Homer G. Phillips Hospital (1937-1979)

Homer G. Phillips Hospital: A Prominent Landmark in The Ville, St. Louis, MO
Courtesy Onegentlemanofverona (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Homer G. Phillips Hospital, one of the country’s most prestigious medical institutions, was designed by architect Albert Osburg. The hospital was opened in 1937, six years after the assassination of its benefactor and advocate Homer G. Phillips, a St. Louis, Missouri-based African American lawyer. The hospital was built to serve the needs of more than 70,000 local African Americans, who became increasingly vocal about the lack of adequate health care and medical training.

Along with Sumner High School, Antioch Baptist Church, and the Annie Malone Children’s Home, Homer G. Phillips Hospital formed a closely related network of stability and pride in The Ville, St. Louis’s premiere black community, during the years of restrictive covenants in housing and segregation in education. Homer G. Phillips Hospital became one of the few nationally-recognized, fully-equipped hospitals in the country where black doctors, nurses, and technicians could receive training.

In less than a decade, Homer G. Phillips Hospital ranked in the upper third of the ten largest general hospitals in the country and gained a national reputation for treatment of the acutely injured. The staff was making valuable contributions to the development of techniques for intravenous protein feeding and for the treatment of gunshot wounds, burns, and ulcers. In addition to providing a fully accredited training program for interns and residents of schools of nursing, the hospital established schools for x-ray technicians, laboratory technicians, and medical record library service.

By the early 1950s, Homer G. Phillips Hospital offered advanced training to certified foreign doctors, which helped ease the staff of shortages and gave an opportunity to these physician doctors who were denied training in other hospitals due to race or creed. Yet by 1955, following an order from St. Louis Mayor Raymond Tucker that patients of any race, color, or creed living in the western part of the city must be admitted to the hospital, Homer G. Phillips was no longer an exclusively black institution.

In August 1979, a wide range of complex issues surrounding Homer G. Phillips Hospital prompted its closure as a full-service facility. In the 1990s, the nurses’ wing was renovated into low-income housing; and in 2004, the hospital was reopened as the Homer G. Phillips Dignity House, a residential care facility for the elderly.