Hope Heart Institute dedicates remodeled headquarters on October 4, 1992.

  • By Cassandra Tate
  • Posted 5/23/2006
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 7781

On October 4, 1992, Seattle's Hope Heart Institute dedicates a $450,000 remodeling project that transformed what was once an old frame house into a modern cardiovascular research center, with updated laboratories and office space for visiting surgeons on research fellowships.

The institute’s renovated headquarters, at 1710 E Jefferson Street in Seattle’s First Hill neighborhood, includes facilities for a new department of molecular biology, headed by Dr. William P. Hammond, director of medical education at Providence Seattle Medical Center and an associate professor of medicine at the University of Washington. Hammond’s research focuses on hematopoiesis (the formation and development of blood cells). "We are seeking through microbiological research to isolate the cells that lead to the growth in blood vessels," Dr. Lester R. Sauvage (1926-2015), founder and director of the institute, said during the dedication ceremony. "We believe we will be a leader in this field and we will share all we learn" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 1992).

The dedication had a bittersweet quality. Sauvage had once hoped that the institute would be moving into a new building, not simply a remodeled structure. In 1980, he launched an ambitious campaign to raise $30 million to build, equip, and maintain what was designed to be a world-class cardiovascular research center. The plans called for a building that would accommodate at least 50 surgeons, biochemists, hematologists, and immunologists, along with a support staff of 30 or more. Groundbreaking ceremonies were scheduled for June 1981, then postponed several times until finally being abandoned in 1984, when it became clear that not enough money could be raised to complete the project.

"The whole thing can be built and endowed for the cost of one Boeing 727," Sauvage said at one point, frustrated by the slow pace of contributions to the building fund. "When I see Boeing planes lined up on a runway, I ask myself, would it matter if just one had not been built? For the price of one 727 we can build a facility that will matter to the whole world" (The Weekly).

While praising Sauvage’s dedication to heart research and his skills as a surgeon, some of Sauvage’s colleagues in the medical community questioned the need for a new facility. Dr. Harold Dodge, director of the Cardiovascular Research and Training Center at the University of Washington, was among those who suggested that the $30 million Sauvage wanted to raise could be better spent to support existing programs, including those at the UW. "Here’s a big proposal to go out into the community to build a whole new project," he said. "I’m not sure that’s necessary" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 1981).

In the end, the campaign raised $6 million -- a considerable sum, but far short of the amount needed to carry out the original plans. Instead, the institute expanded and remodeled its existing building (around the corner from the small white house where Sauvage had established what was originally called the Reconstructive Cardiovascular Research Laboratory in 1959).


Sources: "Heart Institute Remodeled," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, October 5, 1992, p. B-2; Cynthia H. Wilson, "Portrait of a Super-Surgeon," The Weekly, March 18, 1981, p. 16; Linda Rockey, "Hope Pitches in for $30 Million Heart Center," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, October 29, 1981, p. A-8; Don Fair, "Heart Study Center Plans Early Start on Building," Ibid., December 26, 1982, p. A-5; Don Fair, "Work to Begin This Fall on Hope Heart Institute," Ibid., April 29, 1983, p. A-4; "Heart Institute Delayed," Ibid.,, October 28, 1983, p. A-9.

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