Established: September 16, 1922
Shriners Children's Shreveport opened in September of 1922 – the first hospital established in the Shriners Children's system. When members of the Shriners fraternity officially decided to establish a hospital to care for children with orthopedic conditions in 1920, perhaps few envisioned that Shreveport would be chosen for this pivotal endeavor. While an established port and agricultural town at the time, Shreveport was not well-known on a national level. Even the local Shriner membership was relatively new, with the fledgling El Karubah Shriners receiving charter in 1914.
By the 1921 Imperial Session of the Shriners fraternity, plans for a singular hospital evolved into talk of a system of hospitals dedicated to caring for children, with the first hospital to be located in St. Louis, Missouri. Already a well-established city, St. Louis also had the benefits of a medical teaching center in Washington University. However, by mid-1921, plans to acquire land near the university had stalled.
The First Shriners Hospital
Upon learning of the plans for a system of hospitals, El Karubah Potentate James Horace Rowland set out to make a case for Shreveport as a potential location. A well-known Shreveport businessman and civic leader, Rowland began a campaign to bring a Shriners Hospital to Shreveport. Rowland promptly began raising funds and secured the land at Kings Highway and Samford Avenue in Shreveport – the outskirts of town at the time. He then enlisted the help of the Shreveport Medical Society in funding for a qualified orthopedic surgeon for the first year of operation.
Joined by Shreveport Mayor L.E. Thomas and other El Karubah founding members, Rowland traveled to Atlanta, Georgia, to present his proposal to the committee overseeing the Shriners Hospital initiative. Chaired by Sam Cochran of Dallas, Texas, the committee was impressed with the level of preparation by the Shreveport delegation. In September of 1921, Rowland and the El Karubah Shriners were given the approval to proceed.
While reporting back to his constituents following the approval of Shreveport as the first host city, Rowland recalled significant competition among the potential host cities.
“While we had all hoped that Shreveport would be selected as the location…, there was tremendous pressure brought to bear by other cities and there appeared to be little assurance that the town had a chance,” Rowland recalled in a 1921 newspaper interview. “I feel that the work done by El Karubah’s representatives… was mainly instrumental in the adoption of the hospital plan as a whole.”
With the path cleared for establishing a hospital in Shreveport, area Shriners turned their attention towards planning the new facility. The Shriners called upon Edward Frank Neild, a prominent local architect and founding member of the El Karubah Shriners, to lead the design effort. Neild, who had previously lent his designs to elaborate local landmarks including the Scottish Rite Cathedral, B’nai Zion Temple and Caddo Parish Courthouse, applied his skills toward an ornate design, drawing inspiration from the Scottish Rite Hospital in Atlanta. Neild would go on to lead a prolific career, including being tapped by President (and Shriner) Harry S. Truman to provide consultation for renovations to the White House and the design work for the Truman Library.
Plans for the first Shriners Hospital called for a 60-bed facility, to be separated into 30-bed boys’ and girls’ wards. The 5.9-acre plot of land at the corner of Kings Highway and Samford Avenue, secured by the El Karubah Shriners, would later be purchased by the Shriners at a cost of $35,000 and donated to the hospital. Total cost estimates for construction and equipping of the facility was placed at just over $300,000.
In May of 1922, the cornerstone for the world’s first Shriners Hospital was placed amongst throngs of Shriners, friends and well-wishers. Officiated by Imperial Potentate Ernest Cutts (Alee Shriners), the ceremony ensured the Shreveport facility’s legacy as the first Shriners Hospital, and physically signaled the start of an ambitious and unprecedented effort to provide essential care to children in need. The hospital’s first patient was seen on September 16, 1922 at a downtown Shreveport physician’s office while the original building was still under construction. The actual first hospital was dedicated in April of 1923.
- May 12, 1922: Laying of the cornerstone for the first Shriners Hospital.
- September 16, 1922: First patient seen in downtown physician’s office.
- April 1923: Dedication of first Shriners Hospital.
- September 1, 1981: Richard McCall, M.D., begins 30-year tenure as Shreveport chief of staff.
- September 19, 1982: Groundbreaking for new hospital and 60th anniversary.
- 1983-1986: Construction of new Shreveport hospital (Shreveport hospital temporarily relocates to nearby Doctor’s Hospital in Shreveport).
- April 14, 1986: New Shreveport hospital dedicated.
- 1995: Motion analysis program begins at Shreveport hospital.
- 1995: Shreveport hospital initiates outreach clinic in Panama City, Republic of Panama; annual weeklong clinic continues for decades thereafter.
- 2005: Shreveport becomes first hospital in Louisiana to offer VEPTR titanium rib implants.
- May 11, 2006: ‘Editorial Without Words’ statue unveiled at Shreveport hospital.
- September 15, 2006: 50,000th patient recognized at Shreveport hospital.
- 2007-2008: Major additions/renovations to Shreveport outpatient clinic.
- September 16, 2008: Louisiana state historical marker unveiled for Shreveport as part of 86th anniversary observance.
- 2012: Shreveport hospital adds cleft lip and palate as first new service line since 1922.
- 2012: Philip E. Gates, M.D., named chief of staff.
- June 2013: First ‘Spinability Camp’ offered for children with spina bifida.
- 2014: Shreveport facility begins offering care for fractures and orthopedic injuries.
- 2014: John Fox, M.D., named chief of staff.
- September 16, 2015: "Timmy’s Playroom" (Tim Tebow Foundation) unveiled; first in Shriners Children's system, first in Louisiana.
- 2018: Cary Mielke, M.D., named chief of staff (previously served at Shriners Children's Twin Cities).
- 2018: Shreveport facility begins offering conservative management of scoliosis based on Schroth-Barcelona methodology.
- December 2018: Shreveport facility begins utilizing EOS low-dose imaging technology to reduce patient exposure to radiation during X-ray procedures.
- January 2022: Shreveport facility embarks upon a yearlong 100th anniversary celebration in cooperation with sister Shriners Children’s facilities.
- April 4, 2022: Ribbon-cutting for the Francis H. Disiere playground, a newly-upgraded adaptive play area for patients and families.
- May 12, 2022: 100th anniversary of the laying of the hospital’s cornerstone; commemorated with special cornerstone centennial observance.
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