Endangered hospital once served African Americans

Photo by Mike Sinclair.

(The Midtown KC Post is profiling the buildings on the Historic Kansas City Foundation’s Most Endangered List for 2013. More about our series of stories.)

The deteriorating Wheatley Provident Hospital is the only remaining hospital building in the city that served African Americans during the years of racial segregation.

The vacant structure has been on the city register of historic places since 2007 but is also on the dangerous buildings list.

The hospital founded in 1916 was the first in the city established and operated by blacks to serve blacks, who were excluded from white medical services and training at white hospitals.

It grew quickly, and in 1918 moved to its current, larger site at 1822-1826 Forest St.

The original structure there was built in 1902 as the St. Joseph’s Parochial School. In 1925, the architectural firm of Hoit, Price and Barnes designed a north wing that was added to the building.

In 1923, Dr. Katherine B. Richardson, along with hospital founder Dr. J.E. Perry, opened a children’s health program there and nurses and staff taught pediatrics to African-American students.

The hospital was replaced by the Martin Luther King Hospital in 1972, but did not finally close until 1983.

The hospital was named after Phillis Wheatley, who lived from 1753 to 1784. Sold into slavery in West Africa at age 7, she became America’s first published African American poet and first published woman poet.

The hospital is also known in jazz history as where nationally famous band leader Bennie Moten died in 1935, while getting an operation to remove his tonsils.

There are reports that the building was used as a haunted house in the 1990s. Apparently Moten did not make an appearance.

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