Hillcrest Hospital

Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center has been a big name in the Central Texas healthcare network for almost a century. Though the institution’s name has changed several times over the decades, the mission remains the same: to serve the sick people of Waco and surrounding areas in a welcoming, Christian environment.

The idea for a Baptist hospital in Waco began with Arthur James Barton, pastor of First Baptist Church of Waco, as early as 1909. But this would be no small undertaking, and it would cost a great deal of money for the local congregation. The idea circulated the community for a few years, and in 1912 the Waco Baptist Association (WBA) formed the Sanitarium Standing Committee, set to raise an estimated $50,000 for the construction of a sanitarium—the predecessor to the modern-day hospital with more restricted facilities. The only other hospital in the area was the Catholic-run Providence Hospital. Financial Secretary of the Committee Ben T. Goodwin set out on a widespread fundraising campaign. Despite initial success, such as the $10,000 pledged by the Young Men’s Business League, by September 1914 Goodwin paused all fundraising efforts because of the outbreak of World War I.

The next phase of the project was taken up by Joseph M. Dawson who assumed the pastorship of First Baptist in 1915. Dawson strongly believed that taking care of the sick was an instrumental part of the Christian faith, and he often preached such messages to his congregation in support of the sanitarium. He set out himself in 1916 to acquire land for the proposed sanitarium, buying two plots for $7,000. This important step instilled confidence in the WBA, and following the land acquisitions the WBA leaders chartered the sanitarium the same year. The charter included a nursing school and specified that the sanitarium would be open to all medical school graduates and doctors “of good repute.” Further, it articulated the institution’s purpose as “a responsibility to the community [that] would transcend political strife, regional strife, religious distinctions, and racial distinctions.”

Waco local Jesse Judge Dean donated more land to the project, and by 1917 the WBA had raised $60,000. While the whole project would cost around $275,000, the WBA went ahead and hired architect George C. Burnett and contractor James S. Harrison and Son. They broke ground at the original location on Herring Avenue on July 10, 1917. By October 1918 the exterior was complete, but more funds were needed to furnish the inside. Local women’s groups such as the WBA Women’s Auxiliary donated their time and completed the landscaping, and they also donated materials such as bed linens. The hospital and nursing building were both completed in 1920.

To everyone’s surprise, the first patient preceded the hospital’s opening on May 25, 1920. Dr. H. Frank Connally performed an emergency appendectomy on Mrs. Mable Battle Westbrook at 4:30 a.m. on May 24. The first registered surgical patient, a Mrs. Mamie Lou Lange Hatch, then received her operation at 8:00 a.m. The Central Texas Baptist Sanitarium was officially up and running.

The sanitarium saw massive expansions and improvements in the following decades of the twentieth century. By 1938 the name had changed to Hillcrest Memorial Hospital. The change was meant to honor the citizens of the surrounding Hillcrest area who had worked to hard to fund raise and make the hospital a reality. In the same year, the hospital also obtained its first iron lung to treat polio. Though the hospital almost closed during the Depression, a little over a decade later it was back on its feet ready to expand. In 1953 a new wing was opened and the bed capacity raised to 175. By 1963 the hospital underwent another name change. When it was brought under the Baptist General Convention of Texas the name was changed to Hillcrest Baptist Hospital. That same decade saw the closing of the nursing school, and the hospital began to hire nurses trained at the new McLennan Community College.

The two decades from 1978 to 1998 saw the greatest changes. In 1978 the Clara and Harlon Fentress Cancer Treatment Center was built, with forty-inch walls to contain the radiation. The 1980s brought the construction of an outpatient surgical center, the Magnolia Tree Inn for patients’ families, the primary care clinic and MRI center, and labor and delivery rooms. The name of the hospital was also changed one last time in 1982 to Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center, to reflect the hospital’s “comprehensive approach to health education and preventative medicine.” The 1990s continued to witness immense growth, with the opening of the Heart Center, the NICU, school clinics, and the hospital’s upgrade to a Level II trauma center.

The hospital did finally run into some trouble after the turn of the century. Tensions between the doctors serving at the hospital and the administration ran high, and many doctors considered leaving Hillcrest altogether. But a change in management came in 2007 with CEO Glenn Robinson, and doctor-hospital relationships improved. It was also Robinson who oversaw the biggest change in Hillcrest history—much more than a change in name, a change in location. In 2009, every patient was transferred to the new location on I-35 and Highway 6 in just one day. Hillcrest still operates today at this location in partnership with Baylor Scott & White Health network. Most of the old location's building remain vacant, except for the Medical Tower. The tower used to house all the doctors' offices, and now it serves as the Waco Police Station. Local news stations also reported for a time that the rest of the old location was set to become a new mental health facility, but the future of those buildings remains uncertain.

Images

Audio

Founding CTBS
Central Texas Baptist Sanitarium founder J. M. Dawson talks about how the project began. ~ Source: Dawson, Joseph Martin, interviewed by Rufus B. Spain, May 24, 1971, in Corsicana, Texas, Baylor Institute for Oral History. View Full Interview...
View File Record
Fundraising and More
Central Texas Baptist Sanitarium founder J. M. Dawson discusses the fund raising efforts and other aspects of the hospital's inception. ~ Source: Dawson, Joseph Martin, interviewed by Rufus B. Spain, May 24, 1971, in Corsicana, Texas, Baylor...
View File Record
Nursing in the 1920s
Grace Kee describes the nursing care her husband received during his stays at the Central Texas Baptist Sanitarium in the early 1920s. ~ Source: Kee, Grace Hasseltine Jenkins Garrett, interviewed by Margaret Lou Snyderwine Miller, April 9, 1980, in...
View File Record
Hannibal Became Joe
Prominent Hillcrest doctor Hannibal "Joe" Jaworski talks about how he got his nickname when he began working at Central Texas Baptist Sanitarium in 1921, ~ Source: Jaworski, Hannibal "Joe", interviewed by Daniel C. Lyman, April 24, 1990,...
View File Record
Before The American Board of Medical Specialties
Dr. Lawrence Collins recalls that no doctors in Waco were board certified in any specialty in the 1930s. ~ Source: Collins, Lawrence D., interviewed by Daniel Lyman, August 31, 1990, in Waco, Texas, Baylor Institute for Oral History. View Full...
View File Record
Before Medical Specialties
Dr. Lawrence Collins remembers in 1946 when Hillcrest was not divided into specialties and all the treatments done by a variety of doctors. ~ Source: Collins, Lawrence D., interviewed by Daniel Lyman, August 31, 1990, in Waco, Texas, Baylor...
View File Record
A Week-long Stay for $40
Benjamin and Earlien Engelbrecht reminisce on the birth of their children at Hillcrest, including the final bill. ~ Source: Engelbrecht, Benjamin and Earlien Freyer, interviewed by Rebecca Sharpless, April 22, 1997, in Crawford, Texas, Baylor...
View File Record
Fundraising and Community Building
Jack Kultgen takes pride in the fact that his fundraising campaign for Hillcrest in 1948 helped unite the religious communities of Waco. ~ Source: Kutlgen, John Henry, interviewed by Thomas L. Charlton, July 16, 1974, in Waco, Texas, Baylor...
View File Record
De Facto Hospital Segregation
Marshall Baldwin remembers the different birth rates of African Americans at the Waco hospitals ~ Source: Baldwin, Marshall, interviewed by Sean Sutcliffe, June 24, 2016, in Waco, Texas, Baylor Institute for Oral History. View Full Interview
View File Record
Pandemonium After the 1953 Tornado
Dr. Lawrence Collins admits he did not know there was a tornado in Waco in 1953 until he arrived to work at Hillcrest that afternoon. ~ Source: Collins, Lawrence D., interviewed by Virginia Collins, January 14, 1981, in Waco, Texas, Baylor Institute...
View File Record
The Hospital Did Not Know
Dr. Hannibal "Joe" Jaworski recalls that he was the first to arrive and alert the hospital that a tornado had hit Waco and they needed to get ready for incoming patients. ~ Source: Jaworksi, H. Joe, interviewed by Thomas L. Charlton, March...
View File Record
Setting Up Triage Stations
Dr. Hannibal "Joe" Jaworski remembers how he helped set up triage stations and organize the hospital in preparation for the casualties coming in from the 1953 tornado. ~ Source: Jaworksi, H. Joe, interviewed by Thomas L. Charlton, March...
View File Record
Patients in Shock
Dr. Hannibal "Joe" Jaworski talks about the patients in shock and the challenges that posed for the doctors at Hillcrest. ~ Source: Jaworksi, H. Joe, interviewed by Thomas L. Charlton, March 12, 1981, in Waco, Texas, Baylor Institute for...
View File Record
Working Tornado Recovery
Internist Dr. Lawrence Collins discusses his role as a non-surgeon in treating patients at Hillcrest after the 1953 tornado. ~ Source: Collins, Lawrence D., interviewed by Virginia Collins, January 14, 1981, in Waco, Texas, Baylor Institute for Oral...
View File Record
Working Through the Night
Dr. Hannibal "Joe" Jaworski tells about working all night to care for those injured by the tornado. ~ Source: Jaworksi, H. Joe, interviewed by Thomas L. Charlton, March 12, 1981, in Waco, Texas, Baylor Institute for Oral History.View Full...
View File Record
Hospital Treated All Minor Injuries
Dr. Hannibal "Joe" Jaworski remembers that almost all injuries, even minor, from the 1953 tornado were treated at the hospital. ~ Source: Jaworksi, H. Joe, interviewed by Thomas L. Charlton, March 12, 1981, in Waco, Texas, Baylor Institute...
View File Record
One In-Hospital Death
Dr. Hannibal "Joe" Jaworski proudly details the final Hillcrest mortality count after the tornado. ~ Source: Jaworksi, H. Joe, interviewed by Thomas L. Charlton, March 12, 1981, in Waco, Texas, Baylor Institute for Oral History.View Full...
View File Record
Tornado Fund Saves Lives
Dr. Lawrence Collins explains how doctors worked pro-bono after the tornado, and all the money collected for services went into a Tornado Fund that was later used to immunize the Waco community from polio. ~ Source: Collins, Lawrence D., interviewed...
View File Record
Using a Catheter
Marshall Thompson remembers his first job at Hillcrest hospital and learning to use a catheter. ~ Source: Thompson, Marshall, interviewed by L. Katherine Cook, March 23, 1999, in Waco, Texas, Baylor Institute for Oral History. View Full Interview
View File Record
Dividing the Heart Work
Carol Crosthwait explains how Hillcrest Hospital and Providence Hospital used to split up the treatment of certain conditions ~ Source: Crosthwait, Carol, interviewed by Skylar Ray, November 21, 2015, in Waco, Texas. Baylor University Institute for...
View File Record
Changes in Radiology
Dr. Donald Risinger explains how the radiology profession changed over the middle decades of the 20th century. ~ Source: Risinger, Doland L., interviewed by Skylar Ray, October 23, 2015, in Waco, Texas, Baylor Institute for Oral History. View Full...
View File Record
Mrs. Eleanor Pape Donates Nurses' Lounge
Mr. H. Hart Nance reminisces on the good deed of Mrs. Eleanor Jurney Pape when she saw a need for a nurses lounge at Hillcrest and provided the funds. ~ Source: Nance, H. Hart, interviewed by Patricia Wallace, May 26, 1983, in Waco, Texas, Baylor...
View File Record
Donating the Chapel
Victor Newman talks about building the chapel for Hillcrest hospital and a wedding held there. ~ Source: Newman, Victor T., interviewed by Lois E. Myers, october 22, 1997, in Waco, Texas, Baylor Institute for Oral History. View Full Interview
View File Record
First Female Chaplain
Jann Aldredge-Clanton describes the doors that opened for her in the ministry because of her role as chaplain at Hillcrest. ~ Source: Aldredge-Clanton, Jann, interviewed by Joan Parmer Barrett, July 6, 2001, in Dallas, Texas, Baylor Institute for...
View File Record
The Wellness Center
Benefactor Sue Holt Getterman talks about how she and her husband Ted came to donating the Wellness Center to Hillcrest after Ted's open-heart surgery. ~ Source: Getterman, Louis Theodore and Sue Holt, interviewed by Lois E. Myers, January 19,...
View File Record
Changing Times
Dr. William Turney discusses the changes in how Hillcrest hires it doctors and the lack of crossover with Providence doctors. ~ Source: Turney, William H., interviewed by Skylar Ray, October 16, 2015, in Waco, Texas, Baylor Institute for Oral...
View File Record

Map

100 Hillcrest Medical Blvd, Waco, TX 76712