Historic Okmulgee hospital to be renovated

Thursday, November 3rd 2005, 10:14 am
By: News On 6

A significant piece of Oklahoma history is on the verge of a new life as a group in Okmulgee has begun the process to re-open the Okmulgee Black Hospital as a cultural center.

News on 6 reporter Rick Wells went there for a look around.

From the highway it's just another boarded up brick building. The word hospital on the front is a clue to its history, but few who travel through Okmulgee on US highway 75, probably don’t give the building a second glance. "It's gonna be another of the gems for Okmulgee." Rae Ann Wilson is the president of the Multi-Cultural Heritage Association in Okmulgee. They're planning on fixing it up.

They've gotten a grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation to begin the process of restoration. "It was used as a hospital until 1956." Built in 1922 their records indicate it was the first "Colored Hospital" opened in the country.

An architect has already taken a first look around and he says the basic structure is in remarkably good shape. The light on our camera and a couple of flashlights she brought along provided the only illumination.

"We hope to be in this facility for the Centennial." They've got a presentation scheduled before the Centennial Commission, which could give them increased credibility raising money. Oil money built the hospital back in the 20's. “I'm sure some of that money is still here." Rick Wells: "Just need to shake it loose?" Rae Ann Wilson: "Shake it loose, we’d like to shake it loose." If they do, this piece of Oklahoma history will live again.

The group will begin a door to door campaign this weekend to raise awareness about the project, and hopefully some money too. There is more information on their website.