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Proposed: Homer G. Phillips Hospital
3 May 2015
Published To

Homer G. Phillips, located in the Ville neighborhood of North St. Louis, was a black hospital built in the 1930s. In 1919, the black population, especially doctors, lobbied for their own facility, as African Americans could only get medical care in the charity wing of City Hospital, and black physicians could not get staff privileges. After the successful lobbying, they were granted the old Barnes Hospital building, and a bond issue to fund construction of a new building. In 1933, construction began on The Homer G. Phillips Hospital for Colored. The hospital was named after Homer Phillips, a local attorney who was at the spearhead of the movement for a hospital to serve the black population and who headed the campaign for the bond. He was never able to see the completed project, as he was shot on his way to work in 1931. The facility officially opened in 1937 with 685 beds.

This was one of the greatest accomplishments for the black population of St. Louis at the time. They had successfully lobbied for their right to practice and receive medical care. It was one of the first hospitals opened for a black population, and nearly 40% of U.S. black doctors did their internship at the hospital. Desegregation, however, spelled the end for this hospital, which closed its doors in 1979. The rest of the city hospital system followed soon after. The building remained vacant, with a little work being done on it here and there, until 2000, when renovations began. It is now a 220-unit retirement community. It is likely that the community favors this renovation, as the building is at nearly 100% capacity with a waiting list.

There has been a lot of buzz about Homer G. Phillips recently. In March of 2015, it was revealed that Zella Jackson Price, who had given birth in 1965 at Homer G. Phillips, had been lied to about the death of her daugher. She had been told, hours after the birth, that her baby had died, and she had never been shown a death certificate. In reality, her baby was alive and adopted by another family. Now 18 women have come forward in a lawsuit who claim that their experiences were very similar. There is suspicion that babies were being taken from poor black women to adopt off to more prominent black families, as there were very few adoption agencies for African Americans at the time.

It is simply an outrage that Homer G. Phillips did not receive a cake as part of Cakeway to the West. It is extremely notable due to its status as one of the first hospitals catering to a black community, not to mention that it was lobbied for by that same community. In addition, it was an economic staple of the Ville neighborhood until it’s closure. It also acts as an example of a successful revitalization of a historic landmark. Besides the triumph, Homer G. Phillips also stands for the darker forces that worked in St. Louis--such as the intense segregation and poor care for the black population that caused its inception. Further, many suspicious activities were said to have happened in the hospital, most recently a suspected adoption scheme. There is no clear answer as to why Homer G. Phillips was not recognized. Perhaps it has to do with the neighborhood it inhabits or the population is used to serve. Whatever the reason, it is clear that Homer G. Phillips is a St. Louis landmark, and deserves to be recognized as such.

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