Children's Orthopedic Hospital in Seattle moves from Queen Anne to Laurelhurst in an elaborate, all-volunteer operation on April 11, 1953.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 1/29/2004
  • Essay 4274
See Additional Media

On Saturday, April 11, 1953, Seattle's Children's Orthopedic Hospital moves from Queen Anne Hill to a brand new facility in Laurelhurst in an elaborate all-volunteer operation dubbed "Operation Orthopedic." Taxicabs and ambulances move patients while Teamsters and moving vans transport supplies and equipment. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts equipped with signs are stationed along the five-mile route to guide drivers.

North to Laurelhurst

The all-female Board of Trustees for Children's first opened a 12-bed convalescent home at the corner of Warren Avenue N and Crockett Street in 1908. The facility grew to a modern 140-bed hospital in 1928, all funded by the community. In 1946, the trustees resolved to build a new, larger hospital in Laurelhurst because of its proximity to the new University of Washington Medical and Dental School.

After World War II, the Board retained Dr. Herman Smith of Chicago to help it plan the hospital's future. He recommended construction of a new facility, and Trustee Dorothy Bullitt found the Laurelhurst site, owned by developer Gardner Gwinn, in June 1946 with the aid of realtor Letcher Lambuth. Bullitt personally authorized a $25,000 deposit to hold the tract, and the Board later approved the full $150,000 purchase by a vote of 25 to 1 in its first secret ballot since incorporating in 1907.

The architects of Young and Richardson began designing the complex, but neighborhood opposition delayed the project. The postwar recession dried up funding and the Board needed six years to raise and borrow the $4.6 million for erecting the first structures. 

The Big Move

Claude Bekins of Bekins Moving and Storage approached 39 different transfer companies and obtained pledges of free moving services from the companies and from the employees, chiefly Teamsters controlled by Dave Beck. As moving day approached, volunteers went through the old hospital and tagged furniture, equipment, and other items with where the item would go in the new location.

On Saturday morning, April 11, each young patient was fed a hot breakfast and given a box lunch. Most patients rode in taxicabs from Queen Anne Hill to Laurelhurst and some were transported in ambulances. That evening, the patients enjoyed a hot meal in the new building.

The old hospital and adjacent nurses' residence were sold to King County for $655,000 for use in the County Hospital system.


Emilie Schwabacher, A Place for Children (Seattle: Children's Orthopedic Hospital and Medical Center, 1977, 1982), 57; Minutes of the Board of Trustees, Children's Orthopedic Hospital and Medical Center, Accession 3530, University of Washington Libraries Special Collections.

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
Major Support for Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You