Solandt Memorial Hospital in Hayden opened in 1923 as the first modern hospital in northwest Colorado. It operated as a hospital for more than forty years—for much of that time as the only accredited hospital in the region—before closing in the 1960s because it had no doctor. Since 1970 the hospital has served as offices for doctors and other health professionals, and in 2011 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Building a Hospital for Hayden
In the 1890s, Hayden developed as a ranching hub in the Yampa River valley, between Craig and Steamboat Springs. The town soon had a hotel, a saloon, a school, and several stores, and its population grew to about 400 by the early 1910s. During these years, Hayden and the surrounding farms and ranches were served by a single doctor—John V. Solandt—who paid house calls within twenty miles of town and performed veterinary work as needed. When Solandt died in a car accident in 1916, the town was left without a doctor for several years. Residents had to rely on either the local pharmacist for medical advice or travel miles to the nearest doctor.
Soon Solandt’s friends decided to honor him and help the community by establishing a hospital in his memory. In August 1919, the town held a meeting to figure out how to fund the hospital. Residents created a Hospital Association Board and sold stock to people throughout the area. Donations of land and labor also helped the hospital take shape. J. W. Hugus and Company donated land for the building on Walker Hill just south of town. Local contractors offered to work at cheaper rates and various fraternal organizations, such as the Lion’s Club, paid to furnish a room in exchange for being recognized on a plaque on the door.
Even with community support, it took more than three years to raise enough money to build the hospital. To design the building, the hospital board hired Wilbur Hitchcock, an architect best known for his work on the University of Wyoming campus in Laramie. Hitchcock’s plan for the hospital focused on functionality. The two-story building had a blond brick exterior featuring drive-up entrances to allow patients to be delivered right to the door. Inside, Hitchock used the new block plan—featuring private or semiprivate rooms to reduce the spread of contagious diseases—rather than the older style of large pavilions with lots of beds. The hospital contained sixteen patient beds, two sun parlors, an operating room, an X-ray room, a maternity room, and a nursery. The basement contained the kitchen and dining room, storage space, and a housekeeper’s apartment.
From Hospital to Medical Offices
The hospital opened on April 1, 1923. For much of the next two decades, it was the only accredited hospital in northwest Colorado. Its first patient was a twelve-year-old boy who had broken his collarbone and several ribs in a sledding accident. The hospital treated 105 patients in its first year, 131 in its second, and 162 in its third. In those early years, patients were charged $25 per week for a private room, board, and nursing care.
The hospital faced financial problems from the start because its final cost of $35,000 was nearly twice what had been anticipated. It took the hospital twenty-seven years to pay off that initial debt. The hospital survived because of the strong support it received from the Hayden community. Starting in 1923, the annual Hospital Ball raised much-needed money for the hospital and served as one of northwest Colorado’s biggest social events.
In 1960 the hospital’s fund-raising difficulties were somewhat alleviated when the creation of the Solandt Memorial Hospital District provided it with taxpayer support. But even with a steady stream of income, the hospital had trouble keeping a doctor. In 1964 it closed because there was no doctor. It reopened in 1966 but closed again in 1967 due to the lack of a doctor. It never again served as a full-time hospital.
In 1970 the hospital board revived the building and restored Hayden’s medical options by leasing the building as medical offices. The first doctors to take offices in the old hospital came from Steamboat Springs a few days a week. Since then, the building has continued to house a variety of medical professionals, health and fitness classes, and other businesses.
Despite ongoing community support, the hospital building was falling into disrepair by the early 2000s. The Solandt Memorial Hospital District sought external funding to pay for repairs and secured significant labor donations from local contractors. Since 2007, the hospital has received four State Historical Fund grants worth a total of more than $220,000, which have helped fund the building’s restoration and rehabilitation. Additional funding has come from the Babson Carpenter Foundation, the Gates Family Foundation, and the Routt County Museum and Heritage Fund Advisory Board. Work has included stabilizing the building’s northwest wall, refinishing the original wood floors, and converting the former X-ray room into a conference room.
In 2011 Solandt Memorial Hospital was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the community revived the traditional Hospital Ball as a fund-raiser and social event. Today the building remains the only medical facility in Hayden, and its doctors and specialists serve more than 5,000 people per year.