St. Mary’s Hospital and Community Hospital have both been valuable parts of our community for many years, beginning in 1896 and 1946 respectively. But did you know that Mesa County had a hospital that existed earlier than 1896?
The Grand Junction News August 25, 1883 edition mentions that the Mesa County Commissioners were looking for a suitable place to build a hospital. By November 1883, the hospital was up and running, with the newspaper reporting the fact that Mrs. Jackson was “giving general satisfaction” in her operation of it. Further articles in 1884 also mention the hospital’s operation. But where was the hospital located? The intrepid researchers of Redlands Middle School discovered the answer.
While researching the book Among the Eagles: A History of the Redlands (1997), Matt Atkins and his students stumbled upon a photograph of the Redlands Canal. Pictured in the photo just south of the canal, located below the mesa that now contains the Heather Ridge neighborhood, was a large, two-story building with writing on the side. At first, the students could not tell whether or not the letters spelled hotel or hospital, but when they got out a magnifying glass, it was clear that they said hospital. A helpful employee of the Redlands Water & Power, where the students were researching, then pulled out an early irrigation map that marked the location of the County Hospital just to the south of Broadway and the canal, and just across the bridge from Grand Junction (You can see the photograph to the above left. Both the photograph and map are also reproduced on page 57 of Among the Eagles). The students went on to research Mesa County records, and confirmed that the Mesa County Hospital operated from 1883-1886. Why did it close in 1886, ten years before St. Mary’s opened? No one seems to know.
Many of the early Mesa County residents interviewed in the Mesa County Oral History Project recalled the old Pest House, where people with small pox and other infectious diseases were quarantined in the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth centuries. These interviewees pinpoint the Pest House as being in the Redlands, just over the Grand Avenue Bridge and to the south below the rise, making it likely that after the hospital closed, the building stayed in use for medical purposes. The hospital building also became known as the County Farm, used by Depression affected residents in the 1930’s. For more information about medical history of Mesa County, search the Mesa County Oral History Project.