Before stock crash, 1929 marked new clinic building
Editor's note: This article is the second of a five-part series on Avera Worthington Medical Group history, which has been extensively researched by Avera's Dr. Greg Clark. The series is being published on consecutive Mondays.
WORTHINGTON -- Eight months before a colossal stock market crash that would plunge America into the Great Depression, Worthington was booming.
In February 1929, the finishing touches were being put on the new Worthington Clinic Hospital, a building that represented the next step forward for a group of doctors that had begun business together as a clinic in September 1920. Prior to that, a medical firm coordinated by B.O. Mork, M.D., and F.G. Watson, M.D., had purchased what what was known as the Humiston Hospital in 1918.
Those two, along with three other doctors, subsequently created the clinic, but by the winter of 1922 a decision had been made to expand the hospital facilities. Doubling of space would take place the following spring, but the need for more room would soon be a concern once again.
"During the winter of 1926-27 there was considerable talk of putting up a five- or six-story office building on the corner of 10th Street and Fourth Avenue," Mork wrote in a March 15, 1939, report to his son -- at that time a physician at the clinic himself -- and other clinic members after he had left Worthington and was residing in Santa Monica, Calif.
"The Clinic practically agreed to lease a floor of this structure, or perhaps the top two floors," Mork continued. "This proposition failed to materialize and our problem was no nearer the solution than formerly. We finally decided to buy the property adjoining the hospital known as the Fred Humiston house."
Mork noted in his historical report that the "old house was sold and moved off," and construction of a new office building begun in August 1928.
"The building was completed and ready for occupancy in February 1929," Mork wrote. "The cost of the building, with equipment, was approximately $32,000 and was financed by the sale of preferred stock (most of which was taken by members of the clinic), and by a loan of $8,000, for which a first mortgage was given."
Building's opening trumpeted
The Worthington Globe of Feb. 21, 1929, featured plenty of ink devoted to the new facility. The newspaper's reporting hailed the new building as a key addition to the community.
"The new office building of the Clinic Hospital. thrown open to the public Friday, is a material addition to the solid building equipment of the fine little city of Worthington," the newspaper stated. "This structure stands 40 or 50 feet to the south of the main building of the hospital, which has heretofore housed the offices. This change enables the management to place a total of 30 beds for hospital purposes."
The article continues with a description of the building's architecture, noting that the structure's dimensions are "40 x 62" with two stories, the lower story being about one third below the ground surface." Listed are the clinic staff -- Drs. B.O. Mork, J.T. Smallwood, C.R. Stanley, F.G. Watson and S.J. Watson -- as well as two dentists, Dr. G.C. Turner and James N. Casereto.
"On the first floor is a room where drugs are kept, as the physicians connected with the Clinic fill most of their own prescriptions," the Globe explained. "On this floor is also a room where an X-Ray machine of the latest type is to be installed very soon. ... There are several smaller apartments for the use of the violet ray, the ultra red and other modern appliances, also electrical machines.
"In the apartments on this floor minor operations are performed. ... On the first floor also is located a room of goodly proportions for a meeting place for the staff of physicians," the article adds. The second floor includes "several smaller apartments for special purposes, including a room for the bookkeeper, and a new telephone switchboard."
Also heralding the arrival of the new health care facility was the Nobles County Times of Feb. 21, 1929, which featured the headline, "New Clinic Office Building a Notable Medical Center." Reports the Times:
"Since the opening of the new clinic office building last Saturday, a photograph has been taken of the exterior of the building. ... Viewing the completed structure for the first time, a great many people of Worthington and vicinity learned with pleasure that the city is now equipped with a medical center of the first rank. An affair of which is excelled only in magnitude in places many times the size of this town."
From triumph to tragedy
While the opening of the new clinic building was cause for great celebration, difficult times were soon ahead, notes Mork in his report.
"We now thought ourselves very nicely taken care of as far as office space required. ... However, now began the period of depression," Mork writes. "During the next few months and years hard times came. Men lost their money, their crops and their stocks became almost without value, and our patients were unable to pay their bills."
The clinic also would also have to endure the death of four of its doctors -- three in Worthington, the other affiliated with the clinic but based in Fulda -- over a four-year period. Nevertheless, by 1938 there was more positive change in the realm of health care in the city.
Daily Globe Managing Editor Ryan McGaughey can be reached at