How Crittenton Hospital Came to Rochester

Crittenton Hospital in Rochester Hills Celebrates its 50th Birthday on August 15

It took ten years to be born. In April 1957, a group of local business and professional people formed a committee to discuss bringing a new hospital to the area. At the time, Rochester had only a small osteopathic facility called Avon Center Hospital, located near the corner of Rochester & Avon roads. Avon Center opened in 1954 with 20 beds – and later expanded to 40 – but lacked many of the services that the growing community needed.

Crittenton Hospital - the West Tower - in 1967

Crittenton Hospital – the West Tower – in 1967

The new committee called itself the Van Hoosen Hospital, Inc. Leaders planned to organize a 200-bed community hospital and name it in honor of Dr. Bertha Van Hoosen of Stoney Creek. Dr. Van Hoosen was a pioneer physician in women’s health and obstetrical care, and served as the first president of the Medical Women’s National Association.

Local businessman Hilburn Carpenter served as the first chair of the Van Hoosen Hospital board. Plans moved forward in 1960 when Parke, Davis & Co. offered to donate a 20-acre site on Parkdale Road, across from the company’s biological farm, for the new hospital. The gift stipulated that ground be broken by 1963.

Dr. Edgar J. Geist then succeeded Hilburn Carpenter as chair of the Van Hoosen board, and plans began in earnest for the new hospital. Several community groups hosted fundraising events, but the board soon realized that funding for a 200-bed facility was out of its reach. New, scaled-back plans for a 50-bed, one-story hospital replaced the original vision.

While making plans for an independent hospital, the Van Hoosen Hospital board also held discussions with some Detroit hospitals about establishing a branch facility in the Rochester area. The board of trustees of Crittenton General Hospital of Detroit was looking for just such an opportunity, and the Greater Detroit Hospital Council encouraged the two boards to work together on their joint interests.

Crittenton General Hospital of Detroit was an outgrowth of the Florence Crittenton Maternity Home that had been established there in 1897. A New York City druggist named Charles N. Crittenton founded the Florence Crittenton Homes in 1883. Devastated by the loss of his four-year-old daughter, Florence, to scarlet fever in 1882, Crittenton established the homes to serve the needs of others while memorializing his beloved daughter. Eventually, a network of 65 Florence Crittenton Homes stretched across the country, offering services to women and children – especially unwed mothers. Detroit’s Florence Crittenton Home spun off a general hospital service in 1927.

Crittenton General Hospital

Crittenton General Hospital  of Detroit – Photo credit: Fifty Years of Work With Girls, 1883-1933: A Story of the Florence Crittenton Homes

In January 1961, the board of trustees of Crittenton General Hospital announced its intention to build a 200-bed suburban hospital unit in the Rochester area. The Van Hoosen Hospital board endorsed the Crittenton plan and pledged to join the effort to make the new hospital a reality. As the Parke-Davis site was too small and poorly located for a 200-bed hospital, the board returned the gift to its donor and began to explore other options. A 30-acre site that Crittenton owned at Opdyke and Doris roads in Pontiac Township (now Auburn Hills) was also rejected as being too close to Pontiac to best serve the target population on the Oakland/Macomb county border.

Howard L. McGregor, Jr. was vice-president of the board of trustees of Crittenton General Hospital. He was also president of the Rochester area’s largest employer at the time – National Twist Drill & Tool Company. As a Rochester area resident, businessman and civic leader, he had a personal interest in seeing the new hospital built. McGregor offered to donate a parcel of land along M-59 between Rochester and John R roads, but the board decided that the site was unworkable because municipal water and sewer services did not exist there. McGregor then offered an alternative location – a portion of his Great Oaks Stock Farm lying on the south side of University Drive just east of Livernois Road. The board accepted his offer, and a new hospital for Rochester inched closer to reality.

More than 400 local residents gathered on a hill west of Rochester on July 15, 1965 to watch Crittenton chair Ormond S. Wessels break ground for the $5.7 million hospital. Community organizations from the Rochester area brought $1.25 million in locally raised donations to the table, and the hospital received federal funds under the Hill-Burton Act. Although the new hospital carried the name Crittenton, the board named its obstetrics unit for Dr. Bertha Van Hoosen in deference to the intentions of the original Van Hoosen Hospital group.

The architectural firm of Smith, Hinchman & Grylls designed the new building and general contractor A. Z. Shmina & Sons promised to deliver it within 27 months. Despite several delays, the company finished the hospital in only 25 months.

The suburban Crittenton Hospital unit was planned from the start to be larger than its parent was. Crittenton in Detroit had 194 beds in an aging physical plant, and the Crittenton board was looking toward future consolidation of the entire hospital operation at the new suburban site.

Crittenton Hospital in Avon Township (now Rochester Hills) was dedicated on August 5, 1967. More than 5,000 people toured the new building the next day, when a public open house showed off the facility. The hospital admitted its first patients on August 15, 1967.

When it opened, Crittenton’s building consisted only of what is known today as the West Tower. However, as expected, the original Crittenton building in Detroit closed its doors on June 20, 1974 and Rochester’s Crittenton became the hospital’s sole location. Expansion was necessary, and construction of the East Tower began in 1975. As the years have passed and the Rochester area has exploded with growth, Crittenton’s physical plant, staff and medical facilities have kept pace. The Medical Building opened in 1995, and the South Tower opened in 2014.

In 2015, Crittenton joined the largest non-profit health system in the nation when it became part of Ascension Michigan.

Crittenton Hospital Today

Crittenton Hospital Today

Born at Crittenton?

Were you or someone you know born at Crittenton Hospital in 1967? Rochester Media is looking to connect with anyone who is turning 50 this year – along with Crittenton – who were among those first patients born in 1967. Email the editor at editor@rochestermedia.com please.

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About Deborah J. Larsen

Deborah J. Larsen is the assistant director and local history librarian at Mount Clemens Public Library. She is active in the Macomb County and Rochester-Avon historical societies, and writes on a wide range of local history topics.

Comments

  1. Grace Chapman says:

    I am curious about the role that Frank R. Chapman played in the development of Crittenton hospital. Frank was my godfather, and I remember seeing his name (along with others) on the original dedication plaque back in the 60’s (if memory still serves me well).

    • Deborah J. Larsen says:

      According to newspaper accounts, Frank Chapman was a member of the hospital’s board of trustees.

  2. Sharon Potere says:

    Deborah, I have missed your monthly article about Rochester History. Hope you are well.
    Sharon

  3. Bonie Koch says:

    Deborah, I am a retired RN who started 8-18-1967 on 3rd floor a 52 bed Medical-Surgical unit. I officially retired in Sept. 2017 after 59 years of service. I have lots of great memories & stories. Bonie Koch RN (retired).

    • Maggie McCloskey says:

      Did you ever know Dr. Dayton? He worked at Crittenton Hospital from about 1967 to about 2013. He was my dad. I am Maggie, his oldest.

  4. Carole Beckett, RN says:

    I started at Crittenton in 1967 as an RN. We only had one floor open (1st floor Med Surg). Good times. I worked there until 2005. I worked with your Dad and really remember his love for parients and I was roommates with your mom at PGH when she had your brother in 1965.
    Carole Beckett, RN

  5. Rudy Owens says:

    Ms. Larsen: Is there a reason your article fails to mention the historic role of Crittenton General Hospital in promoting adoption in the decades after World War II–this was the largest hospital in the state that did that. I know the Rochester hospital is now run by St. Louis based Ascension, a Catholic organization, and was just rebranded with that corporate name, but shouldn’t a paper of record also do basic factual reporting of a key historic fact about the original Crittenton General Hospital, which is the parent facility of the Rochester facility until the Detroit facility’s closure in 1975? FYI, I was born at Crittenton General, and you may have found my story/images I compiled from archival sources in my article on Crittenton General Hospital on my policy blog. Thanks.

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