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A single-family home formerly known as Worthington General Hospital is shown along 11th Street. Gordy Moore/Daily Globe

Former Kilbride Clinic rehabilitated

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WORTHINGTON — An important piece of Worthington’s medical history is now safe in the hands of a private owner.

From 1926 onward, the esteemed Dr. E.A. Kilbride treated Worthingtonians in an imposing Italianate structure at 701 11th St., across from the present-day Sanford Worthington Medical Center. In first decades of Kilbride’s work in Worthington, the facility was referred to as the Worthington General Hospital (WGH).

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Initially, Kilbride practiced with Dr. C. P. Dolan, another revered Worthington doctor, until Dolan’s death in 1937. His father, Dr. J.S. Kilbride, joined him in practice in 1937 until his death in 1950.

When the new Worthington Municipal Hospital was constructed in 1951, there happened to be no patients at the WGH. With no transfers to the new city hospital necessary, Dr. Kilbride’s hospital ceased its function.

The younger Kilbride’s remarkably long medical career continued through 1976, as the WGH became the Kilbride Clinic after ending its function as a hospital.

In more recent times, Southwest Mental Health used the building as a treatment facility and offices, but the organization moved to new facilities a few years ago, and the former clinic building became surplus property. After standing vacant and forlorn for a couple years, the prominent edifice that had been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1977 was facing imminent demolition.

At this point, an interested group of Worthington men stepped in and ensured the future of a critical part of Worthington’s medical history. Longtime historical advocate and Worthington businessman Mike Woll explained the origin of the extensive renovation project.

“As a group, we were meeting for another purpose, and the idea (of buying the house) got bantered around for something to do with our nights and weekends,” Woll said. “We took it on as a project in part to make money, and in part to save the house.”

Woll — along with partners Jeff Rogers, Bryan Hagen, Joe Vander Kooi, Jeff Williamson and Jorge Lopez — formed a Limited Liability Company (LLC), which they named BTLA, LLC.

“We called it Big Talk, Little Action — we talked a little bit, and the big talk did lead to a little action,” Woll said.

When the handy group took possession of the early 20th century property, it was worn down from over a half-century of continual use. Rooms had been subdivided and gutted as uses changed, ceilings lowered and carpet tacked over the original hardwood flooring.

“They had bids to tear it down,” Woll said. “I was told by a local appraiser that it was appraised at a negative value.”

“The basement windows were blocked off, and we pulled the original cast iron wood-burning boiler out of there,” Lopez added.

The eventual renewal of the house to a pleasant, single-family home was made possible in large part by a special grant.

“We applied for a grant through the Worthington Rediscovered Program, which helps to stem blight and the domino effect that can occur from dilapidated properties,” Woll explained. “It’s usually used from demolition and a rebuild, but we pitched it to the committee and later the City Council that it was a virtual teardown, as a dollar property.

“The $7,000 grant we received from the city allowed us to bring back a historic home to north of $100,000 value, and put it back on the tax rolls.”

Once started, progress was slow, as it was a “nights and weekends” project.

“We were fortunate to have several skilled guys working on it,” Woll said.

“It took about twice as long as we anticipated — about nine months,” Lopez added. “Structurally, the home was very solid, and we really wanted to recondition it to be a nice single-family home.”

During the renovation, the men refinished hardwood floors in two front rooms on the first story, restored and replaced the original radiators, removed drop ceilings and knocked out false walls that had been erected to create smaller doorways.

“When we acquired it, it looked and smelled like a vacant house,” Woll said. “There was a collapsed ceiling upstairs, with a bird living in there, and signs of bats.”

In terms of historical accuracy amidst the renovations, Lopez pointed out that the project was not a full restoration.

“We didn’t try to go to the original condition, as we didn’t know what that was,” Lopez said. “We tried to make it livable, and I think we did a good job.”

“We took pride in how it turned out,” Woll added.

Indeed, the Kilbride House — which is how the Kilbride descendants Woll has been in contact with refer to it — shines in its newest iteration. Original brass doorknobs still grace smartly painted, solid wood doors, and the original transom windows in the two front second-floor rooms have been refurbished. The house’s other windows are set extremely low in the wall, not much more than six inches from the floor, which required the installation of tempered glass windows for safety purposes.

The stately pillars that support the front door overhang were stabilized, with rot scoured away and wood replaced, and are now painted a tasteful color scheme to match the house and accompanying garage.

“We were able to save most of the original architectural features,” Woll said. “The family was very pleased to hear that it was going to be brought back to life, so to speak. We have sent them pictures since the renovation, and have had great conversation about how it turned out.”

The descendants and relatives have a keen interest in their family history and pride in Worthington, said Woll, and are planning to reach out to the new owners and share more history and memorabilia with them.

With the keys handed off to the new owners just over a week ago, Woll is grateful for the positive outcome of the initially risky project.

“It took a little elbow grease, a little vision and a lot of energy, and it really turned out well,” said Woll. “It was a great private-public sector way to help redevelop a property inexpensively.

“The City was extremely supportive, as was Brad Chapulis. We were able to give a tour to the City Council, as well.”

The future of the significant Kilbride House is secured, and in it, Woll sees another way to address Worthington’s housing issues.

“It’s so important, because it costs millions to build new infrastructure and keep building out instead of redeveloping properties in the city core,” Woll said.

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