The Birth of EMH...100 Years Ago
In the early 1900s, records state that "there was no public place in Elyria for the care of the injured or sick." A committee of prominent community members, including F.A. Smythe, E.F. Allen and Reverend John P. Sala, met on May 28, 1907 to discuss the formation of a permanent hospital in the city. Little did they know that two days later, one of the most tragic accidents in Elyria's history would occur.
On Memorial Day (May 30), 1907 streetcar No. 129 was heading down Middle Avenue towards downtown Elyria. The car was overloaded; some passengers were standing and sitting on a platform on the rear of the car. A second streetcar, No. 123 was following closely behind, trying to help alleviate the congestion. When No. 129 made at stop at 5th Street near Elyria High School, apparently the driver of car No. 123 did not notice--records indicate that he was observing a dead dog alongside of the road. In broad daylight, the two streetcars crashed into each other, severing the legs and feet of many who were on the platform of the lead car.
With the lack of adequate hospital facilities in the area, the death toll from the accident reached nine; eight lost one or both legs; two were crippled for life and scores of others suffered from various injuries. Two of the fatalities included the children of Edgar "Daddy" Allen and Reverend Sala.
The grief-stricken community was more determined that ever to build a hospital, and on June 4, 1907 a hospital company was incorporated and a $100,000 building fund was underway. More than a dozen sites were investigated before a four-acre tract of land on East River Street near Broad was purchased. By the end of the campaign, the new hospital had exceeded its goal by $5,000 and on November 17, 1907 more than 2,000 people gathered to witness the cornerstone laying by Mr. Allen and hear featured addresses by Reverend Sala and Mayor Clayton Chapman.
Under the guidance of a newly-elected Board of Trustees, Elyria Memorial Hospital opened on October 30, 1908 with 36 beds. The trustees included:
- W.W. Boynton
- F.A. Smythe
- T.T. Robinson
- E.F. Allen
- George D. Nicholas, MD
- W.N. Gates
- Reverend John P. Sala
- A.L. Garford
- Albert Kistner and
- Charles E. Tucker
Turning his personal tragedy--the loss of his son in the streetcar accident--into something positive, Edgar Allen not only worked to pen Elyria Memorial Hospital, but also the Gates Hospital for Crippled Children, in 1915. The facility was the first in the nation to be devoted exclusively to the care and treatment of crippled children. Allen went on to form the Ohio, National and International Societies for Crippled Children, and through his tireless efforts to raise funds and awareness, in 1935 the Easter Seals Society was born. An Ohio Historical Marker commemorating Allen's work currently stands on the grounds of EMH Elyria Medical Center.
Today, EMH Elyria Medical Center is a nationally-recognized healthcare facility that serves the people of Lorain County, western Cuyahoga County, and beyond. It has grown to become more than 10 times the size of the original Elyria Memorial Hospital with 387 licensed beds and nearly 2,200 employees. An 11-time "100 Top Hospital" designee and 12-time "NorthCoast 99 Top Employer", EMH Elyria Medical Center has built on its solid foundation to become a premier healthcare organization.