The Community Hospital offered primary care/surgery for Evanston’s African American community. Beyond supplying medical care, the hospitals provided training for both nurses and doctors, contributing to the development of the African American professional class in the first half of the twentieth century.
After 1910, hospitals in Evanston would not admit African American patients except in cases of extreme emergencies. To meet the need of the growing African American population in Evanston (5% in 1910 and 7% in 1920), Garnett and Butler turned their house on Asbury Avenue into a 14-bed hospital with Butler performing surgery and Garnett administering general practice. In 1930, a leading African American physician named Dr. Rudolph Penn leased his house on Brown Avenue as an interim location for the Community Hospital. It had 18 beds, boasted two operating rooms and an x-ray department. In 1931, Dr. Elizabeth Webb Hill arrived and in 1939 founded the Women’s Auxiliary, putting the hospital on firmer financial footing. By 1945, Hill was chief of staff and a member of the Board of Directors. She used her position to launch a campaign for a new hospital, which opened in 1952. The timing of the campaign coincided with the emerging civil rights movement, and the proposal for a new, segregated hospital generated opposition from the local NAACP. Hill prevailed, arguing that sick African American patients could not wait for desegregation and she agreed to make the Evanston Community Hospital an interracial facility.
Community Hospital offered medical care (primary and surgery) to Evanston’s African American community when neither Evanston Hospital nor St. Francis Hospital served African American patients. This became particularly important after the First Great Migration (1910-1925), when Evanston’s African American population nearly doubled in size.