We often talk about the pace of growth, physical and otherwise, here at CU Anschutz. To have built a health care campus of our depth and breadth in less than 20 years is nothing short of remarkable. With six outstanding schools and colleges, two world-class hospitals, and a robust campus-community partnership, our impact on the health and economy of Colorado -- and the community of Aurora -- is substantial.
We spend less time discussing what preceded us here. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the opening of the first hospital on these grounds: Army Hospital 21, built to treat casualties and tuberculosis patients from World War I. It was renamed Fitzsimons Army Hospital in 1920 in honor of Lt. William T. Fitzsimons, the first American medical officer killed in World War I. From its founding in 1918 through its closure in 1996, the Fitzsimons Army Medical Center treated returning casualties from both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf War. It was also an integral part of the Aurora community.
The centerpiece of the base, Building 500, opened in 1941, four days before the attack on Pearl Harbor. At the time, it was reportedly the largest structure in Colorado and the largest hospital ever built by the Army. Known on the base as Building 500 because it was 500 feet from the center of campus, it was called Fitzsimons Hospital by local residents. Thousands of Coloradans were born or treated in the building, and many continue to have an emotional tie to it. It’s on the National Historic Register, and the eighth floor Eisenhower Suite commemorates the site of President Dwight D. Eisenhower's seven-week stay as he recovered from a heart attack in 1955.
To honor the history of this campus, and particularly our relationship with the Aurora community, the CU Board of Regents has voted unanimously to rename Building 500. In a ceremony yesterday evening, we celebrated the newly renamed Fitzsimons Building and unveiled a new sign in front of the building.
The Fitzsimons Building name will be a constant reminder not only of the namesake of our medical base history, but of our responsibility to be good stewards of this land and its important legacy to the Aurora community and the nation.
Donald M. Elliman, Jr.