Wheatley-Provident Hospital played an important role in the history of healthcare in Kansas City. It was the first and only private hospital in the city dedicated to treating Black patients. It was also the only hospital owned and operated by an all-Black board of directors and administrators and staffed entirely by all-Black physicians and nurses. When white institutions, public and private hospitals alike, failed to meet the needs of the Black community, leaders emerged to directly address these inequities.
In 1903, Dr. John Edward Perry founded a medical treatment facility for Black patients and the training center for Black nurses and doctors that eventually became Wheatley-Provident Hospital. The hospital opened in 1918 on the western edge of the city’s predominantly Black neighborhood in a former Catholic Boys’ school. Local fundraising efforts financed the construction of a dedicated Children’s Wing in 1926. Dedicated staff and medical professionals strove to provide the best possible care for the Black community, despite consistent underfunding. By 1936, Wheatley-Provident Hospital was one of 122 hospitals in the nation owned and operated by African Americans, and one of only sixteen such hospitals in the nation to receive an “A class” rating by the American College of Surgeons. Wheatly-Provident Hospital operated at 1826 Forest Avenue until 1972 when the services moved to a new building and the old building closed. Aside from intermittent use as a nightclub or a “haunted house,” the building has remained vacant for nearly fifty years.