Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children was founded in 1921 when a group of local Masons approached one of Dallas’ first orthopedic surgeons, Dr. W.B. Carrell, about the need to provide better care for those suffering from polio regardless of their ability to pay. The one-room clinic quickly drew more patients than the space could handle, and the Masons raised $120,000 to purchase the land and build the hospital in 1922 on the corner of Oak Lawn and Maple Avenues.
Polio treatment often involved long stays at the hospital away from the children’s families, and by 1937, the hospital had treated 27,000 children for the disease. In 1943, Dallas experienced its worst polio outbreak in history, and best practice treatment called for children to be packed into wool blankets that had been soaked in boiling water. The treatment was especially difficult during the heat of Dallas summers, where most buildings didn’t have air conditioning.
With the eradication of polio after the introduction of vaccines in the 1950s, the hospital expanded its abilities and now provides service for complex orthopedic cases, arthritic, neurological, and learning disorders. In 1964, former U.S. Senator William Blakley and his wife, Villa, donated two ranches to the hospital, one of which is still owned and operated by the hospital and provides income for the organization’s endowment. The earnings helped build a new hospital in 1977 debt-free.
In 1974, the organization broke ground on a six-story, 400,000 square-foot hospital across the street from the original building. It was completed in 1977, but within the decade, the hospital would add 200,000 square feet to further accommodate new patients. It was during this period when the authentic popcorn machine was donated to the hospital. The tradition of popping and giving out popcorn continues today, maintained by volunteers who fill the hospital with the smell of popcorn rather than the sterile and medical aromas of a hospital.
In the 1980s, an all-abilities playground was installed on the hospital grounds. Over the years, the hospital has been visited by everyone, from President Bill Clinton and former Dallas Cowboys Coach Tom Landry to Charlie Chaplin. The hospital has been home to breakthroughs in scoliosis, limb lengthening, and club foot.
In 2000, Scottish Rite built the 28,000-square-foot Sarah M. and Charles E. Seay Center for Musculoskeletal Research, allowing the hospital to continue its groundbreaking research on scoliosis and other disorders, identifying for the first time the gene associated with scoliosis, allowing scientists to explore the diseases causes and potential treatment.
In 2010, the hospital welcomed its 200,000th patient, and in 2016 the hospital broke ground on its second location, a 40-acre campus in Frisco that includes a 345,000 square foot facility, sports fields, trails, and a community park. It was completed in 2018 and focuses on sports medicine and treatment.