When the United States first entered World War 2 there was a rush to create new military facilities across the country, including an urgent need for new hospitals. The army declared that the existing military hospitals were ill-equipped and understaffed, and a plan was formed by Army Surgeon General James Carre Magee to construct new hospitals throughout the nation while simultaneously recruiting and training doctors. Due to its strategically viable inland location Spokane housed facilities for every branch of the United States military during the war, this also made it an ideal site for one of the new military hospitals.
It was announced in April of 1942 that the city had been awarded a contract to build a new military hospital designed to accommodate 1,000 beds and with an estimated cost of $3,500,000. Construction began in July and on August 21, 1942, the Baxter General Hospital was officially activated and 41 staff members had arrived to operate what facilities had been completed. The hospital was considered operational the following March with a total of sixty wards finished containing 2001 beds. With sixty wards and 200 completed buildings, the hospital operated like a miniature city within Spokane with its own restaurants, post office, movie theater, church, and library to ensure that the staff and patients lived comfortably during their stays.
On June 24, 1943, the hospital’s first 187 patients arrived. These men brought from the Pacific Front were the first real glimpse of the war for Spokane, and the local newspapers reported their injuries and stories during the following days. While these men were the first patients they were far from the last as during the first year of operation over 3000 wounded or sick soldiers were sent to Baxter General for treatment.
In August of 1944, the Hospital was changed from a general health treatment hospital to one that specialized in thoracic injuries and surgery. This change increased the number of patients admitted to over 200 per month and the hospital was often full. Partially due to these changes, Baxter Hospital began to focus on efficiently rehabilitating soldiers and returning them to service in ways that other hospitals had failed to do in the past. The number of patients continued to increase in the Hospital’s final year of operation with over 5000 sick or wounded soldiers admitted in 1945.
In October 1945 it was announced that the hospital was closing, and on November 6 Baxter was deactivated. The hospital officially closed on December 31st after all the remaining patients had been released or transferred to other facilities. After the hospital closed the city of Spokane struggled to find a use for the buildings and equipment left at the site and by 1949 every building had been auctioned or sold to outside interest and removed. In October 1949 a section of the hospital grounds was used to construct what is now Joe Albi Stadium. In 1950 another section of the property became a new Veterans Affairs Hospital.