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Lutheran Hospital

By Randy Harter

Fort Wayne Reader


The Lutheran Hospital Association was organized by area Lutheran congregations in 1903 under the leadership of its director, the Reverend Philip Wambsganss. The association then purchased the former 21-room brick residence of Judge Lindley Ninde on Fairfield at Wildwood Avenues and remodeled it to accommodate 25 patient beds with the resulting dedication being held on Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 1904. Three months later an addition was already in the planning that would bring the hospitalís size to 75 rooms by 1906. In 1953, the original structure was entirely replaced when a $3-million project allowed for the construction of an entirely new hospital with a capacity of over 300 patients, which was dedicated in 1956. Over the years a number of further facility expansions continued to take place on the hospitalís 12-acre site.

In 1981, the hospital, landlocked on Fairfield Avenue, purchased substantial acreage at I-69 and US 24 with the intention of someday constructing a new hospital at that location. Six years later, in 1987, the announcement was made that the first phase of the new facilityís construction was ready to commence. At a cost of $92million, the new Lutheran Hospital was completed in 1992 and the final move from Fairfield Avenue to 7950 W. Jefferson Blvd took place.

In 1995, Quorum of Brentwood, TN bought Lutheran for $137millon. This sale resulted in the emergence of The Lutheran Foundation , which has invested and grown the proceeds since, thus far disbursing over $162million to faith and health & wellness based activities over a 10 county area in Northeast Indiana. Even with these distributions, in 2016, the Foundation held assets of over $200million.

The sale of Lutheran Hospital to Quorum did not include the hospitalís old 425,000 sq. ft. facilities on Fairfield Avenue, for which the foundation strived to find a new use. Finally, with no buyers in sight, the old hospital was razed in 2000, the grounds landscaped, and then reborn as Lutheran Park and Gardens in 2006. The only building left standing on the former hospital grounds, the original Duemling Clinic (small rectangular building pictured at the southwest corner of Fairfield and Home Avenue) is now The Lutheran Foundationís offices.

After buying Lutheran, Quorum went on to purchase St. Joe Hospital in 1998. With St. Joeís purchase came Dupont Medical Center, which had been built in 1990 on the 125 acres at I-69 and Dupont Road that St. Joe had purchased in 1984 for future healthcare expansion. From this site later evolved Dupont Hospital, whose groundbreaking then took place in 2000. Dallas-based Triad Hospitals then acquired Quorum (who owned a number of hospitals and health care facilities in addition to Lutheran/St. Joe/Dupont) in 2001 for $2.4billion. Then in 2007, Community Health Systems (CHS) of Franklin, TN purchased Triad, which included Lutheran Health Network, for $5.1billion, and who as of this writing remains the current owner.

(Image Courtesy HPC/ACPL)

Randy Harter is a Fort Wayne historian, author, and the history/architecture guide for FortWayneFoodTours.com

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