By: Richard L. Schreiner, MD, Edwin L. Gresham Professor Emeritus of Pediatrics, Indiana University School of Medicine; Retired Chairman, Department of Pediatrics; Chairman, Riley Hospital Historic Preservation Committee; Retired Physician-in-Chief, Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health and
Karen Bruner Stroup, Ph.D., Retired Director, Community Education and Child Advocacy, Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health; Secretary, Riley Hospital Historic Preservation Committee
Almost 100 years ago, the new Indiana University School of Medicine building was built on the Medical Center campus. Today, most know this building as Emerson Hall, re-named in 1961 in honor of Charles P. Emerson, M.D., second dean of IU School of Medicine, 1911-1931. But in 1919, this building marked a new beginning for IU School of Medicine.
Why and how this building got built in the first place is a story we should all be able to tell and share, especially as this building approaches its centennial anniversary. A 1917 fire destroyed the Indiana Medical College building at the corner of Senate and Market Streets used as the first location for the newly established IU School of Medicine from 1908 until the 1917 fire. Thurman Rice, M.D. recalled in his history of the medical campus that after the 1917 fire, IU School of Medicine offices and laboratories moved to the third and fourth floors of the City Hospital and sophomore and junior classrooms were convened in the basement of B unit of the Burdsall Building, which contained 2 wings of City Hospital, later called Wishard Hospital, and in the large autopsy room adjoining the City Morgue.
The need for a new building for the School of Medicine was urgent. The Robert W. Long Hospital, the first hospital on the Medical Center campus, opened in 1914. Moving from the Indiana Medical College building in downtown Indianapolis to the campus would be an important step to helping bring medical students in closer proximity to Long Hospital for patient care and clinical practice. World War I also was necessitating the need for more physicians to be trained.
Both Rice and Burton D. Myers, M.D. provide recollections about how the State Legislature appropriated $350,000 for a new building in 1917 but Governor James P. Goodrich disapproved the appropriation because funds to pay for it were not available. So that construction might proceed as a public necessity and as a war necessity, Governor Goodrich in June, 1918, proposed to Indiana University trustees that he ask a number of other public-spirited citizens to join him in advancing credit of $175,000, stating that he would ask the legislature at its next session (1919) to purchase the Indiana Medical College building at the northeast corner of Senate and Market Streets.
The trustees accepted this proposal of the governor, who promptly called a conference of twenty-two prominent business and civic leaders, many already involved in efforts to plan for the building of the James Whitcomb Riley Hospital for Children, an effort that would resume after the end of World War I. Among the twenty-two leaders approached by Governor Goodrich were George Ade, Frank C. Ball, Arthur V. Brown, Fred C. Dickson, L.C. Huesmann, Hugh McKennan Landon, and Josiah Kirby Lilly, Sr., all who later would become Incorporators for the James Whitcomb Riley Memorial Association which joined with the Indiana University Board of Trustees in 1921 to begin the building of Riley Hospital for Children.
The governor presented his plan to these leaders, who extended credit of $175,000 to Indiana University for the purpose of erecting a new Medical School Building. Without these twenty-two leaders who stepped forward at the call of the governor with the funds needed, the history of IU School of Medicine would be different today. The new Medical School Building was completed in the summer of 1919. The School moved into its new location and classes began for medical students from this location on September 17. The building formally opened in a September 19, 1919 reception presided by Dean Emerson. Speakers at the brief program that evening included William Lowe Bryan, Ph.D., President of Indiana University and Edmund D. Clarke, M.D., secretary of the Medical School faculty.
Photo credit: Indiana University School of Medicine Building, 1920. Photo courtesy IUPUI University Library Special Collections and Archives.