Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital (SPMH) has a long, proud history of serving the people of the Texas Hill Country. This tradition of service can be traced directly to founders whose vision was influenced by their remarkable father Sid Peterson, a successful businessman who knew the virtue of hard work and honesty.
Sid Peterson came to Kerrville with his parents in 1882 when he was only 14, he knew at that young age he was cut out to be a rancher. He broke horses for the Schreiner Ranch, drove cattle on the Chisolm Trail and cleared land for the railroad. He became one of the legendary pioneer ranchers in the Texas Hill Country, acquiring thousands of acres of ranch land in Kerr and surrounding counties.
Sid Peterson had three sons, Joe Sid, Hal and Charlie. They grew up helping their father on his ranches and later became involved in a variety of successful businesses, including ranching, real estate, an automobile agency and a small intrastate bus operation called the Kerrville Bus Company.
Sid and his three sons also had heart conditions. As a result, the family knew first-hand the immense difficulty of traveling 60 miles to San Antonio or 250 miles to Houston to get anything more than the most rudimentary medical attention. In 1939, Sid Peterson died in a San Antonio hospital. His sons, Hal and Charlie vowed that their friends and neighbors in Kerrville, and the surrounding areas would have a modern, fully equipped hospital of their own.
In 1944, the two sons established the Hal and Charlie Peterson Foundation. Over time, they contributed close to $5 million dollars to the endowment, which was intended to support the construction and on-going operation of a hospital in Kerrville as a memorial to their father. Hospital construction began in 1947 on the corner of Sidney Baker and Water Street in the heart of downtown Kerrville. On July 3, 1949, the Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital opened its doors, serving as a fitting legacy for a man with a deep and abiding affection for his fellow man.
Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital Opens - July 1949
From the beginning, Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital (SPMH) was a unique facility. Unlike many hospitals in Texas at the time, the hospital was built solely through the foundation’s private funds and donations. No tax was ever imposed on the residents of the Hill Country to support the construction or operation of the hospital.
Operating a hospital was an expensive business, even in 1949. The Peterson brothers believed the new 55-bed hospital needed an additional source of income other than from its patients. To that end, they installed an 11-pump gasoline station under a canopy on one corner of the property’s ground floor, and they rented space on three of the original six floors of the building to commercial businesses. Tenants included the Kerrville Bus Company, doctors on the hospital’s medical staff, a beauty parlor, an attorney and a Good Year tire and appliance store. The intent of the retail activity was to provide a built-in hedge against deficits in hospital operations. This innovative concept fascinated the media and drew attention from all over the United States, including a national article in Time magazine.
In addition to the unusual combination of retail and medical services, the hospital was noted for other innovations. At the time of construction, white was the predominant color for hospital patient rooms and equipment. E.E. Martin, the hospital's first administrator, believed that recovering patients would find soft colors more restful and appealing. He chose a color palette of muted terra cotta, silver mist, dove gray and pale green. The hospital also had three suites that were tastefully decorated with a western theme and wood furniture. Mr. Martin also supervised the constructiom, selected and purchased the equipment and hired all the staff.
Innovations didn't stop with the hospital's retail space or color pallete. SPMH also was the first hospital in the country to have a nurse call system set up as an intercom, so patients and nurses could converse. In addition, there was a roof garden with vistas of the Guadalupe River and the hill beyond. Besides being a lovely spot for patients to enjoy the sunshine, the roof garden served as the site for community dances.
It was also the first hospital to have central air conditioning. At the time, it was very difficult finding a contractor who was even willing to bid on A/C for an 88,000 square foot hospital.
The air conditioning was enjoyed by more than hospital patients, too. The first-floor service station had large hoses from the air conditioning system that were suspended from the roof. As folks had their cars filled with gas, attendants inserted one of the hoses into the car window to cool off the vehicle.
"There are larger hospitals, of course, but there is no finer one in any other Texas city," stated Hal Peterson, in a Houston Chronicle article on June 18, 1950. He added, "That’s not bragging. It’s just stating facts." This positive, progressive attitude has been a sustaining force at SPMH, and has resulted in a health care center with equipment and services that far exceed those expected in a facility its size in a rural Texas community.
Growth and Expansion
In 1963, the gas station was displaced in order to make room for expanded x-ray, laboratory and other ancillary services. In 1964, a $1 million construction project expanded the 6th floor nursing unit and added the 7th floor. When the hospital celebrated its 20th anniversary in 1969, bed capacity had increased to 86.
Construction began again in 1978, on a seven-story professional building adjacent to the hospital to house offices for the hospital’s growing medical staff. When Mr. Guy Griggs, one of the talented men who had managed the hospital since its beginning, died suddenly in November of 1980, the buildings name became the Guy Griggs Professional Building. This tribute was made to memorialize Mr. Griggs' 31-year dedication to the development and operation of the hospital, as well as to other Peterson Foundation interests.
In 1985, the L. D. Brinkman Surgical Annex opened, providing expanded surgical services and increasing total patient beds to 148. This was the first project completed in a long-range, $6 million expansion plan, half of which was supported by the Peterson Foundation with the other half contributed by the community.
In 1986, a state-of-the-art ICU/CCU was completed, along with a Women’s Health Center. In 1987, a four-story parking complex opened across the street from the hospital. The final phase of the expansion plan was completed in 1988, with the opening of a Special Procedures Unit designed for outpatient surgeries and specialized diagnostic and therapeutic treatments.
On January 1, 1990, Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital separated from the Hal and Charlie Peterson Foundation, with each organization forming its own board of trustees. Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital became an independent, non-profit, 148-bed community hospital supported solely through patient revenues and private donations.
Peterson Regional Health Care Center
The hospital took another progressive step forward when it became part of the newly organized parent company called Peterson Regional Medical Center in 1991. This new name was selected to communicate the comprehensive range of medical services provided by the health care complex, as well as a commitment to the areas communities and counties surrounding Kerrville. The Peterson Regional Health Care Center was anchored by Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital and included the Guy Griggs Professional Building, The Rehabilitation Unit and the Town House Residential Center. Off campus the hospital developed Peterson Home Care, at 1420 Water Street, and Peterson Hospice, at 1121 Broadway. The Peterson Hospice Thrift Shop, also located at 1121 Broadway, raises funds to support patient care services for Hospice. Another off campus site - Peterson Diagnostic Services, at 320 West Water Street in the Fine Medical Center was created to provide more easily accessible outpatient laboratory and EKG services.
Best in the West
In 1993, Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital once again received national recognition when it was designated as one of the top 10 hospitals in the western United States in a federal study based on Medicare data. The study put SPMH in the company of such famous facilities as Houston’s M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles.
The hospital continued to grow and embarked on another major construction and renovation project included the construction of a new emergency department and renovation of the hospital’s first floor and exterior.
In 1997 the hospital embarked on another major construction and renovation project. This $9 million project included the construction of an expanded emergency department and renovation of the hospital's first floor and exterior, and was completed in February 2000.
Off-Campus Land Purchased, Ambulatory Care Center Developed
In the summer of 1997, the hospital's board of directors approved the purchase of a 35-acre plot of land bordered by Cully Street and Hill Country Drive and about a mile from the hospital's main campus. This land was purchased to allow for the future expansion of hospital and health care services, should the existing downtown campus prove inadequate.
A year later the hospital broke ground for an outpatient services center on the 35-acre site. In June 2000, the Peterson Regional Ambulatory Care Center opened its 52,000 square foot facility providing outpatient imaging, laboratory, rehabilitation, infusion therapy and same-day surgical services.
Keeping in touch with community needs has been important to the hospital since its beginning. Services and buildings have expanded to meet the demands of the thriving Hill Country communities surrounding the medical center. The hospital’s primary service area consists of Kerr, Kimble, Bandera and Real Counties, with a secondary service area including Gillespie and Kendall counties.
In July 2002, an $800,000 Acute Rehabilitation Unit opened. Located on the 7th floor of the main campus, The Rehabilitation Unit at SPMH was the first inpatient rehabilitation care facility created to serve the residents of the Hill Country. Up to that time, physicians had to refer their patients needing inpatient rehab care to San Antonio or Austin facilities. An exceptional medical director specializing in rehabilitation medicine heads a team of rehab experts who work with appropriately qualified patients-typically those diagnosed with stroke, paralysis, arthritis, amputation, complex hip or knee fracture, multiple trauma and/or neurological disorders.
On June 17, 2004 SPMH took a giant step forward in planning for the future healthcare needs of the communities served when the administration and board announced plans to build a new hospital. The cost of the new facility came to $75 million, $60 million of which would be secured through bond sales and $15 million in private donations.
In 2005 it was announced that the new hospital would officially take on the name Peterson Regional Medical Center. The name modification paid tribute to the Peterson legacy of service while more accurately reflecting the new medical center’s role as the premier healthcare facility in the Hill Country. The 2005 ground breaking for the new facility initiated the largest construction projects in Kerrville history.
April 2008 brought grand opening ceremonies and an open house for the new Peterson Regional Medical Center. More than 3,000 friends and neighbors from across the Hill Country attended and toured their new medical center.