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In 1897, the idea for a children's hospital in Colorado began with summer tent hospitals for babies inspired by Dr. Minnie C.T. Love. Denver's high-country ventilation was touted as a cure for a variety of diseases. Using a mix of fresh air and Colorado sunshine, six medical staff and volunteer nurses treated up to 50 children under the age of five.
Early on, those volunteers saw a need for a "permanent" hospital that would "care for sick, injured and crippled children from birth to 16 years of age, irrespective of sex, creed, color, nationality or place of birth," that would be supported mainly by volunteer contributions. With that lofty goal to guide them, this same group of intrepid volunteers officially incorporated as Children's Hospital Colorado on May 9, 1908, substituting bricks and mortar for canvas tents in the process.
Patient volumes have increased dramatically since our early years, but advances in medicine have made it possible to treat more children as outpatients without a hospital stay.
In 1909, Children's Hospital Colorado converted a former residence at 2221 Downing Street into a "well equipped institution with a capacity of 30 beds," admitting its first patients on Feb. 17, 1910.
As the demand for child healthcare services increased throughout the region, the hospital quickly outgrew its original location and raised more than $200,000 to build a new and improved facility, which opened in 1917 at 19th Avenue and Downing Street in downtown Denver. The "beautiful, new, green and white" building opened with 100 beds and with what The Denver Post described at the time as "every article of equipment known to science."
Medicine in the 20th century represented a "golden age" of unprecedented innovation. From the use of X-rays for medical diagnosis to the advent of antibiotics and polio vaccine, medical research helped reduce the rate of mortality from childhood diseases dramatically.
In 1900, life expectancy in the United States was 48 years. By 2004, it had increased to nearly 78 years thanks to new drugs, surgical procedures and treatments for diseases once thought to be incurable.
Our medical staff has grown from a handful of volunteers to more than 1,000 expert caregivers.
Against this backdrop and throughout each decade of its 100 years of service, Children's Colorado has drawn upon its legacy of providing outstanding pediatric healthcare. A legacy that began in 1908 when volunteers pulled back the canvas flaps on their first tent hospitals to admit a child in need and continued with the opening of Children's Colorado's doors in 1910 and 1917 endures to this day as Children's Colorado researchers, clinicians and teachers open the doors to exciting advancements in pediatric care.
Children's Colorado has long been on the forefront of medical research, establishing a Research Foundation in 1953. The hospital and its affiliates at the University of Colorado School of Medicine are responsible for virtually all of the pediatric research published in the Rocky Mountain region in the past decade, as well as several internationally recognized medical milestones, including the discovery of toxic shock syndrome and development of new pediatric heart surgery techniques now used around the world.
After numerous expansions over the years, at our downtown Denver location, Children's Colorado open the new healing hospital on Sept. 29, 2017, at the juncture of I-225 and East Colfax Avenue. The 1.79 million square-feet hospital includes 300+ beds and advanced medical equipment specially designed for children. Adjacent to the University of Colorado Hospital and the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Children's Colorado is at the center of medical research in the Rocky Mountain region, and promises continued advances in patient care in the years to come.
Throughout our history, it has been the people who dedicated themselves to improving the lives of children who made and make Children's Colorado what it is today.
From philanthropists like Harry and Agnes Reid Tammen; to thousands of nurses like Oca Cushman, RN, the hospital's superintendent for its first 45 years; and to Franklin Gengenbach, MD, the first doctor in Colorado to exclusively practice pediatric medicine; our history is our people.
The community at-large deserves a huge share of the credit for our continued success. Beginning with "penny marches" at Denver elementary schools to support early fund drives, and culminating in the campaign for our new state-of-the-art hospital, our progress has been made possible by the collective generosity of the communities we are privileged to serve.
Using the strength of our community support, we look forward to another 100 years of continuing the high standards our history has established for us at Children's Colorado.
In the early 1920s, Denver philanthropist Agnes Reid Tammen received a $100,000 check from her husband, Denver Post publisher Harry H. Tammen, to buy a new string of pearls for Christmas.
Children's Colorado was engaged in a $50,000 fundraising drive for a new wing, and Mrs. Tammen had been asked to donate $1,000. According to one source, she told her husband that it would be sinful to spend twice as much for personal pleasure than the entire wing would cost and asked if she could donate $50,000 for the proposed addition.
"You never cease to amaze me," Harry Tammen is said to have replied. "We will give the entire $100,000."
When Harry Tammen died in 1924, he bequeathed half of his estate – $2 million – to the hospital. Mrs. Tammen continued her philanthropic efforts on behalf of Children’s Colorado until her death in 1942.
The Tammen Trust continues to provide annual income that helps provide essential healthcare for children whose families cannot afford to pay.
The first 100 years of Children's Colorado's history have included numerous accomplishments, honors and stories of committed caregivers improving the lives of children. Learn more about our achievements through the years in the timeline below.
Children's Colorado grew rapidly during the last quarter century, both into new locations across Colorado and new areas of expertise. Significant advancements in scientific knowledge and technology changed the face of medicine in ways previously unimaginable. During this time, Children's Colorado:
The postwar years brought dramatic advances in medical technology and increasing demand for healthcare services, positioning Children's Colorado as a national leader in pediatric treatment and research:
During its early years, Children's Colorado operated on tiny budgets, and donations consisted mainly of food, clothing and supplies. The hospital grew from a 30-bed facility in a converted residence to a specialized pediatric healthcare center that battled polio epidemics and weathered shortages of nurses and supplies during World War II.