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Former Hospital For Blacks Being Renovated

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A hospital that opened 85 years ago specifically for black doctors, nurses and patients will be rededicated next week at a cultural center.

The Okmulgee Black Hospital, a two-story, 18-room brick building, served patients from 1922 to 1956. The building, which is on the Register of Historic Places, then was used for office space and the Deep Fork Community Action Center before it was condemned.

The Okmulgee County Multi-Cultural Heritage Association was formed in 1998 to restore the building.

``The building was built specifically for black patients and there are not too many of these buildings that are still standing,'' said Rae Ann Wilson, of the board of directors for the association.

The building will be rededicated Tuesday as the Okmulgee Black Hospital Cultural Center, which is to open in early 2009.

The center will offer programs about black culture and history through art, literature, music and food and contributions of blacks in Okmulgee County and statewide.

Permanent exhibits will showcase the hospital's medical equipment, historical items and memorabilia from the time period when the hospital was open. Traveling exhibits will showcase other cultures.

``It will allow visitors to ... step back in history and experience a rendition of the hospital in the early 1900s,'' Wilson said.

Cost of renovations could approach $500,000, Wilson said.

The first phase of renovation was completed this year and involved repairing the roof and chimney.

Other phases will include replacing doors and windows and building an elevator on the structure's exterior.

The City of Okmulgee, Creek Nation and the Oklahoma Centennial Commission have agreed to donate money.
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