Almost everyone who has lived in Boulder for any length of time knows someone who was born, had an operation, was treated for an illness or died at the former Boulder Community Hospital on Broadway.

The building has been sold to the city of Boulder, and redevelopment plans have not yet been announced.

Now that most of the hospital's services have been relocated to Boulder Community Health's Foothills Hospital on Arapahoe Avenue, the former hospital building's silent presence reminds us that it touched the lives of many of Boulder's residents for more than ninety years.

The hospital dates to 1922, when the University of Colorado Medical School (and hospital) moved to Denver. A year earlier, a group of Boulder physicians who feared they would be without a hospital purchased a two-story house, with a sweeping verandah, on the northwest corner of Alpine Avenue and Broadway.

Named Boulder Hospital, the former home of the Hagman family was converted into a 15-bed hospital. Then the physicians deeded it to the community and formed the Boulder Community Hospital Association, but they needed funds for expansion. Citizens rallied to the cause.

"Hospitals have no holidays, nor can they declare a walk-out," the association's campaign chairman said from his office in the Hotel Boulderado. "The work of healing the sick and alleviating pain is not only of prime importance but never-ending."

Thanks to successful fund-raising, the house-turned-hospital was enlarged again to accommodate 45 more beds. Another addition was built in 1925.

Most of the doctors were general practitioners, adept at setting broken bones, amputating fingers and toes, delivering babies and treating infectious diseases such as diphtheria, smallpox and typhoid. Many still made house calls. Anesthetics were likely to be morphine, ether or chloroform.

By 1950, Boulder's population had almost doubled to 19,999, and the hospital was woefully inadequate for the influx of postwar newcomers and the new baby-boomer generation. The construction of an L-shaped wing in 1955 increased the hospital's capacity to 70 beds.

The standard fee, at the time, for delivering a baby, including prenatal care and a six-week check-up, was $75. An appendectomy was $150.

"No germ can thrive or be carried where it shouldn't in the new Community Hospital," reported the Camera, as its editors sang the praises of modern medicine. Reporters were sent to write stories on meals served on sterilized plates and sealed in stainless-steel containers.

In 1957, the original part of the hospital (including the Hagman house) was torn down and replaced with a series of remodels. In 1958, the hospital added 37 beds and included its first recovery room for surgery patients, as well as a pediatric isolation section for children with communicable diseases.

The hospital admitted its 100,000th patient in 1962. Cost of a private room at the time was $22. Another addition was built in 1967, followed by a $3.5 million expansion and modernization programs in 1972 and 1973.

Nine decades ago, the hospital's campaign chairman concluded his remarks by saying, "Boulder's first line of defense is its facilities for the protection of the health of its people."

He'd probably say the same today, but he'd have to raise a lot more money.

Silvia Pettem and Carol Taylor write about history for the Daily Camera. Email Silvia at, Carol at or write to the Daily Camera, 2500 55th St., Suite 210, Boulder, 80301.