Michael Bushnell

In 1877, wearing a Prince Albert coat and a high silk hat, Dr. T.W. Thornton began his specialized practice in his three-story brick home located at 111 W. 10th Street in downtown Kansas City. As the city’s population grew, so did downtown and in 1885 Thornton was joined by Dr. W.E. Minor, and in 1890, the clinic was moved to a larger three-story brick building at 10th & Oak streets. In the early 1900’s the Sanitarium moved again to the Reliance Building up the street at 10th & McGee.

The specialized practice of treating diseases of the rectum, rupture, and diseases of women continued to flourish, and in 1949, when the partners moved to their final location on Linwood Boulevard and Harrison, over 65,000 patients had been treated.

The six-story Lucerne apartment hotel, previously the Benton Hotel at 911 E. Linwood, was purchased by the partners and renovated into a 300-bed hospital facility. Previously, patients had been forced to stay in nearby hotels, but the Linwood Boulevard property allowed for on-site patient lodging and care.

By the time Thornton & Minor moved to the building, the apartment hotel had an already storied previous life since its construction in 1913. The brainchild of hotelier John H. Van Closter, he hired local architect L. Grant Middaugh to design a “Family Hotel”, as it was identified on the building permit. George L. Brown & Son was hired as the builder and under Middaugh’s direction, employed the latest in fireproof technology, such as concrete footings, structure and foundation, and brick for the exterior walls.

The Benton apartment hotel was home to some of Kansas City’s well-heeled population, including a young Dr. T.W. Thornton early in his career. Interestingly, at the time of its completion, there were two Benton Hotels operating in Kansas City, the other being at 301 W. Ninth Street. The downtown Benton sued the upstart for $12,000 for name infringement. The charges were dropped, however, when the Linwood Benton Hotel changed their name to the Lucerne Hotel.

In 1957 Thornton Minor Hospital merged its medical facilities with the McCleary Clinic and moved to Excelsior Springs. Recon Corporation purchased the property in 1958 and converted it to the regional headquarters for the Veteran’s Administration. In 1966 it was converted to a 200-bed nursing facility.

The description on the back of the linen era postcard published by the Allis Press reads: “This modern, fireproof, 275 bed hospital building contains the latest equipment for treatment of rectal and gastro-intestinal diseases. With these facilities Thornton Minor Hospital offers their patients the best treatment and additional conveniences and home-like hospitality.”