Letter from James Myles
While driving past the old Provident Hospital building at 436 East 51st Street before its demolition, my visual perception of what was left of the edifice caused my heart to lament over the history that took place in that structure until it was replaced with the new building in the late 1970s.
It was an emotional experience for me, and my mind traveled back to my childhood when I was taken to Provident Hospital for medical attention. I recall a caring staff of nurses and doctors who made me proud because they looked like me. Three of my four children were born at Provident, and the Hospital always occupied a very important place in our family history. So, coming to terms with the reality that the “old” Provident Hospital was coming down was not an easy pill for me to swallow.
The Chicago Lying- In Hospital once occupied the seven-story building. The maternity ward where my children and so many Chicago African Americans were born was on the 5th floor. The clinics that my mother took me to were housed in an adjoining four-story building. Far more important than the great space was the majestic Provident staff of doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers. Provident had by 1939, ninety doctors on staff, thirty nurses and forty-five nursing students. Serving African Americans and others in need of healthcare, Provident Hospital provided services at a time when most hospitals in Chicago would not treat African Americans. The late Betty Gross, a head nurse at Provident’s pediatrics department in 1948 summed it up this way, “Working at Provident was a privilege. It was our hospital.”
Yes, it was ours. Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, Emma Reynolds and many others were the trailblazers, who paved the way for many giants in the medical field, Dr. Leonidas Berry, Dr. John Coleman, Dr. Walter Johnson, Dr. Clyde Reynolds, and Dr. Robert Stepto to name a few. Reviewing the history of Provident Hospital made my heart feel better.
The mission of the Provident Foundation is to do just that—to continue to passionately ensure the future health of our community. Yes, the building that opened its doors fully to the African American community is gone but as the wrecking ball struck its final blows, the legacy of the historical Provident Hospital and Training School lives on!
Co-Founder the late James W. Myles (1937-2012)
Provident Foundation President