Dakota Datebook

Bismarck Hospital Under Water

Friday, March 21, 2014

 

As the expanse of the prairies became cultivated and settled, the need for healthcare became apparent. By 1885 in Bismarck, some Benedictine sisters from Minnesota opened St. Alexius, the city’s first hospital. In 1915, the hospital moved to its present-day location in Bismarck. By 1902, more healthcare options arose in Bismarck as early settling doctors Quain and Ramstad established a clinic. Five years later, combining with the aid of a missionary of the Bismarck Evangelical association, they established a second hospital. The Bismarck Hospital’s first unit was officially opened for patients in 1909. Eventually, it would become Medcenter One and, today, Sanford.
Both of these institutions have served the residents of Bismarck and the surrounding area in some capacity for over a century. But this did not mean that the course of hospital upkeep was smooth – or even dry.

 

On this date in 1961, personnel at the Bismarck Hospital were hard at work trying to determine the cause for a dramatic increase in their water bill…a sharp jump from the typical $311 monthly bill to around $700 per month.

 

Hospital engineers and city water department officials investigated the issue, checking the water gauge daily, and offering advice. In the meantime, staff placed a note in the hospital’s weekly newsletter asking for ideas as to what the problem was—responses to which they received in bounteous quantity.

 

Hospital administrator David Hansen said, “They advise us of possible leaky faucets and fixtures, and suspicious amounts of water on the sidewalks outside the hospital.” He had already ruled out “sly suggestions of a possible secret swimming pool in the sub-basement, a do-it-yourself dam (preferably earth-filled) in the children’s ward or a water cascade off the roof.”

 

“Nor,” the Morton County News reported, “have any whales, sharks or seals checked into the hospital recently.”

 

That wasn’t the only problem – it was also reported in the newsletter that in one area of the hospital, only one of the hot and cold water valves could be open at a time, or else both hot or cold water would come out of either pipes at random. No wonder with all of these issues that the water department officials were beginning to refer to the Bismarck Hospital as “the sponge.”

 

Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker

 

Sources:

https://www.st.alexius.org/about/history-philosophy

http://www.webfamilytree.com/North_Dakota_Place_Names/B/bismarck_%28burleigh_county%29.htm

http://www.bismarck.sanfordhealth.org/about/100yrchronicle.pdf

Morton County News, Thursday, March 23, 1951

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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