In the late 1910s, the budding community of Auburn was just starting to come into its own. Located roughly midway between the urban cities of Seattle and Tacoma, this quiet town used to boast wide-open fields of apple orchards and fertile farmland.
Then, in 1913, the Northern Pacific Railway opened its Auburn Yard, replete with a repair and freight transfer facility. The addition quickly doubled the population of the town, and the Auburn Yard soon became the third-busiest Northern Pacific facility in the country.
Within a span of three short years, Auburn went from a tight-knit agricultural community to a bustling center for industrial railroad culture that holds true today.
Two enterprising physicians recognized a need for health care in the area and partnered to build a progressive healthcare system that has serviced the people of South King County for generations.
Auburn’s first ‘lying in’ care
From about 1915 to 1918, Doctors Owen Taylor of Kent and Martin Lacey of Auburn partnered to open the first Taylor-Lacey Hospital in what is known as the Oscar Blomeen House.
This was a private residence, which still stands today, had been converted to a hospital while Mr. Blomeen was away fighting in World War I. At the time, the hospital was one of the only “lying in” facilities available in the area. Most patient care during that time was done with house calls. Today, we’d call it “inpatient care.” They treated patients during the years of the Spanish Flu; the global pandemic made the community realize they needed modern medical facilities.
However, in June 1918, Dr. Lacey was called into service and was assigned to active duty in the U.S. Army’s Medical Reserve Corps. He was a first lieutenant in the 48th Coast Artillery, serving in France during the final days of World War I.
Great War brings Great Change
Germany surrendered November 1918. All nations agreed to cease fighting while peace terms were negotiated. After the Great War, America – Auburn included – was on the cusp of great change.
As we stepped into the Roaring 1920s, the country was rich. It was an era of Jazz, Charlie Chaplin and Prohibition. Families had more money to spend but less room in their homes to care for the sick. We saw advances in medical technology, more stringent licensing criteria, and a growing acceptance of medicine as a science. Nationwide, this led to an understanding that hospitals are modern scientific institutions that promoted antiseptics and cleanliness, and that led to better health outcomes.
In Auburn, the railroad was busier than ever, and the population was booming. Lacey, just back from the war, and Taylor were ready to build their dreams.
In July 1920, the two awarded a $50,000 contract to construct a modern three-story fireproof building. Located on Second Street Northeast, the new hospital was made of concrete. The first floor featured the physicians’ private offices, administrative offices, reception hall and waiting parlors, as well as surgical equipment and operating rooms. The rear held the dining room, kitchen, laundry and heating plant. The upper floors were used exclusively for patients and nurses. The second floor for men, the third for women. Each floor had 20 rooms, wards, and a broad sun porch opening on the south side.
Founders and Changing of the Guard
The new modern Taylor-Lacey Hospital opened March 3, 1921. The 46-bed hospital had state-of-the-art technologies for its time, including a separate operating room, a nursery, and a senior staff of eight nurses and two doctors. They also had the area’s first emergency ambulance.
The two physicians worked well together until 1929, when Lacey sold his interest to Taylor. Dr. Irvin Finkenstein, a surgeon, joined Taylor in the direction and operations of the hospital. The facility was renamed the Owen Taylor Hospital.
Taylor’s son, Dr. John Owen Taylor, came to work with his father at the hospital at about 1936.
On October 4, 1938, Dr. Owen Taylor died in his home in Kent after a long illness.
Some accounts say that Dr. Lacey and his family moved to Berkeley, California, where Martin practiced medicine until he retired. He died in 1959. He is buried alongside his family in Auburn.
Name Changes and Upgrades
In about 1935, the hospital again changed hands, likely to Doctors Irvin Finkenstein and Thomas G. Sutherland. The name of the hospital changed to Suburban Hospital.
A decade later, in 1945, three individuals purchased the hospital. One of them, Miss Zella Denny, RN, eventually became the sole owner and operated the hospital until 1956, when it was sold to the Stewards Foundation, a nonprofit voluntary Christian organization. It operated under the Auburn General Hospital Association.
By then, Auburn General was staffed by 13 local doctors, had the services of several consulting specialists from Seattle and had acquired a new nursery and maternity ward. New X-ray and pathology laboratories were added, and an elevator was installed as a convenience to the patients who previously had been carried up and down stairs on stretchers. At that time, the hospital was the only building in Auburn with an elevator. Auburn General was recognized as one of the finest hospitals of its size in the Northwest.
The Stewards Foundation, a nonprofit voluntary Christian organization, purchased Auburn General in 1956 and operated the hospital for 25 years. The organization invested in a number of upgrades. The hospital's original 46 beds were increased to 66 with a west wing addition in 1964, when a new obstetrical department, newborn nursery and radiological services were provided.
Additions to a south wing in 1969 provided a new surgical department, newborn nursery and emergency services. Early in 1973 a new three-bed intensive care open and the bed capacity was increased to 90.
A $3.2 million improvement program began in 1975 to replace the 90 beds in a new, efficient and more economical building, which more than doubled the space and added 30 new beds for a total of 120.
50 years and Counting
In 1971, the Auburn Globe-News celebrated the hospital’s 50 years of service. Then, Auburn General Hospital was a modern 94-bed institution. A dinner was held to honor the 10-year employees and to honor the volunteer workers.
Auburn Regional Medical Center was purchased in 1982 by a subsidiary of Universal Health Services, Inc, a large health care management company. Construction began on a two-story diagnostic services addition with an additional 29 beds. The diagnostic center provided new and more efficient space for radiology, nuclear medicine, ultrasound, laboratory, MRI, mammography and cardiopulmonary services and included a cardiac catheterization unit, which was completed in the spring of 1983.
An expansion and renovation of the obstetrical department was launched toward the end of 1988. A new emergency services department was completed in 1992.
In October 2002, Auburn Regional added a 107,300 square-foot, four- story patient tower on the corner of North Division and First Street in Auburn, at the approximate cost of $16 million. This addition includes inpatient and outpatient surgery centers, a new Family Birth Center, 51 new medical surgical beds, an expanded Emergency Services Department and a larger more convenient admitting area.
In 2010, Auburn Regional opened a new Medical Office Building that houses a number of other specialty services including our Sleep Disorders Center. This is located directly across the street from the hospital's main entrance on Division Street. Next to the new building, a parking garage will increase accessible parking for patients and visitors.
MultiCare: Back to Community Care
In 2012 Tacoma-based MultiCare Health System purchased Auburn Regional Medical Center from Universal Health Services. The newly named MultiCare Auburn Medical Center became the fifth hospital in the not-for-profit MultiCare’s integrated health system and added inpatient services to MultiCare’s already robust health care service offerings in South King County, which includes primary, specialty and urgent care, as well as emergency services.
MultiCare has had a presence in South King County since the early 1990s, when we opened outpatient medical centers, urgent care and physician offices in the areas of Auburn, Covington and Kent.
Since MultiCare began operating the Auburn hospital, we have invested more than $220 million to improve the hospital.
In 2017, we expanded the Emergency Department, and upgraded the inpatient pharmacy. We built a new central utility plant to support future growth, plus it’s more energy efficient, more reliable and is better for the environment when compared to the old system.
We opened our state-of-the-art cardiac catheterization lab in early 2020; the only one of its kind of the West Coast.
Looking ahead, we’re near the final stages of getting approval to expand our bed capacity under our existing license; a project that will also support growth in our surgery capacity.
Pioneering physicians Owen Taylor and Martin Lacey laid the foundations for quality healthcare to serve residents in Auburn and surrounding communities in South King County. Who were these gentlemen?