William S. Major, after whom Major Hospital is named, specified in his will that upon the death of his wife, their home was to be given to the city of Shelbyville for a long needed hospital. After the death of her husband, Mrs. Major offered the house to the city immediately; however, nothing was done about her offer at that time.
In January of 1920, county physicians organized a hospital association and purchased the Muchmore property west of the Major home. The association planned to build a hospital and use the Major's home as an administrative unit. Soon after, the Indiana General Assembly passed special legislation permitting the city to undertake the project. The growing enthusiasm led Mrs. Major to again offer her home to the city, and this time, it was graciously accepted.
Mrs. Major, who had been suffering from crippling arthritis since 1910, stayed in a large room to the left of the entrance of the new hospital until her death. On October 20, 1922, Mrs. Major deeded her property to the City of Shelbyville. This deed was recorded on December 31, the date of her anniversary to Mr. Major. In August 1922, the city council hired architectural firm D. A. Bohlen & Son of Indianapolis to build a hospital addition, make necessary changes to the Major Home, and construct a nursing home. The council selected the name of William S. Major Hospital as most fitting for the institution and received bids for the building.
The hospital was opened officially for public visitation on June 18 and 19, 1924. The first patients were received on June 21, 1924. From 1924 until 1947, the official governing body for the hospital was the Shelbyville Board of Health. From 1924 to 1932, a city tax levy varying from $0.20 per hundred in 1924 to $0.04 in 1932 helped make up any deficits in hospital financing. Interest from a steadily growing endowment also helped keep the hospital solvent. This endowment fund reached $100,000 in 1931 and is several million dollars today.
During the Depression, no tax was levied for hospital support. The hospital survived by closing the nursing home, reducing staff, decreasing salaries, blocking part of the building to save fuel, and through interest from the endowment. The early years of the hospital were marked by frequent changes of superintendents because of other job opportunities or marriages. Five women served in this position between 1924 and 1932. In the summer of 1946 it was decided to expand the maternity ward. The 50-bed institution needed to be expanded to a 70 to 75-bed hospital. In 1947 new nursery quarters were completed. When it opened, 12 of the 17 cribs were occupied.
In 1947 a bill was passed to extend the hospital tax base to include the county. It was pointed out that in 1946 less than 40% of the patients resided in the city, and the hospital was built entirely of city funds. The bill provided a Board of Directors of five members; three were appointed by the Mayor, one by the County Commissioners, and one by the Circuit Court Judge. The bill gave the city the power to build an addition, issue bonds, and receive federal aid, donations and gifts. The county was authorized to provide financial support in the event that the city could not pay the entire cost of the operations and improvements without exceeding its two percent debt limit.
In April of 1956, the hospital was in need of expansion. The hospital had fifty-three patients on one day in April; the normal capacity was forty-three. Space for extra patients had been proved in such emergencies by placing additional beds in private rooms and at times in the corridors. During the discussion of expanding the hospital, differences of opinion surfaced as to whether the hospital should be in the present location or on the fringe area of the city, and whether the present building should be remodeled or an entirely new building should be constructed. The final decision was to add two wings and a kitchen facility to the hospital. The two new wings were put to use in the summer of 1960. Dedication took place on October 29, 1960. The final cost of this work was given as $1,441,000.
In 1961, the Major Hospital Foundation was formed for the purpose of receiving gifts, trusts, estates, and memorials to be used for the benefit of Major Hospital. The Foundation board consisted of 15 members and was responsible for the investment and use of funds, which were not already established in endowments or trusts.
In 1963 a new physical therapy department was established and in 1969, the hospital established an intensive care unit. It was setup with heart monitoring equipment, and a heart-lung resuscitator.
Within five years of the completion of the two new wings, discussion was underway concerning the need for further expansion and a possible change of location. No steps were taken, however, until 1976. Studies were carried out, and a report from the architectural firm of Lewis & Shimer said that it would take $500,000 to $1.5 million to make repairs to stay ahead of present code regulations. They estimated that building a new hospital would cost $9.5 to $11 million. On August 26, 1976, the hospital board of directors, after lengthy discussions, adopted a resolution by a vote of four to three to build a new hospital at the present location. Construction was delayed for two years; as in 1957, there was difference of opinion as to whether the hospital should be built on the existing site or at a new location on the edge of town. The total cost of the project was $10 million. The association was responsible for a major share of the cost through a $6.9 million bond issue. Additional funds were provided by hospital endowment, cumulative building funds, donations from the Major Hospital Foundation and the public. The new structure was built behind the original hospital, over West Franklin Street. The west wing of the 1960 structure was retained and renovated. The remaining portions, including the Major home were razed. Because of historical concerns, the hospital board made plans to preserve elements of the Major home in the new facility. Included were: stained glass windows and staircase railings in the new chapel and limestone facing pieces in the landscaping plans for the modern structure.
The new building was completed and ready for occupancy in March of 1981. An open house for visitation by the public was held on February 21 and 22. Patients and equipment were moved from the old part to the new hospital on March 15th. The west wing was occupied in October 1981, and the new Major Hospital was dedicated on November 1, 1981.
Major Hospital unveiled results of a two-year project, formally opening the Rampart Professional Center to the public in December of 1997. This facility is able to house sixteen doctors, including specialists in family medicine, pediatrics, orthopedics, internal medicine, and obstetrics/gynecology. A pharmacy, X-ray office, and dental office are also in the center. This $5.5 million renovation is part of Major Hospital’s effort to attract more physicians to Shelbyville.
In July of 1998, the hospital finished its state-of-the-art women’s center, covering 39,000 square feet on the hospital’s third floor. The new center allows the hospital to streamline women’s services by offering them in one place, separated from the rest of the hospital.
Major Hospital has become a forerunner of information technology, named one of the top 100 information system hospitals in the United States. Using the latest technology, doctors have more access to patient information, leading to better patient care.
Over the years, Major Hospital has provided excellent health care and friendly service to the city of Shelbyville and surrounding areas, and through its hospital renovations and investments in information technology, it is ensuring years more of premier service.
Major Hospital is chartered as a city/county facility.