Barnes Medical College was organized in 1892 as a for-profit venture by a group of physicians and business leaders and named in honor of a recently deceased merchant, Robert A. Barnes (1808-1892). Barnes had bequeathed money for the construction of a hospital and it has been widely presumed that the educators’ choice of name was part of an attempt to secure an affiliation between the two institutions. If so, the attempt failed, for the trustees of the Robert A. Barnes estate chose instead to reinvest the assets and wait for a more favorable time to build Barnes Hospital. Ignoring the rebuff, the college trustees constructed a building of their own at 2645 Chestnut (later renamed Lawton) Street. The institution quickly became the largest medical college in the city (ca. 400 students) and its program outgrew the original structure. In 1896 a second building opened two blocks west, on Lawson at Garrison Avenue. In 1902 the objective of a college-related clinical facility was achieved with the establishment of Centenary Hospital and the Barnes Dispensary in a new adjoining building. The institution also operated a dental college (see below), a college of pharmacy, and a nurses’ training program. At its height, the college enrolled approximately 600 students, and in 1904 changed its name to Barnes University. Despite these enhancements and changes of name, it became increasing apparent that the institution was financially unstable. The trustees offered their properties to the Curators of the University of Missouri in 1906 to house the state medical college. The negotiations lasted over a year and the Curators came close to accepting what seemed at first to be a generous offer. In the end, however, the state refused to pay the private venture’s debts and plans for the connection collapsed in 1908. During this same period, Barnes did absorb a smaller private school, the Hippocratean College of Medicine. Flexner severely criticized the Barnes institutions in 1909, however, a contemporary reviewer writing for the American Medical Association (Philip Skrainka, 1910) judged their quality “good.” One year following the merger with American Medical College in 1911 the names Barnes ceased to refer to medical instruction by this organization. For a brief period (1911-1914?) the Centenary facility was administered by Christian Hospital. From 1919 until 1936 the city of St. Louis used the building as a hospital for African American patients (City Hospital No. 2). The structures at Garrison and Lawton were demolished in 1960.
Barnes Medical College, Saint Louis