Monday, April 8, 2013

The Forgotten Black Hospital of Oklmulgee


1920s Video showing the old Oklmulgee City Colored Hospital.

Many landmarks in Indian Territory are long forgotten, abandoned and in some cases lost to erosion, time and neglect. But a few still stand, including the old building seen in the above film footage, which was once the Okmulgee City Colored Hospital.

I often write about the old schools, and cemeteries, and recently an Oklahoma history colleague who recently assisted me in locating the old Tushka Lusa Academy, he just shared some film footage of the Black hospital of Okmulgee, Oklahoma.

The hospital building (located on Wood and 3rd Street)  was one of the first in the state of Oklahoma to serve exclusively African American patients. Considering the history of the city of Okmulgee, and the region, chances are that a majority of those served by this hospital were most likely Creek Freedmen. The short video appears to be one of the videos that were made in the early 1920s in Oklahoma, depicting many aspects of life in communities where both Freedmen and "state Negroes" as they were once called, lived in the newly formed state of Oklahoma.

This hospital was certainly one of the oldest in the state of Oklahoma. This small facility joined a long list of hospitals that were created to treat African American patients around the nation. (The oldest known hospital was Provident Hospital of Chicago that opened its doors to Black patients in 1891.)

However, this structure is significant nevertheless, and seeing the footage taken when it was in its prime as a hospital makes one wonder about the hundreds who must have come through the doors of that hospital.

Apparently there are several sites that also document the history of this treatment facility and they have some clear images of the building in various states of abandonment and decay. One website is called AbandonedOK.com  which is a website devoted to significant Oklahoma landmarks that are abandoned and no longer in use, and this site has a page devoted to the Oklmulgee Colored Hospital. Also some very sharp clear images taken several years ago reflect the many dimensions of the hospital.

Plans have been also underway for many years to make this a multicultural center, although plans appear to have been stalled. Thankfully however, the building still stands and speaks to its legacy as a place one's loved ones could receive care.

I became  curious and wanted to see how the hospital building looks today. I did not have an exact address and was not sure of where in Okmulgee the old hospital was located, but thanks to Google Street View, and I found it!

Image from Google Street View, Okmulgee Oklahoma
Corner of 3rd and Wood Street.

So many of our landmarks are gone, but when I saw the remarkable footage of the old hospital, shared on Facebook, I realize that this is a piece of the state's segregated past, whose stories are whispered within walls of the building itself. Hopefully more lives were saved than were lost in the hospital, and this place provided a place where they could be treated and in some cases leave this world, in dignity and peace.

Many thanks to Eric Standridge, aka the Oklahoma Traveler for sharing the film footage and bringing the history of this building to my attention.


3 comments:

Cheryl said...

I am on the board of the Okmulgee County Multicultural Heritage Association. We lease the property from the City of Okmulgee and have been working to secure funds to finish its restoration. We hope to have good news to share about this project in the very near future. If you would like to know how to help, post something and I can provide contact information. There will be an important meeting on Nov 19th in Okmulgee.

Angela Y. Walton-Raji said...

I would love to know more and to put information out there for others wishing to help.

James said...

Awesome piece of video