Tucson Medical Center is marking its 70th anniversary this year, commemorating the day its first patient was admitted, on Nov. 9, 1944.
It was something of a local truism in past years that Tucson Medical Center was prohibited by code, deed or law from building any structures taller than one story.
There was a whiff of truth to the tale…. but the stipulation about building height expired more than half a century ago.
The one-story story dates back to the days of the Desert Sanatorium, the health retreat founded by Dr. Bernard Wyatt in the 1920s out in the desert northeast of Tucson. The Desert San was transferred to financial backers Alfred and Anna Erickson in 1927, and the Ericksons built a home on the site as their winter retreat away from New York City.
After her husband’s death, Anna Erickson held the Desert San until 1943, when the Depression and World War II had left the facility no longer viable. She donated it to become a community hospital – and continued living part of the year in the Erickson home on campus.
Years later, the specification of the “Low-Level Concept” for the hospital finally appears in TMC’s 1959 deed to the medical office park across Grant Road. The deed reflects Anna Erickson’s desire for unobstructed views, stating that TMC…
“…hereby agrees with Erickson that it will not during her lifetime erect on any of the land which it shall hereafter acquire under this agreement any building which shall exceed one story in height.”
That agreement only lasted a couple of years, as it became void upon Mrs. Erickson’s death in February 1961. Yet, that agreement cast a shadow for many years, as the hospital considered and rejected several high-rise concepts.
After extensive preparation work by TMC in 2006 and 2007, the Tucson City Council unanimously approved a Planned Area Development plan that now governs how vertical construction could take place on the Tucson Medical Center campus. Today, TMC has upgraded its grounds and facilities with new roads and walkways, plus larger patient care areas. TMC now celebrates 70 years of patient care with a new four-story “skyscraper” that houses sophisticated surgical and patient care services.