Mighty Blog

100 years of caring for kids

A collage of different photos from the last 100 years at Children's Minnesota

This house probably doesn’t look like a hospital to you. But it was the very first home of Children’s Minnesota. 

When caregivers welcomed the first patients here in 1924, they probably never imagined their “Children’s Hospital” would become “Children’s Minnesota,” one of the largest, most respected pediatric health systems in the nation, every year helping tens of thousands of kids thrive.   

In 2024, we’re celebrating our 100th birthday; celebrating the many people who have helped us help kids since 1924. But first, let’s take a moment to recall our roots and look ahead to our next century of delivering world-class care. 

an early 1900s house with a sign above the front door that says, "Children's Hospital Inc."

Our first hospital opened in 1924 at the corner of Smith Ave. and Walnut St., St. Paul.

Two young children sit at a small table filled with toys.

Our founders knew the importance of play, letting kids be kids, even during a hospital stay.

“A hospital to fit the child” 

In the early 1920s, not everyone agreed children needed their very own hospitals. Some thought they could just as well be treated in “children’s wards” inside adult hospitals.   

A pediatrician named Walter Ramsey knew better. After serving in World War I, he dreamed of building in St. Paul what he had helped create in France: “A hospital to fit the child instead of molding a child to fit the hospital.”  

Dr. Ramsey recognized children aren’t little versions of adults. They have unique needs and medical conditions. They require extra time, attention and care. Children need doctors and nurses who are specially trained to care for them. 

Building a hospital from the ground up would take time, so Dr. Ramsey used the home above as temporary quarters; a place to start caring for patients and to show the community the vital need for a hospital devoted to children.   

In 1928, Children’s Minnesota moved from its temporary location to a new, much larger, building at 311 Pleasant Ave, which still stands today. This hospital fulfilled Dr. Ramsey’s vision: “a model institution for the caretreatment and...study of all measures pertaining to the welfare of children.” Payment for service was graded from free to a maximum, according to ability to pay.”   

A large brick building sits on top of a hill. To the right are two1930s model cars.

Our second hospital, on Pleasant Ave. in St. Paul, opened in 1928.

Over the following decades, the number of our patients grew, and their needs evolved. By the 1970s, it was time to move to a larger, more modern hospital, which opened in 1979 on its current St. Paul site. 

Two images side by side. The first is an aerial view of a hospital campus in the 1970s. The second is the same campus, from ground level, taken in 2022.
Our St. Paul campus in the 1970s and today.

Meanwhile in Minneapolis, community members had been championing a pediatric hospital for decades. Their dream was finally realized in 1973, with the opening of Minneapolis Children’s Medical Center  

two images showing the Minneapolis campus building. The one on the left was taken in the 1970s and the one on the right taken in 2022.
Our Minneapolis campus in the 1970s and today.

In 1994, Minneapolis Children’s Medical Center and Children’s Hospital of St. Paul merged to become what we know today as Children’s Minnesota, the largest pediatric health care provider in the Upper Midwest. 

The next 100 

Our first hospital in 1924 had 16 beds. Today, Children’s Minnesota has more than 450 beds across two campuses. We care for more than 150,000 kids a year. Over the next century, the Kid Experts® at Children’s Minnesota will continue to evolve to meet kids’ needs with compassion and superior care.

A man stands and talks to a patient who is laying in a bed smiling.
a woman holds a premature baby

Patients and caregivers in our Minneapolis hospital.

An old black and white photo showing two women in white nursing uniforms hold and feed two babies.

Patients and nurses in our St. Paul hospital.

a present day photo of two providers standing over a newborn.

We will continue to use cutting-edge technology like our new intraoperative MRI (iMRI) suite, which is revolutionizing care for kids with neurological conditions.  

We will continue to comfort and support kids and families with our child-designed “wrap-around” services, which include art, play and music therapy. 

We will continue to work outside the walls of our hospitals and clinics, partnering with communities to address health disparities so all children have excellent care.   

We will continue to be a nonprofit health system where no child is turned away, regardless of their ability to pay for care. 

a small child is playing in a playhouse talking on a phone. The front of the playhouse has a sign that reads, "the doctor is in"

Two girls enjoying our child-designed “wrap-around” services which include art, play and music therapy.

a girl with braids and pink beads is getting a butterfly wing painted on the right side of her face.

This is what Children’s Minnesota is today. And this is where we’re headed in the future. But we won’t get very far without everyone who has made the last 100 years possible: 

  • Our patient families who trust us to provide the highest quality, child-centered care. 
  • Our donors and volunteers who dedicate their time and money to ensure Children’s Minnesota meets the ever-changing needs of kids. 
  • Our staff who have poured a century’s worth of heart and soul, talent and expertise into improving young lives.   
  • Our community who partners with us in many ways to help kids grow up happier and healthier. 

Children’s Minnesota cares for more than 150,000 kids every year.

Three sisters hold up signs that say "Thank you!"

The Carpenter sisters express gratitude for the care they receive at Children’s Minnesota.

These are the many people, the many reasons why Children’s Minnesota has a shining legacy and a bright future.  

Thank you! 

Learn more about Children’s Minnesota history

All photographs featured in this blog post are sourced from the Children’s Minnesota archive.

Amber Frost