Before integration, hospitals were segregated just like schools. One of the last of the ‘black’ hospitals is in Okmulgee, and there's a campaign underway to preserve it.
If you drive through Okmulgee on Highway 75 you've seen the building - it says ‘hospital’ in big bold letters on the front, but it just doesn't look like a hospital.
“This is one of the final black historical buildings that we have left," said Leman Lewis, who currently owns the building.
It was Okmulgee's black hospital – officially, the Okmulgee Colored Hospital. Lewis owns it now and has begun a campaign to restore it.
Not to distract from the project, but wait until you hear how he bought it.
"I went to City Hall to complain about my water and wound up buying the hospital," he explained.
The building is part of Oklahoma's history.
Lewis said, "We use the term ‘colored’ or ‘black hospital,’ but we don't see it as that. We see it as a community project."
It opened in 1924 and, if you were a person of color in and around Okmulgee back then, this was your hospital. It closed in 1956 when the city hospital was integrated.
Lewis thinks it's worth saving now, “It's just a nice building that’s going to waste."
He wants to have a small museum and the rest for offices.
If you’d like to help the project, you can learn more online or donate to the First Family Credit Union.