Building Blocks

A look back at medical center construction


CONSTRUCTION CRANES are a ubiquitous fixture of the Washington University Medical Center skyline, towering over its many buildings. Anyone traveling Highway 40-US 64 through the heart of St. Louis sees these steel skeletons—symbols of the university’s ongoing commitment to leadership in medical education, research and patient care. The recent announcement of the BioMed 21 initiative heralds blueprints and buildings still to come.

Washington University Medical Center

Construction at the new Kingshighway campus, circa 1913, required a lot of muscle power—human and mule. The large building in the background is St. John’s Hospital.

Construction of the McDonnell Medical Sciences Building in the late 1960s, the product of a $4 million gift from the James S. McDonnell family in 1966, was called “the most significant advance made by the Washington University School of Medicine since it was moved to its present location in 1915.”

An aerial photo of the medical center in 1952 shows construction of Wohl Hospital and Kingshighway Boulevard as it looked before the Highway 40-US 64 interchange was built.

What a difference 50 years makes: Covering 230 acres, Washington University Medical Center today is vast and dense. Its institutions include the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center, Barnes-Jewish Hospital, Central Institute for the Deaf, St. Louis Children’s Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine.

The Bernard Becker Medical Library, under construction in 1988, transformed the front entrance of the Cancer Research Building into an interior wall of the new facility’s seven-story atrium.