Webber Hospital

The Webber Hospital ca. 1928, photographer unknown. [Image: UMD Martin Library]

5601 Grand Ave. | Architects: Starin & Melander | Built: 1927 | Extant

Dr. Edward E. Webber first came to northern Minnesota in 1911, opening a hospital in Chisholm. In 1919 he moved to Proctor after taking a position as chief surgeon for the Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range Railway. It soon became apparent to Webber that most of railway’s employees lived in West Duluth, which encouraged him to open a hospital closer to their homes than to their jobs.

In 1927 Webber opened an eponymously named hospital at 5601 Grand Avenue in a Neoclassical building designed
by Reinhold Melander and Harold Starin. Oddly-shaped to conform to the lot it occupies, the two-story building is faced in red and brown pressed brick trimmed with cut stone and features an entry portico adorned with fluted stone columns and crowned with a carving of a caduceus—two snakes winding around a winged staff, symbolic of medicine. At the center of the building rests a triangularly shaped “light court.” When the hospital first opened it also housed the Webber Pharmacy and National Tea Company in store fronts along Grand Avenue.

The hospital’s interior contained examination rooms, operating facilities, a kitchen, an x-ray room, two dentist’s offices, and separate men’s and women’s wards and private rooms that could hold up to fifty-five patients. Its staff of fourteen included nurses and technicians. Three women gave birth in the hospital within the first twenty-four hours it was open.

While he practiced in West Duluth, Webber later lived in the Williams House at 2601 East Second Street. In 1943 Webber sold the house to novelist Sinclair Lewis and moved into his own hospital; his health was failing. Webber died in January 1944. After his death, Webber Hospital president Arthur Rohweder failed to find another physician to take over operations. It closed in December, 1944.

The building stood virtually vacant until January 1947, when Arrowhead Health Center agreed to lease it. By the early 1950s, part of the building was being used as the Lake Haven Rest Home. In 1975 Lake Haven was renamed Wesley Residence. The Arrowhead Health Center closed in 1988, and today Wesley Residence Assisted Living occupies the entire building.