Central Emergency and Detention Hospital

 Posted by on August 23, 2016
Aug 232016

50 Dr. Tom Waddell Place
previously 50 Lech Walesa
previously 50 Ivy

San Francisco Central Emergency and Detention Hospital architecture

In the alley, somewhat behind the Public Health Building that dominates the corner of Polk and Grove in San Francisco’s Civic Center is a small building that was once the Central Emergency and Detention Hospital.

San Francisco Public Health Building Architecture

The building was built in 1917 prior to the larger building that surrounds it. Notice how the Central Hospital sits by itself in this hand colored postcard.  It is the yellow building on the far left.

According to the 1918 Municipal Record Volume 11 the building included a court room, and also housed the Social Services Department of the Public Health Department.

The architect is not known, although it was most likely a city architect. The contractor was Anderson and Ringrose, they were paid $78,140 for their work.  Other work included J.W. Burtchell, lighting for $1575 and Burnham Plumbing for sanitizers at a cost of $3,575.

The building was opened by Mayor Ralph Jr, with an accompanying band on March 6, 1917 at 2:00 pm.

The Emergency Hospital system was a vital part of the cities health services. 

According to a SF Department of Public Health 1920 report  The “Central Emergency hospital is maintained, which cares for all cases that require detention or restraint, and is also equipped to do any major surgery that may be brought there from one or the other ambulance stations when the case requires special attention.”

A 1924 Report from the Department of Health shows how the building was becoming outdated and over crowded. “We have to recommend that portion of the property extending from the Central Emergency Hospital to Van Ness Avenue as a fit and proper site for an institution adequate to house the activities of the present day and provide against the future when this city will have over a million population.

Our present quarters are damp, dark, overcrowded and unhealthy, and no other business or activity, excepting a Board of Health, would be permitted to occupy a building such as we are compelled to use.”

Today the center is called The Tom Waddell Health Center (or Clinic).  It is still associated with the San Francisco Department of Public Health providing health care to mostly poor, disadvantaged, and homeless persons.

San Francisco's Emergency Hospital System Architecture