Vanport Hospital , circa 1944

The Vanport Hospital entrance, looking west with a view of water tower no. 4 & 5, circa 1944.


View of Vanport hospital office entrance looking west with view of water towers no. 4 and 5, circa 1944: A2001-025.703

View of Vanport hospital office entrance looking west with view of water towers no. 4 and 5, circa 1944: A2001-025.703


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21 thoughts on “Vanport Hospital , circa 1944

  1. On the far right slightly above the building is a partial white circle. Is that the moon or part of a sign? Based on the shadows it can’t be the sun.

  2. Here is a map of Vanport showing the fire stations, and the hospital, including the location of the dike breach.

  3. You have a good eye, Paul. It took me three separate views to see what you were talking about. While it could be the Moon or a sign, I doubt it’s either. The location of the object looks too on the limited horizon of this photo to be the Moon (imho) – on a wider horizon view the Moon might be that low, and this seems like a strange location for sign. I wonder if that object might be a radio communication component, or a loud speaker broadcast element (I hope you understand those technical terms – ha!).

  4. Thank you for the map, Mike. Retrospect is 20/20, but building a subdivision on the flood plain of a major river that has related sloughs running through it and is protected from high water by a dyke, was poor planning, and shows a disregard for the safety and well-being of prospective tenants. I wonder if the ‘infirmary’ was a full-service hospital, or something less – it looks small. It’s unfortunate that the powers that be failed to move and re-establish the hospital to a location in North Portland, i.e. St Johns, Kenton, or University Park, that was, and still may be, medically underserved by its distance from hospitals. Many of Portland’s hospitals are clustered within 2-3 miles of Downtown. I suspect the closest hospital to North Portland is miles away at Legacy Emanuel, and possibly Downtown Vancouver. Vanport College was moved, so why not hove the hospital?

  5. Bess Kaiser Hospital opened its doors in 1959 and closed them in 1998.

    The Northern Permanente Foundation (NPF) hospital in Vanport, was built/finished in 1943. Many tidbits of information, on the internet regarding Vanport, seem to refer or describe Vanport as a “temporary community” for shipyard workers and minority families. Funny…a number of sites also state that Vanport was the 2nd largest city in Oregon at the time (1942-1945)…40,000+ people…quite a large “temporary community” if you ask me! (Another nick-name for Vanport was Kaiser City!)

    I wonder if the size of the Vanport Kaiser facility (NPF), was in direct relation to that constant reminder of Vanport being a “temporary community”. Another few sites state that: “The Vanport hospital was also kept out of the nearby metropolis of Portland through stiff resistance by the local medical establishment, which included many segregationists, an example of a contentious relationship that would last for many years.”

  6. I can’t seem to get this site to accept an image tag like “Mike G” was able to do.
    (Nice posting Mike BTW).
    Here is another detailed plot map of Vanport. It is interesting to compare this to the Bing Maps aerial view of the region.

  7. Vanport was a housing project of apartment buildings. They were cheaply built and considered temporary as materials were in very short supply. Construction standards of the time were bypassed and nothing there was built to last long. The saying “paper thin walls” could be applied at Vanport.

    For those of you that do not know, the shipyards employed thousands of carpenters because a lot of wood was used inside the ships and steel was used only where necessary. You could not build tanks and munitions out of wood. So steel was prioritized for those plus only where necessary in ship building.

    My Father was a carpenter at the North Portland shipyard until joining the Navy in 1944.

  8. In order to appreciate the story of Vanport, you have to have some knowledge of Portland at the start of WW II. The realty board was very powerful and did not want permanent housing that would cut into their business after the war. Private developers could not get vital supplies but public housing could. The Housing Authority of Portland was not created until a few days after Pearl Harbor. [12/7/1941]

    Meanwhile, Henry J. Kaiser had developed three shipyards, Oregon Shipbuilding [now Terminal 4], Swan Island and Vancouver. The first ship launch in Portland was 9/24/1941. Kaiser advertised all over the country for skilled and unskilled workers and they came pouring into the Portland area with nowhere to live. Apartment owners were allowed to subdivide units to increase capacity.

    While Portland was mired in it’s political scene, Kaiser knew he had to do something. He got federal permission to buy the 640 acres which became Vanport. In 1941 it was outside the city limits and Portland had no say over it. Later, after it was built in 11 months, the Housing Authority of Portland grudgingly accepted management.

    Vanport buildings consumed 54 million board feet of lumber, 24 million square feet of sheetrock,, 30 million gallons of paint and many other miscellaneous materials.

  9. Regarding the hospital, Henry J. Kaiser also opened a hospital in Vancouver, under his Permanente plan. It later became Rose Vista nursing home and was recently demolished.

    The Vanport hospital was opened in 1943 and apparently was of good quality construction, unlike the apartment units. It had beds for 150, operating rooms, an outpatient clinic and a pediatric section.

    The principal difficulty was finding quality doctors. Oregon Physicians’ Service started hospital operation, but were in the red and in 1944 their contract was cancelled. After that, for a time there was only one doctor, who was moonlighting. At the end of WW II the federal government refused to subsidize the hospital. In 1946 Kaiser Permanente took over operations, paying $1.00 per year rent. But HAP wanted the equipment back. Kaiser Permanente lost $5,000 a month. Finally in May, 1948 Vanport Hospital was made an outpatient clinic. By the end of the month the flood would take care of Vanport’s problems.

  10. For more information on Vanport College, see “A College Comes to Housing,” found on the Portland State University website. The college wasn’t moved by choice. In fact, there was talk of making it a permanent campus in Vanport. Like the rest of the city, the buildings were wiped out by the Memorial Day, 1948 flood. The college moved to the Oregon Shipbuilding office and later to the old Lincoln High School which is now Old Main.

  11. I’m the historian for Kaiser Permanente, and I’m trying to find out more about the hospital at Vanport – which, as “Ol’ Geezer” points out, was not run by the Permanente Health Plan until after the war. I’d like to correspond with any of you on this list about this subject – check out my weekly blog posts at “A History of Total Health” and write me via the contact link. Thanks.

  12. I recently came across a letter my mother wrote March 26, 1945. She was staying with my great-uncle Asa Eaton for a short time (5105 N.E. Mallory Ave., Portland OR) after seeing my father off to war in Seattle. She mentions that, since she was a nurse, she was working at Vanport City Hospital during her visit. Her complaint was that she couldn’t make as much money as she did back in Harrisburg, PA as a private-duty nurse. She was having a hard time affording the $10 to pay for 6 days of babysitting for my 18-month-old sister Patti. Since I never heard about Vanport before, I was curious enough to look it up. I am impressed by all you folks have discovered. Thank you for sharing.

  13. I have my original birth certificate from The Vanport City Hospital from 1947 It even has the address of the residence at time of birth which shows it as Lake St. in Portland, OR. I could not find any Lake Streets in Portland proper outside of Vanport so I assume it was an address in Vanport. My parents came to Oregon from California sometime between February 1947 when they were married and October of 47 when I was born, but I have no living relatives that can give me any further info on exact dates, etc. I do know they left Oregon and went back to LA sometime before the flood of 48. I grew up in California and did not make a return to Oregon until 1973. I moved here permanently in 1979.

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