In 1891, Daniel Hale Williams, a well-known black surgeon and graduate of Chicago Medical College, organized Provident Hospital and Training School for Nurses at 29th and Dearborn in the Douglas Community Area on Chicago’s near south side. His aim was to provide this community with an institution of medical care in which African Americans would be welcome as patients and professionals. Williams attracted national attention in 1893 when he sewed up the lining of a human heart following a stab wound—an operation that had previously been considered impossible. In 1933 the hospital moved to 432 East 51st Street.
Situated in relatively poor communities for the 96 years of its independent existence, Provident was a private institution relying partly on patient fees for income. Since many patients were unable to pay the cost of services, the hospital also depended on welfare reimbursements and charity, both of which proved inadequate. Paradoxically, civil rights legislation in the 1960s further reduced Provident’s income, by enabling black patients to patronize other hospitals.
Provident Hospital was scheduled to close when in the 1970s a federal loan enabled the construction of a new facility, completed in 1981. Quickly falling into arrears, however, the hospital shut its doors in 1987. Cook County bought the building and opened it as a satellite medical facility in 1993.