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Our first steps
In 1894, seven Milwaukee philanthropists set out on a bold mission: to create the first hospital in Wisconsin dedicated solely to the health and wellness of children. They wanted all kids to have access to quality care, including the growing number of immigrant children in Milwaukee.
With community support, our founders opened Children’s Free Hospital in a rented house at 214 Brady Street. It had ten beds and one nurse.
Within a few years, the Brady Street house had become too small to serve the families seeking care, and the hospital moved to a larger facility. By 1904, the hospital had tripled in size and needed to relocate again.
Demand continued to grow, and in 1923, a new 102-bed hospital opened on donated land at the corner of 17th Street and Wisconsin Avenue.
We cared for kids facing scarlet fever, diphtheria, whooping cough, tuberculosis, polio and other diseases of the era. As more patients arrived at our doors, playrooms and sun porches were converted to care spaces, and families often waited hours for outpatient care.
When land was donated in 1930, a 50-bed convalescent home was opened in Waukesha, helping to increase capacity in the hospital. It provided a home-like environment with a large yard where kids enjoyed some fun and fresh air as they recovered from long-term illnesses like rheumatic fever and tuberculosis.