Okmulgee Man Is Working To Restore The Oldest Black Hospital In Oklahoma

Beverly Cantrell - March 3, 2022 10:47 pm

OKMULGEE, Oklahoma – 

An Okmulgee man is making it is his mission to restore a historic hospital. He said it’s the oldest Black hospital still standing in Oklahoma. He’s asking for help to preserve its rich history.

Nearly 100 years ago, if you were Black living in Okmulgee and needed a doctor, Leman Lewis said there was nowhere for you to get treatment.

“Black folks had no doctors they could go to, they had no hospitals that they could go to, they would kind of have to do home remedies if they had problems,” said Lewis.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Leman L. Lewis

In 1924, a group of Black people opened The Okmulgee Colored Hospital.

The hospital was staffed by Black nurses, doctors, and surgeons who used their skills to give back to their community. Leman said the hospital was a safe space.

“It was a necessity for the Black people,” said Lewis.

It was an active hospital until 1957 and integration.

After that, the building served the community in various capacities, which included: Grey’s Nursing Home, Smith’s Nursing Home, Deep Fork Community Action Foundation, Inc., American Red Cross, Okmulgee County Youth Services and Shelter, Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency Representatives, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Representatives.

All these years later, the building is empty, but Lewis said hopefully that isn’t the case for long.

Okmulgee Man Is Working To Restore The Oldest Black Hospital In Oklahoma

“Trying to bring it back to life,” said Lewis.

Lewis said even though this building will never be what it once was for the Black community, he has big plans for the historic building. He wants to make an impact in Okmulgee.

“To make it just as important to the community this time as it was then,” said Lewis.

With his nonprofit he founded, Landmark for all Generations, he’s working to restore the building for history and recreational uses. His goal is to have a multicultural center and a museum, to not only tell the story of the hospital, but the people who worked and lived in the hospital.

His team said they can’t do that without getting new windows for the building. They have to complete the renovation in phases.

They’re in phase two working on getting new windows and doors for the building, then they’ll move to the next phase, which is renovating the interior. They need the community’s help.

“Once we get that phase done, and the building is secure, then we can start on the main renovation of everything else, but we can’t do it until the building’s secure.”

Landmark for All Generations has been applying for grants, looking for financial aid and now they need your help purchasing windows. The vision for the restoration is to remain as historically accurate as possible. This means custom windows and doors that are replicas of those used in the original construction in 1922.

Each custom window is $2,100 installed. Lewis and Roberds said they’re looking forward to a project that could impact the lives of those who come visit Okmulgee.

Donations are greatly appreciated, but the organization is also seeking volunteers or anyone who has a story with the historic hospital.

If you’re interested in window sponsorship, you can click here.

To learn more about Leman Lewis, The Okmulgee Colored Hospital and Landmark for All Generations, click here.


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