In 1901 the Women’s Auxiliary of the Kalamazoo Hospital was formed. The auxiliary’s mission was to assist in the building, equipping, and maintaining of the hospital. Following these guidelines, the group’s first task was constructing a new hospital building. The women sold subscriptions of stock in the Kalamazoo Hospital Association to raise money for the building fund. Two years later, through fundraising efforts and private donations, the women had raised $14,000, enough to build a new, small, hospital building. Ground was broken in December 1903 and the building was completed in late September 1905. It was officially opened to the public and dedicated on December 4, 1905. The Kalamazoo Hospital Association re-organized in 1907 and changed the hospital’s name to Bronson Hospital after the founder of Kalamazoo, Titus Bronson.
Financial problems plagued the hospital for the first 15-20 years that it was open. Several times, the only thing that kept Bronson from closing its doors was emergency money raised by interested citizens of Kalamazoo. In 1918 the hospital began a campaign to raise $50,000 for the purposes of paying off debt and making improvements to the facility. Unfortunately the campaign did not reach its goal, and although the hospital’s board reported that financial obligations had been reduced in 1919 the hospital continued to struggle. The board decided that the only way to guarantee financial security was to turn the hospital over to a church. An inventory of the hospital valued it at $116,000 and the hospital raised $45,000 to pay off its debts. On May 1, 1920 the Michigan Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church took control of the hospital. The name was then changed a final time to Bronson Methodist Hospital.
The hospital grew under the leadership of the Methodist Church and in December 1945 Bronson proposed an $800,000 expansion. This expansion, adding 100 beds, called for three separate additions around the building. Along with the extra beds, space was also planned for a new emergency clinic, pharmacy, laboratories, and X-Ray rooms. The campaign began in May 1946 with the hospital receiving an offer of $200,000 from the Kalamazoo Foundation. The offer was conditional however, the hospital had to raise the remaining $600,000 from public donations in order to receive the money. Bronson was able to raise the money and with the money received from the Foundation their building fund totaled over one million dollars. Work began on the additions in January 1948. In the end, the new hospital building would have six floors and planned space for future expansions, but the project did not go as smoothly as hoped.
Due to a population increase in Kalamazoo and the increasing costs of construction, the construction committee felt the need to revise their original expansion plans. In June of 1950 the hospital began a campaign to raise $991,000 to cover the remaining costs of the expansion as well as the addition of another 21 beds. For this campaign Bronson received a $250,000 grant from the Kresge Foundation in Detroit. Along with the grant the hospital received donations from prominent businesses in the community such as the Kalamazoo Vegetable Parchment Company, the Upjohn Company, and the Kalamazoo Automobile Dealers Association. After receiving the money construction progressed quickly. The new 121-bed addition was formally opened on May 12, 1951 and dedicated that December.
At the same time the hospital was planning and building the expansion, the board was also planning an intern program and a new medical center. The intern program, intended for students from the University of Michigan Medical School, sought to use Bronson’s new additions. The first students arrived in July 1947. The medical center began at the same time as the hospital expansion program in January 1948. The medical center was independent of the hospital expansion program though, its costs were financed by long-term loans. The basement and first floor were to be used by the hospital and the second and third floors were rented out and used as doctors’ offices.
The 1946 expansion and medical center led the way for many more exciting additions at Bronson. In 1952 the hospital began planning for a heart catheterization clinic. The clinic opened in the summer of 1956 and was used to diagnose heart ailments in patients. By November 1956 thirteen patients had been successfully diagnosed by the clinic, which led Bronson to be approved as a cardiac surgery center in January 1957. That May, plans were made to remodel an old nursing dormitory into a 50-bed unit for the care of the chronically ill. The hospital also planned on expanding the physical and occupational therapy units, the laboratories, and the cardiac clinic. The rehabilitation center opened in May 1958, and the chronically ill unit opened that September.
Harding School Expansion
In 1959 Bronson purchased the Harding School properties, planning to use them in an expansion program. In March 1960 the hospital announced they would demolish the school administration building and build a 177-space parking lot. Plans to build a tunnel connecting the first floor of the hospital to that of the school building were also revealed. The school building’s first floor would then be developed into a large outpatient department and a new medical library for the School of Nursing and the medical staff.