Swanson Hall: A fond look back
Charles Poynter, M.D., dean of the College of Medicine from 1930 to 1946, met with Omaha World-Herald publisher Henry Doorly in early 1943 to discuss the idea. By November, the first meeting of the incorporators of the hospital took place.
In 1944, John Latenser & Sons architectural firm of Omaha was selected to design the building. In April 1946, construction bids for the building were opened, and the next month groundbreaking for the hospital took place. By the end of September 1946, a ceremony was held to place the hospital's cornerstone, the trowel wielded by Doorly himself.
In March, with a total cost of $850,000, the 100-bed hospital opened for its first patients, with the first two operations taking place on March 15. In August 1948, Children's opened its entire north first-floor wing to polio patients - by November, there were nearly 150 patients with varying degrees of the disease.
In 1949, the first iron lung was acquired to treat patients with polio, with a second added in 1952 to deal with the growing number of polio cases.
In 1960, construction began on a $1.3 million addition to the hospital on the west side, along 44th Street. The new wing opened in 1962, increasing the capacity to 135 beds and adding operating rooms, labs and a nursery, as well as a new emergency entrance.
In May 1981, UNMC acquired the building through the Swanson Foundation of Omaha, renaming it Carl and Caroline Swanson Hall. It became home to the Swanson Center for Nutrition, along with UNMC offices and labs. The Swansons were the founders of Swanson Foods Company, famous for their TV dinners, developed in 1952 and produced here in Omaha.
The philanthropic efforts of the Swansons' daughter, Gretchen Swanson Velde, made possible the transfer of the former Children's Hospital building to UNMC. Carl Swanson had been one of the original members of the Children's Hospital Board of Trustees in 1943.
1944: Feb. 14, John Latenser & Sons awarded contract to design hospital
1945: November, fundraising for the building reached nearly $400,000
1946: April 4, bids opened for construction; May 8, groundbreaking for the hospital, with Nebraska Gov. Dwight Griswold and Omaha Mayor Charles Lehman in attendance; June, fundraising office opened in downtown Omaha; Sept. 28, placing of the hospital's cornerstone by World-Herald Owner and Publisher Henry Doorly
1947: May 5, medical staff for the hospital was organized (62 doctors); November, fundraising for the building reached over $750,000
1948: Feb. 15, ribbon cutting and open house; March 14, 100-bed hospital opened to patients, built at cost of $850,000 (30,000 residents of Nebraska and western Iowa donated to the effort); March 15, first two operations in the hospital’s operating room
1949: First iron lung to deal with polio
1952: New iron lung
1958: Tunnel constructed from hospital to C. Louis Meyer Therapy Center
1960: Construction begins on $1.3 million addition of west wing
1962: Opening of west wing addition along 44th Street, including new covered drive to ER, increases hospital capacity from 100 to 135 beds
1963: New operating rooms, labs, and nursery in west wing open
1981: Children’s moved to present location at 83rd and Dodge Streets; building acquired by UNMC through the Swanson Foundation; renamed Carl and Carolyn Swanson Hall