‘Among the finest hospitals in the country’: Celebrating 95th anniversary of Old Main

August 17, 2020  //  FOUND IN: Michigan Medicine News
Old Main as it looked when it opened in 1925 at the corner of Ann and Observatory streets in Ann Arbor.

In 1925, the first patients moved in to the organization’s brand-new University Hospital – a modern medical marvel designed by the same architects who had made Detroit’s automobile factories the envy of the world.

In honor of this anniversary, and as part of the ongoing observation of the 150th anniversary of the academic medical center, here are some facts about “Old Main,” as it came to be known:

  • It was designed by the architectural firm headed by Albert Kahn, and built for a cost of $3.4 million, including medical equipment.
  • The six clinical floors rose above street level, and three more for support services were built into the same hillside that the Frankel Cardiovascular Center now occupies. The roof included a play area for children. A surgical wing, which also contained clinical laboratories, was attached to the rear of the building.
  • The two miles of corridors, and ten acres of floor space, were laid out with the process of diagnosis, treatment and recovery in mind, and organized by medical specialty.
  • Each floor ended in a Y shape, to allow for maximum light, including sun porches for patients.
  • The building opened with 700 beds, 12 operating rooms, 20 large multi-bed wards and 92 private rooms, as well as 32 outpatient examination rooms. Its lowest levels included everything from a department for X-rays to large kitchens and dining rooms.
  • Built to handle 12,000 outpatients and 50,000 inpatients in its first year, the hospital was full by the time the formal dedication was held in November 1925.
  • Within six years, two more floors had been added to the top of the hospital, for patients with infectious diseases.
  • Advanced technology was built into the walls, from the pneumatic tubes that carried messages and test samples, to the wires for monitoring heart rhythms, to a system that allowed all the medical students in the hospital’s auditorium to hear a patient’s heart rhythms simultaneously.
  • The former hospitals on Catherine Street, and a former Homeopathic Hospital on main campus, stayed in use for patients who needed longer-term inpatient care. This gave U-M a total of 1,100 hospital beds and made it one of the 10 largest hospital complexes in the country in the 1920s.
  • By 1939 an inpatient psychiatric wing and a residence hall for first-year residents had been added to the back, and connected by corridors. Outpatient care moved to a new building – now called Med Inn – in 1953, with a skybridge connecting it to the hospital.

 Click here for more about Old Main.

You are also invited to share social media posts about the 150th anniversary, which you can find by going to Michigan Medicine’s profile or searching for #MichMed150 on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

And as always, you can see all the stories from this series, and our historical timeline, at http://uofmhealth.org/history.

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