Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Morningside Hospital Records: What We Know

In the time that I have been History of Medicine Librarian here, I have been asked no less than five times, by five different people, if we have patient records from the Morningside Hospital which operated in Portland during the late nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century. Three of these requests have come in the last three weeks. Since this number probably represents the tip of the iceberg of people interested in Morningside and its records, I thought it best to summarize for Google searchers everywhere:

As far as I know, the patient records from Morningside Hospital are no longer extant.

Here's some brief information on the history of this private hospital:
Established and operated by the Coe family of Portland, the hospital closed its doors in 1968 after many years of service. Its final location was on a 47-acre parcel in southeast Portland, bounded by 96th and 102nd Avenues and Stark and Main Streets. The hospital was closed and the land sold to developers, Lenrich Associates and Interstate Department Stores.

A news article published on June 30, 1968, in the Portland Oregonian noted that many hospital patients were from Alaska. They had been coming to Morningside since about 1905 "under state and federal agreements and including for many years mentally retarded from the northern territory." After the 1964 Good Friday earthquake, the hospital at Valdez, AK, was rebuilt with federal funding, and additional beds were made available for psychiatric patients. As a result, Alaskan patients began to stay in state. The last Alaskan patient at Morningside was returned to the state in 1967.

For more information on the hospital, patrons can contact Special Collections at the University of Washington to get a copy of the 16-page pamphlet The insane of Alaska : for sixteen years administered under the Department of the Interior at Morningside Hospital, Portland, Oregon (Portland, Or. : The Hospital, [1920]). Also, the Oregon Historical Society has the Arthur Robert Smith Papers, which contain some records of Morningside's operations in the 1950s (guide available online).

People seeking information on burials of patients can check the cemetery registers (some available online from Multnomah County GenWeb). Death records can be obtained from the Oregon State Archives (on the web here). Consider also that the bodies of indigent who died unclaimed and intestate were often given to the medical school for study and teaching, and that burial records might not be available for those individuals.