Fifty years ago, Overlake Memorial Hospital opened the doors and began providing high-quality care and service to Eastside residents. Though our name has changed, the community has grown by leaps and bounds, and medicine has evolved greatly in the past five decades, one practice remains the same at Overlake: our commitment to providing patients with the finest care.
As we look back on 50 years of healing, we’re proud of how far we’ve come — from a 56-bed community hospital to the 337-bed nonprofit, world-class healthcare provider we are today.
Above: Overlake Memorial Hospital in 1960.
Below: A doctor and nurse tend to a patient in the hospital’s Emergency Room, 1960.
A Community Vision
In 1953, Eastside residents decided to build their own hospital. Community members formed auxiliaries, held bake sales and rummage sales, put on skits and talent shows and went door to door to raise the funds needed to turn their vision into reality.
“At the time, Bellevue was just a cow town,” recalled Charles Griffith, MD, Overlake’s first chief of medical staff, in a 1990 interview. “When we first started talking about building a hospital over here, all the physicians in Seattle thought we’d only be doing tonsillectomies. I told them we were going to have a great hospital.”
In 1960, after seven years of organizing fundraisers and holding meetings, community members succeeded in opening Overlake’s doors.
First Patient Arrives Ahead of Schedule
Overlake’s first patient arrived Sunday, October 16. The hospital wasn’t scheduled to open for several hours, but Rose Cziprian and her unborn baby simply couldn’t wait any longer. Rose’s contractions started Saturday afternoon, and she and husband, Julius, watched the clock anxiously. By Sunday morning, the couple knew there wasn’t enough time to drive across the bridge to a hospital in Seattle, so they called their doctor and arranged to meet him at the brand-new hospital.
The hospital was supposed to open at 3 p.m. that day, and even though the staff wasn’t quite ready, they admitted Rose immediately. Stewart Hilscher, MD, delivered Katherine Mary Cziprian at 11:04 a.m.
“While the large crowd gathered in front of the hospital [at the ribbon-cutting ceremony] was partying, we were in back having a baby,” recalled Martha Wilson, RN, obstetrics supervisor, in a 1977 interview. “We had to hustle to get the delivery room ready.”
“She was a beautiful baby,” remembered Ole Barker, RN, in a 1990 interview. “It was a wonderful way to open a new hospital.”
Not long after the hospital opened, it was clear that Bellevue and the surrounding areas were growing rapidly; Overlake needed to expand to keep up with the demand for services and to ease overcrowding. In the first decade alone, there were three additions and multiple remodels to the hospital, bringing the bed count to just over 100.
Growth has been a main theme in our history, and expansions have continued through the years on our main campus. The most recent addition was the 2007 opening of the five-story South Tower, which houses state-of-the art operating suites and our Emergency & Trauma Center, the only Level III trauma center on the Eastside.
We’ve also expanded beyond the hospital campus with the additions of Overlake Medical Clinics Issaquah and Overlake Medical Clinics Downtown Bellevue (opening this fall). These clinics allow us to better serve the medical needs of the community in places where people live and work.
Sophisticated Medical Care
By adding more services and specialties, Overlake has evolved from a small-town community hospital to a highly specialized medical center that provides comprehensive care.
Two primary factors fueled this transformation. First, medicine was advancing with breakthroughs in treatment and equipment. Second, during Overlake’s early years, the hospital administration encouraged doctors who were trained in the latest techniques to put their skills into practice and hone their specialties.
The result today is the most comprehensive range of acute care services on the Eastside, including cardiac care, cancer care, emergency and trauma services, general and specialty surgery, women’s and infants’ programs, behavioral health and services for seniors. Advances in medical imaging, surgery and cancer treatment in the past year drove new investments in computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) systems, acquisition of a state-of-the-art robotic surgical system, and adoption of new radiation therapies, all of which improve patient care and offer less invasive treatment options.
The Next 50 Years
Just as our founders had no way of knowing how Overlake would grow and evolve to meet the community’s needs, we have no way of knowing what the next 50 years will hold. But one thing is certain: Our commitment to providing patients with the highest-quality healthcare services will always be our primary focus.
A Look Back at 1960
The Way It Was
President of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower
What Things Cost
First-class stamp: $0.04
Pop Culture Highlights
Grammy Award for Record of the Year: