Constructed along with the Medical Laboratories, the 900-bed General Hospital benefited from the interest of Abraham Flexner of the Rockefeller Foundation and William R. Boyd, a Cedar Rapids newspaper publisher and chair of the Finance Committee of the State of Iowa Board of Education. Their interventions produced the funding for this vast capital project, the largest in University history at that point. The 1915 and 1919 indigent care laws passed by the Iowa State Legislature had provided the impetus for the expansion. Those progressive acts of legislation mandated that the University provide health care for the entire state of Iowa, regardless of wealth—a responsibility that would have easily overwhelmed the hospital facilities then on Iowa Avenue (now Seashore Hall). Through collaboration, the state and private philanthropies not only solved questions of access and improved medical education, but also produced a new General Hospital to serve students, faculty, and the community. Upon its completion the General Hospital became one of the largest teaching hospitals in the country, a distinction that remains today.
It was predetermined that the new hospital would be designed in the Gothic style and that it would be, as recorded in early documents, “surmounted by a dome [tower], as a counterpoise to the dome in Old Capitol located directly east of it across the Iowa River.” General Hospital’s Collegiate Gothic Tower, designed by Amos B. Emery of Proud- foot, Rawson, Souers and Thomas, remains the best-known campus landmark—after Old Capitol—the institutional symbol of UIHC as a whole, and the image on its official seal (colorplate 5). The north façade marked the original monumental entrance to the building, while the east elevation was on axis with Old Capitol and easily visible from the Pentacrest’s west terrace. The prominence of its design not only established General Hospital as the center of the Gothic western campus, it also had important symbolic value. Just as the Pentacrest’s Classicism recalled the civic virtues and high culture of Athens and the Renaissance, the Medieval style of General Hospital recalled the monastic buildings that were the first hospitals. In 1973 plans were revealed for a new seven-story block (Boyd Tower) that, while com- promising a significant portion of the original Gothic entry façade, provided close-up views of the Gothic Tower base from within the new atrium. The skyline-forming Gothic Tower still hovers over the new additions and marks the hospital’s origin.
As the archival photograph shows, the original structure recalled the late fifteenth-century gate tower of Magdalen College in Oxford with powerful spur buttresses to either side of the entrance and a vertical shaft that culminated in an airy, openwork superstructure. A two-story bay window rose over the entrance portal and four pointed-arch lancet windows topped the parapet. Ascending even further, leafy pin- nacles capped the buttresses, and a blind gallery and horizontal band of tracery framed the lower limits of the tower’s lacy upper reaches. Thankfully, this last section can still be appreciated today.
The University of Iowa Health Care complex consists of a number of individual buildings which are all linked by accessible routes. Call (319) 356-2456 for information.