a medical pavilion and following a merger with Seattle General Hospital and Doctors Hospital, Swedish became Washington's largest hospital. Swedish has continued to grow through mergers with other hospitals and by opening new facilities in King and Snohomish County.

Sources: Dee W. Jones, "Hospital's History Rooted in Legend," The Seattle Times, January 15, 1976, Section C, Swedish Hospital Dedication Special Section, paid advertisement; Katharine Johanson Nordstrom, My Father’s Legacy: The Story of Nils August Johanson, Founder of Swedish Hospital (Mount Vernon, WA: Your Life Unique, 2002), 27-28; "Calling All Swedish Hospital Babies, Parents; Swedish Searches for Cutest Baby Photos to Celebrate its 100th Anniversary," Swedish Medical Center press release, April 6, 2010, Swedish Medical Center website accessed October 19, 2010 (http://www.swedish.org/About/Swedish-News/Calling-All-Swedish-Hospital-Babies,-Parents;-Swed); "Dedication of Swedish Hospital, March 16, 1913," Seattle -- Hospitals -- Swedish Hospital file, UW Special Collections pamphlet file, University of Washington Libraries, Seattle, Washington; Swedish Hospital Historical Revue, 1908-1922 (Seattle: Swedish Hospital, 1922); Hill Williams, "Swedish Hospital Expands, Gets New Surgery," The Seattle Times, November 3, 1963, pp. 12-13; "Swedish Hospital Now Largest," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, June 2, 1980, p. A-5.

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both HistoryLink.org and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
Major Support for HistoryLink.org Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You