Mrs. M.T. Overall 

It began almost 100 years ago...

when Mrs. M.T. Overall built a hospital in Coleman at the request of L.P. Allison, MD, a physician and surgeon in Brownwood.  Dr. Allison later became the first superintendent and “surgeon in charge” of the hospital. 

Mrs. Overall arrived in Coleman County in 1876, preceded by her husband, Colonel Richard Henry Overall, who arrived in 1875.  Over time they built their farm and ranch holdings to nearly 30,000 acres, or over 46 square miles.   The Overall Memorial Hospital was her gift to Coleman County, and began a tradition of community support that has continued through the present day.

The hospital was designed by Henry Mount, an architect from Brownwood, Texas.  Mount’s design for the Overall Memorial Hospital embraced Old English and Colonial styles.  The September 28, 1923 edition of The Democrat-Voice further described the building design.

The building is of variegated tapestry brick, Corinthian columns marking the east and south fronts.  A concrete porch 10 x 40 feet is at the east front, with balcony above.  The south entrance is for stretcher cases with glassed-in sun porch above.

The building will front east on Pecos street and will also have a south front entrance for stretcher cases.  A glassed-in sun-porch will have a place above the south entrance.  Floors will be of hardwood, and roofing of asbestos shingles.

The building will have a frontage of 85 feet on Pecos Street and 40 feet on Elm Street.  A basement for steam heat will be provided as an emergency heating plan in case a time should come that natural gas might not be available.

The first floor included a reception area, superintendent’s consultation and examination room, x-ray and dark room, laboratory, five private rooms, a four-bed ward, dining room and kitchen.  The second floor contained six private rooms, a four-bed ward and two beds on sun porch, and two operating rooms.

The construction contract for the 1923 building was awarded to two local companies – Cates & Rush and Jack Powell – that submitted a $25,075 bid, “including painting,” and proposed a construction timeline of 108 working days.   L.E. McElrath was awarded the plumbing contract for $2,994.75, and the electrical contract was awarded to A.W. Luckett with a bid of $825.

With funds donated by Mrs. Overall, Dr. Allison purchased equipment for the hospital in Chicago and St. Louis, helping to establish Overall Memorial Hospital as one of the largest and most well equipped hospitals in the state when it opened its doors on November 2, 1923. 

In 1937, as the needs of the community expanded,

a second building – identical in size and appearance – was constructed north of  the original structure.  Construction of the new “Morris Wing” was made possible by a donation of $30,000 from John Phillip Morris, in memory of Martha Pingham Morris and Bettie Robbins Morris, and a $45,000 Works Projects Administration grant. 

Born in Texas in 1849, J.P. Morris, began acquiring land in Coleman County in 1884, relocating his family to the area in 1888.  He was well known for developing the finest herd of Hereford cattle.  He was also prominent in the banking community, serving as the president of First National Bank of Coleman and later as a member of the board.

Jimmy Jones, another Brownwood architect, was responsible for the design of the 1937 building, with an exterior reflecting the design and building materials used to construct the 1923 building. 

Dr.  F.M.  Burke — who became the hospital superintendent and surgeon in charge after the death of Dr. L.P.  Allison in 1932 — is credited with the design of the interior of the 1937 building, which was modeled along more modern lines that did “not resemble the 1923 building in any way.”  The lower floor was comprised primarily of physician offices.   The second story was designed to accommodate 15 patient rooms.

John Phillip Morris

The design of the second floor eliminated all square corners and exposed woodwork.  Dr. Burke also incorporated a “radio speaker system” that made it possible to communicate with the hospital central office from any hall in either building.  Telephones installed in each room also made it possible to instantly communicate between patients and nurses.

The 1923 and 1937 buildings were connected with an enclosed corridor which included night nurses’ quarters, nurses’ lounge and drug rooms.  A concrete ambulance drive was originally located underneath.    

In 1948, the connector between the 1923 and 1937 buildings was expanded to accommodate a new entrance for the Emergency Department.  Other improvements were made in the maternity ward, operating room, x-ray department, kitchen and dining room.   In 1958, the area above the new Emergency Department entrance was bricked in to create additional space.

The new building was named the J.P. Morris Building but was often referred to as the Morris Annex.  In 1962, the name of the hospital encompassing both the 1923 and 1937 buildings was officially changed to the Overall Morris Memorial Hospital in memory of the visionaries responsible for making the facilities a reality. 

As early as 1972, hospital officials were told that the two older wings of the hospital would not meet Medicare requirements.

This sped up plans to enclose the ground floor of the north or 1967 wing to accommodate additional beds – a project that was completed in 1977 – and relegated use of the 1923 building for meeting room, maintenance and storage functions.  Use of the 1937 building was limited to administrative, business office and medical records functions, the housekeeping department and storage.  The only patient care function remaining in the 1937 building was the Emergency Department.

Given the age of the 1923, 1937 and 1967/77 buildings and constant maintenance required, the Board Directors of the Coleman County Medical Center District (CCMC District) initiated a study of the hospital and clinic facilities in 2000, which was revisited in the fall of 2013 and concluded in 2014.  The latest study found that many of the mechanical and electrical systems in the buildings are aging, are inadequate to support new technology and will need to be replaced. 

Building problems are made worse by dramatic changes in the delivery of healthcare over the last 50 years which have increased the load on the mechanical and electrical systems. 

In addition, the facility codes which hospitals are required to meet by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have changed dramatically since CCMC was built adversely impacting current compliance with building and life/safety codes.

While it might be possible to take care of some problems identified through renovation, the cost of renovation would be very high, and the benefits limited.  Given these factors, and the lack of capital resources available to the CCMC District, the Board concluded that the most cost-effective, long-term solution to the myriad of problems identified was to construct a new $12 million addition to the 1967 building. 

Original plans for the new addition called for preservation of the 1923 building funded by Mrs. M.T. Overall.   In support of this initiative, the CCMC District retained Connect Structural Engineering, Inc., Dallas, Texas, to assess the integrity of the 1923 building, and the impact of demolition of the 1937 building on the 1923 structure.  

This report identified detailed repair measures that “should be completed in order for the building to be occupied and to mitigate further degradation of the building.”  It also noted that “demolishing the 1937 connector could cause damage to the 1923 building,” and that “due to the age of the 1923 building, future structural and architectural repair measures should be anticipated.”  Further, “due to the extent of these repairs, these measures could be cost prohibitive and should be fully investigated.”

The CCMC District subsequently asked the project architect, Rees Associates, to provide a statement of probable cost to address the structural concerns identified in the engineering report.  In addition, Rees was asked to include an estimate of the cost of replacing the non-compliant and non-functioning MEP systems which would be necessary to make the 1923 building habitable. 

This estimate came in at $2.55 million in construction costs before any soft costs, or the cost of exterior building restoration, window replacement, and tenant finishes, etc.  With no source of funding, unknowns regarding the impact of demolishing the connector to the 1937 building, and concerns that the 1923 building will continue to deteriorate and become a bigger safety concern over time, the CCMC District board voted to demolish the building.

A new Overall Memorial Gallery will be developed as part of the new addition to Coleman County Medical Center (CCMC) to commemorate the 1923 and 1937 buildings, as well as subsequent projects, through photos, videos and other exhibits.  

The history of CCMC – including its architecture and construction – is inextricably intertwined with the history of people of Coleman County.  As a result, the museum gallery will also honor the community and families who made these buildings and the institution possible. 

The grand opening of the new Overall Morris Gallery will coincide with the grand opening of the new addition to CCMC, and serve as a kick-off celebration for the 100th anniversary of CCMC…a celebration of family, community, architecture and progress.

Please check this web page for periodic updates regarding the development and completion of the Overall Morris Gallery, and the planned grand opening sometime in 2022.  

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