Of Maps and Mysteries (Part 2): Ethel Ransom Memorial Hospital

Just south of the first mystery (Greenway Park; see Part 1) that I found on a 1952 aerial photo of the near East Side, I found a second mystery:

See that cross-shaped building between Belknap and East 1st streets? What was that? My first guess from its footprint was nursing home or hospital. Then, after I learned that Dr. R. A. Ransom Sr. had operated a hospital for African-Americans on East 1st Street, I figured that must be it.


Come to find out: Dr. Ransom’s hospital was eight blocks farther west, at 1200 East 1st Street, on the edge of downtown in Fort Worth’s “African-American downtown.”

Dr. Riley Andrew Ransom Sr. was born in 1886 in Kentucky. After receiving his medical degree in 1909, he began practice in Oklahoma. In 1914, when Dr. Ransom moved to Gainesville and established the Booker T. Washington Sanitarium, he was one of only a handful of African-American physicians in Texas. (Photo from Tarrant County College NE.)

ransom gainesvilleIn 1919 the Dallas Express announced that Dr. Ransom was moving his sanitarium from Gainesville to Fort Worth, giving Cowtown its first hospital for African-Americans. Reby Cary, longtime educator and civil rights activist, recalled that before hospitals such as Dr. Ransom’s were built, African-Americans had to go to the basement of St. Joseph Hospital for treatment. .

The 1920 city directory shows that the sanitarium originally was on East 5th Street downtown.

A 1926 Sanborn map shows the hospital on Grove Street, one block east of the Fort Worth Press.

By 1930 the hospital was at 1200 East 1st Street.

Dr. Ransom added a nurses’ training school to his hospital. The hospital was small by today’s standards—only twenty beds—but it was one of the largest hospitals for African-Americans in Texas. And in 1940 it became one of only three African-American-owned hospitals in the country that was accredited by the American Medical Association. The AMA had denied membership to African-American doctors during the early part of the twentieth century. The Texas Medical Association denied membership to African-Americans until 1955.

Dr. Ransom’s African-American patients sometimes paid him in cash, sometimes in eggs or vegetables from their garden. Dr. Ransom had white patients, too. His head nurse later recalled that some of Dr. Ransom’s white patients probably came to him with diseases of a personal nature that they’d rather their “regular” doctor not know about.

Dr. Ransom’s hospital went through a few name changes in the next twenty years: Booker T. Washington Sanitarium became Negro Baptist Hospital, . . .

which by 1930 had become Fort Worth Negro Hospital, . . .

which in 1938 became Ethel Ransom Memorial Hospital, named in honor of Dr. Ransom’s wife (a nurse), who had died in 1937.

east ransom-groveAt the Intermodal Transportation Center a bas-relief mural by artist Paula Blincoe Collins depicts Ransom and his final hospital.

In 1940 Dr. Ransom was joined at the hospital by his son Riley Jr. and his daughter-in-law Essie, who became head of the nursing staff. Dr. Ransom Jr. eventually assumed supervision of the hospital until it closed in 1949. (Photo from Dallas Public Library.)

By the time Dr. Ransom Sr. died on January 4, 1951, he had performed fifty thousand surgeries, family records showed. He is buried in New Trinity Cemetery in Haltom City.

Dr. Ransom’s house, built in 1921, still stands on East Terrell Street.

Dr. Ransom’s hospital building was demolished shortly after the hospital closed. Today the lot is home to Zephyr Design Concepts.

So, what was that cross-shaped mystery building on East 1st Street in 1952?

Of Maps and Mysteries (Part 3): Prince Hall Grand Lodge Mosque and McDonald College of Industrial Arts


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