At the Emeritus Luncheon last week, an emeritus asked me whether I knew anything about a rumor that Gaines Hall used to be a syphilis hospital. This was a new one to me! I knew that the building had started life as a hospital, but I had never had occasion to check into which hospital it was, exactly.
Well, it turns out that Gaines Hall was originally built as the Portland Medical Hospital in 1930. This was about nine years before the TB Hospital opened across the road, so it would have been sufficiently isolated from the rest of campus to have housed communicable diseases (no need to go all the way out to North Portland, as the Pest House did!).
The Portland Medical Hospital isn't listed in some of our--admittedly spotty--records of 1930s-era hospitals, and so I turned once again to Olof Larsell for more information. Originally located on Lovejoy Street, the Portland Medical Hospital was begun in 1916 by Dr. Noble Wiley Jones. The opening of this thirty-five bed hospital met the as-yet unfilled need for a facility devoted to chronically ill patients. After the First World War, a larger and more modern hospital, with fifty-six beds, was built on the medical school campus by Dr. Jones and his partners at the Portland Clinic: Tom Joyce, Frank Kistner, and Laurence Selling. They intended to eventually turn the hospital over to the school as a research unit.
The start of the Second World War put those plans permanently on hold. In 1943, the school began a concerted effort to educate additional nurses for the war effort, and the building was obtained and used to house the nursing students. Currently, the building holds some units of the Information Technology Group (ITG) and the Department of Psychiatry. I hear that there were bathtubs in the building until quite recently, which may in fact still be there to this day. I'm just wondering whether the folks who work in Gaines Hall treat themselves to short soaks during the afternoon lull...