Michael Bushnell

This week’s historic postcard, published by Max Bernstein in the 1920’s, shows a bird’s eye view looking north toward downtown from General Hospital. The actual vantage point for this photo is from Robert Gillham Road, looking north across the rail yards that feed into the city’s new Union Station.

The Kansas City Star building at 1729 Grand Avenue can be seen in the left-center of the picture. Farther north, the distinctive shapes of some of the city’s first skyscrapers include the Scarritt Building, the R.A. Long Building and the National Bank of Commerce that can be seen as well as the dome of the old post office and customs building that once stood at 8th & Grand Avenue.

The original General Hospital had its modest beginnings in 1870 when Colonel Thomas Swope donated land near 22nd street and Kenwood where a single story frame building would be erected for use as a public hospital.

In 1908, a new, four-story brick building was erected at roughly 24th and Gillham Road at a cost of roughly $400,000. General Hospital continued to grow and in 1976 was rebranded as Truman Medical Center.

The 1908 hospital building was demolished in the mid 1990’s to make way for a new, state of the art hospital. Historic Preservationists fought to save the old building. Fortunately, the iconic terracotta frieze bearing the quote from Portia’s monologue in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, that once overlooked the entrance to General Hospital, was preserved and restored to remain at the new facility. The sign reads:

The quality of mercy is not strain’d, It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven, Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest; It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.