Mercy Health Partners (General-Mercy Muskegon)
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Hackley Hospital History

On Thursday, November. 17, 1904, Hackley Hospital was formally dedicated and opened its doors to the public for the first time. It was a civic holiday, with banks, businesses and schools closed for the afternoon. Western Avenue and other city streets came alive with red, white and blue bunting.

All week, the excitement had been building. On Wednesday, local newspapers had announced that free tickets to the dedication would be distributed beginning at 9 a.m. Thursday at the Grand Theater. Tickets were limited to four per person. By the time the box office opened at 9 a.m., the ticket line wound around the theater on the corner of Western Avenue and Second Street. A mere 14 minutes after the tickets became available, they were gone.

Muskegon residents were clearly excited to see the new hospital.

A thousand invitations had been sent across the state and nation, and every train that arrived in Muskegon on November 17, 1904, brought invited guests to the dedication. A pair of physicians from the new hospital greeted the out-of-town visitors as the hospital opened for inspection from 10 a.m. to noon.

A reporter described the building they saw: "Brightly lighted throughout by hundreds of electric lights, the building presented an imposing and dazzling appearance from the outside, while within it was everywhere inviting and homelike."

Volunteers, serving as guides during the opening reception, also had the honor of sitting on the stage at the Grand Theater during the dedication ceremony, along with Charles H. Hackley, the officers of the hospital and its board of trustees, invited guests from outside the city and prominent Muskegon residents.

"At two o'clock the Grand Theatre was filled with a great audience that had been admitted by ticket," the hospital annual report states.

The Grand Theatre Orchestra, conducted by Frederic Beerman, opened the program with an overture. The Rev. William Galpin of St. Paul's provided the invocation, and then the Apollo Quartet sang, "When the Winds Blow a Gale."

Harry Sawyer, chairman of the Building Committee and a trustee of the new hospital, offered a brief history of the founding and construction of Hackley Hospital. He recounted that Charles Hackley doubled the original gift of land from two blocks to four to give the architects "maximum freedom." The hospital was located in the southeastern part of the city, one block from Peck Street, between Forest and Larch avenues and Clinton and John streets, and occupied four city blocks.

Five designs had been submitted by competing architects, only to be rejected by the trustees because the costs were significantly above the original Hackley gift, according to Sawyer. He then told the audience, "Mr. Hackley made it possible to proceed by authorizing the expenditure of a much larger sum than had previously been thought necessary."

The original gift for the construction of the hospital was $75,000, but Hackley's actual gift, as reported on the day of the opening, was closer to $220,000. This included funding for the land, building and equipment — what historians have called a testimony to Hackley's generosity and his commitment to quality throughout the hospital.

"The ability to give, the disposition to give, and the judgment to give wisely — the union of these three qualities in one man, Charles H. Hackley, has been Muskegon's great good fortune," Sawyer told the audience.

Speaking on behalf of the hospital trustees was the Rev. Archibald Hadden of the Congregational Church. He continued the theme of his sermon, "The Great Physician and His Healers," from the preceding Sunday.

"Hackley Hospital is a beautiful charity," said Hadden, president of the board of trustees. "The very name 'hospital' is associated with the spirit of help and kindness to men."

Hadden also announced a surprise gift of $5,000 from Horatio N. Hovey, who had served on the original board of directors but had resigned upon moving to Detroit. After Haddon's remarks, Mrs. Milton Calkins Nellis sang, "Hark, Hark, My Soul," accompanied by Beerman. Mrs. Nellis later became president of the hospital's auxiliary and served in that position for 21 years.

James B. Angell, president of the University of Michigan, provided the major address of the dedication ceremony, lauding Muskegon for being on the forefront of medical care.

"This fair city of Muskegon is conspicuous among all the cities of Michigan by the generous gifts which it has received," Angell said.

The Muskegon Chronicle praised Hackley's generosity in a lead editorial, noting "Muskegon, as one man, today acknowledges its debt to you, Mr. Hackley. You have not waited until after your death to do good with your wealth, and so your fellow citizens will not wait until you are gone before telling you that we are grateful."

The gratitude of the masses was evident. After the dedication ceremony, a line two blocks long formed rapidly, and the trustees, their wives, physicians and many volunteers were carefully placed throughout the inside of the building to keep the crowd moving, according to newspaper accounts.

Visitors toured the operating room, the kitchens, the boiler room and all other support facilities and the care rooms. The 60-bed hospital was considered a state-of-the-art building.

"It's hard to measure the impact that it had on a town this size," said Lisa Barker, site curator at the Muskegon County Museum, who is developing an exhibit on the hospital. "It not only made a big splash here, but it was nationwide.

"Charles Hackley was making a name not only for himself, but for Muskegon. Newspapers as far away as Philadelphia were quoted as saying that their city wished it had a benefactor like Hackley," Barker added.

A day after the hospital's formal dedication, Hackley admitted its first patient. Mrs. Frederick Collins of North Muskegon was brought to the hospital Nov. 18 by her physician, Dr. Frank Garber, who served on the board of trustees. She was among 156 female patients admitted from November 17, 1904 to April 30, 1906, according to an annual report of the hospital. Male patients numbered 170. There were 29 births during that period.

The average length of a hospital stay was 26 days, according a report from Nov. 17, 1904, to the close of the hospital year, April 30, 1906. Hackley saw its highest number of patients, 32, on Oct. 11, 1905. The daily average number of patients was 16. Operations totaled 146.

The original Hackley Hospital, the 1904 building, was demolished in 1982. In its place stands an expanded, renovated and modern health care facility. But the underlying philosophy of Charles H. Hackley has endured a century of changes.

Used with permission from the Muskegon Chronicle.