From the Archives: “The Finest Hospital I Have Ever Inspected”

archives33613Multnomah County Hospital originated in a poor farm located west of the Portland city limits, along Canyon Road. In 1909, the county purchased a city property on 2nd Avenue and Hooker Street, converting a residential home into a hospital. But almost from the beginning, the hospital was overcrowded, understaffed, and dogged by public scandals related to patient care standards. In 1919, county commissioners accepted the University of Oregon's offer of land adjacent to its medical school. While the location was far from the city center, proximity to the medical school would help resolve staff shortages, while offering convenient instructional opportunities for students.

Designed by Sutton & Whitney architects, the new facility would be a model public hospital for its day. In 1922, Dr. Charles Mayo toured the facility, which was still under construction. He commented that it "is particularly fortunately placed because of the possibility it offers for cooperation with the medical school…It is the finest hospital I have ever inspected." The hospital became one of Marquam Hill's most important sites for patient care, as well as education for medical students – as shown in this circa 1948 photograph of the hospital's operating theater.

In 1973, Multnomah County Hospital merged with the medical school's own hospital, built in 1956. Today, OHSU Hospital continues to lead the state in providing charity care. Now renamed Multnomah Pavilion, the Multnomah County Hospital building is still a site for patient care.


Contributed by Maija Anderson, Archivist, OHSU Historical Collections & Archives