UNMC History 101: A quiet centennial for Poynter Hall

by John Schleicher, McGoogan Library of Medicine | November 05, 2013

picture disc.
Cover of the "Pulse" publication, dedication issue, 1913
Poynter Hall, completed in 1913, was the first building of the new University of Nebraska College of Medicine, formed in 1902 by the affiliation of the Omaha Medical College with the University of Nebraska.

The state legislature debated for several years whether the college should be in Lincoln or Omaha. Omaha newspapers reported that there were a number of state legislators, whom they referred to as "friends of Creighton" (which had started its medical school in 1892), who said that the university's charter did not allow any part of the institution to be located outside Lincoln.

In 1909, the legislature appropriated $20,000 for the purchase of a 10-acre campus site in Omaha. The area was bounded by Dewey Avenue on the north, Emile Street on the south, 42nd Street on the east, and 44th Street on the west, a location which "at that time seemed to be quite removed from the active center of the city" - and was considered to be in far southwest Omaha at that time.

The first building on the new campus, simply called the Laboratory Building or the College of Medicine Building, opened for classes on Sept. 10, 1913, having survived the devastating Easter Sunday tornado of March 23, 1913, while under construction.

picture disc.
Artist's rendering of the planned medical campus, 1916
The 110 by 130-foot, L-shaped building cost $110,000. Dedication ceremonies were held on Oct. 16, 1913, with speakers including: Chancellor Samuel Avery of the University of Nebraska (Lincoln), College of Medicine Dean W. O. Bridges, M.D., State Sen. John Grossmann, former dean Henry B. Ward, and regent F. L. Haller.

The dedicatory address was presented by Howard A. Kelly, M.D., professor of gynecology at Johns Hopkins University. The tone for the day's events is reflected in this statement: "A new era in medical education has dawned for Nebraska and the middle west."

Initially, the new building served as the entire medical school, with basic science courses and clinical instruction combined in this one location. Following construction of University Hospital in 1917 and South Laboratory in 1919 (Bennett Hall), it housed the departments of anatomy, embryology, microbiology and pathology and was known as North Laboratory.

In 1970, it was renamed in memory of Charles W. M. Poynter, the longest serving dean of the college (1929 to 1946). In 2012, both the interior and exterior of the building were completely refurbished, now housing offices and clinics of the department of psychiatry.

Comments

Fill out the following and your comment will post once it has been approved.

Thank you, your comment will appear below once it has been approved.

Mary Bernhagen
November 05, 2013 at 4:04 PM

The history of where UNMC started is fascinating. Thank you so much for the great story!

Gerri Sullivan
November 05, 2013 at 1:25 PM

I wonder how the cost of building then would equate in today's ecomony? Loved the story.

Myron L. Toews, PhD
November 05, 2013 at 12:39 PM

I spent about 15 of the best years of my life doing pharmacology in Poynter Hall, 1989-200x. It was a tired old building but the home of good people and good science. I'm so glad it was retained and beautifully renovated. Thanks for sharing its history and (too quietly!) celebrating its centennial!

Jerrie Dayton
November 05, 2013 at 8:47 AM

Thanks again John for another wonderful lesson in how we came to be where we are today. History is so important.