UNMC History 101 - Latenser's plan for the medical campus

by John Schleicher, McGoogan Library | March 05, 2013

picture disc.
Rendering of the College of Medicine campus plan (1921), 42nd Street lower right.
For several decades, John Latenser Sr. (1858-1936) was the primary architect for the University of Nebraska College of Medicine (later UNMC). Latenser may have envisioned his concept plan for the medical campus as early as 1915, with the rendering of the plan dated 1921.

In an undated manuscript, Charles Poynter, M.D. (COM dean, 1930-46) recalled, "In 1909 the legislature appropriated $20,000 to purchase a campus site at 42nd & Dewey Avenue. The 1911 Legislature provided $100,000 for a college building. Dr. Henry Ward (COM dean, 1902-10) felt that a uniform building program should be adopted. A campus plan and blue prints for the north building (now Poynter Hall) to be four stories high and of steel construction, were drawn up by a Boston firm. Finished in the fall of 1913, the school was set up in the new building. In the original campus plan provision was made for a 500 bed teaching hospital consisting of five units. In 1915, $l50,000 was appropriated for the first unit. John Latenser & Sons were engaged to draw the plans and have since been in charge of all campus building."

picture disc.
Ground plan of the medical college campus (1926), showing completed buildings (shaded).
In 1919, Irving Cutter, M.D. (COM dean, 1915-25) wrote, "With the construction of the South Lab Building (now Bennett Hall) and the Central Power Plant, the total cost of buildings on the University of Nebraska Medical Campus will exceed a half million dollars. The South Lab Building will be completed and occupied at the beginning of the fall session of 1919. This building is in every way an ideal structure. In general architecture it is an exact duplicate of the North Lab Building. Each of the departments will occupy an entire floor, and each laboratory embodies the latest and most modern improvements conducive to effective teaching. The several floors are reached by an automatic electric elevator."

Latenser's campus plan was never completed as envisioned. Conkling Hall (first permanent College of Nursing building) was completed in 1923, and a second unit of the hospital opened in 1927.

Appropriations for, and construction of, other buildings in the plan never happened because of the poor farm economy of the 1920s and the great depression of the 1930s.

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Linda Johnson
March 05, 2013 at 2:42 PM

I remember Conkling Hall when I first started here in 1977. That is where the Computing Center was housed at that time. I remember that there was a recreation room where we could sit by the fireplace or play billards on our breaks. Linda Johnson

UNMC Today editor
March 05, 2013 at 1:56 PM

Editor's Note: Beyond UNMC, other projects designed by the late John Latenser include the Douglas County Courthouse, Central High School, J.L. Brandeis Building, Omaha Athletic Club, St. John Greek Orthodox Church and former Rialto Theater, and Memorial Stadium and Schulte Field House at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Barb
March 05, 2013 at 1:05 PM

I love reading stories and learning about the history our campus!

Tina
March 05, 2013 at 9:21 AM

Interesting!