On May 28, 1928, President Coolidge signed the bill which had been passed providing for additional hospitals for World War veterans. The committee made a recommendation for the location of one of those hospitals to be in Lexington, Kentucky. The Lexington Herald reported that, Congressman Chapman, who, with all the other Kentucky members of congress, cooperated in every with the American Legion of Kentucky in obtaining the appropriation after the state had at first been ignored in the bill, communicated with Major Wilson after a conference with General Frank T. Hines, the director of the Veterans Bureau.” Chapman encouraged site proposals for the location before losing his seat in congress to Mr. Robert Blackburn. In Fayette County, the Board of Commerce raised $30,000 to be offered to the Federal government as a partial payment on any site selected within Fayette County for the veterans’ hospital building which, eventually, was settled.
The United States Veterans Hospital opened on Leestown Pike in Lexington, Kentucky in 1931. The facility was completed at a cost of $2,500,000 and was dedicated to the use of disabled veterans of the United States military service. The medical officer in charge of the Lexington facility was Dr. Jo M. Ferguson. It was reported that disabled veterans of the World War, patients at the hospital, watched the dedication ceremony through windows. Airplanes circled the dedicatory program with an airman leaping from his plane to, “float gracefully to earth beneath a parachute.” Dr. J. O. Ferguson welcome visitors during the dedication. Major Charles W. Spoffard of Washington pointed out the “liberality of the government toward those who fought for it.” The Lexington hospital was seen as a “simple recognition of the debt of the Federal government toward those who fought for it.” In April of 1931 a total of fifteen patients were allocated to the hospital. Dr. Ferguson also noted that from April on, new patients would be received to the tune of approximately fifty per month until the quota of 350 is reached.
The first meal served at the Lexington hospital was breakfast, for members of the staff and the new patients. Staff members Dr. Samuel Luber, associate physician from the United States Veterans Hospital at Washington; Paul G. Bradley, X-Ray technician from the United States Veterans Hospital at Outwood; Misses Hellen G. Spain and Mildred M. Leonard, staff nurses from the United States Veterans Hospital at Lake City, Florda; Miss Nancy K. Plummer, head aid in occupational therapy, from the United States Veterans Hospital at Hines, Illinois; Miss Mary V. Huddleston, staff nurse from the United States Veterans Hospital at Chillicothe, Ohio; Miss Stella L. Teague, staff nurse from the United States Veterans Hospital at Castle Point, New York; Miss Mary F. Lowry, staff nurse from Bloomfield, New Jersey; Miss Lydia Every, staff nurse from St. Joseph, Missouri; and Miss Mary B. Eyl of Lexington.
Interestingly, a Lexington Herald article in 1931 notes that the hospital was to originally be designated as a neuro-psychiatric hospital. The American Legion in Kentucky along with members of congress and others began efforts for a hospital since there was no federal hospital under the direction of the veterans bureau available for the treatment of veterans in a large region.
The United States Veterans Hospital in Lexington would go on to treat veterans from Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Arkansas. The hospital is still active today and treats veterans for a wide variety of issues ranging from geriatrics to mental health and substance use disorders.
Contributed by Phil Tkacz & Shawn Logan | firstname.lastname@example.org
⁘ Works Cited ⁘
- The Lexington Leader, 9 December 1949
- The Lexington Leader, 12 December 1952
- The Lexington Herald (Lexington, Kentucky), 23 September 1930, p. 4.
- The Lexington Herald (Lexington, Kentucky), 18 October 1930, p. 4.
- The Lexington Herald (Lexington, Kentucky), 31 Nay 1931, p. 4.
- The Lexington Herald (Lexington, Kentucky), 1 April 1931, p. 1.
- The Lexington Herald (Lexington, Kentucky), 1 June 1931, p. 1.
- The Messenger-Inquirer (Owensboro, Kentucky), 21 September 1930, p. 5.
- The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), 17 January 1931, p. 1.
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