Bluitt Sanitarium

     The Bluitt Sanitarium was located on 504 Commerce Street in Dallas in the Dallas Central Business District.[1] It was constructed in 1904 which became the first medical clinic in Dallas which was available for African Americans. Dr.Benjamin Bluitt and others became prominent figures within Dallas’s black community.

 

     Dr. Benjamin R. Bluitt was born November 15, 1864[2], or December 1865, and died March 14, 1946. Dr. Bluitt was born in Mexia, Limestone County, in Freestone County, or a small community of “Bluittville” between Mexia and Corsicana, to Jarriet and Mariah Bonner Bluitt, both former slaves from Alabama.[3]

 

     His father died young leaving Benjamin and his six siblings to be taken care of by their mother. Lyman, Dr. Bluitt’s younger brother, also became a physician.[4] Dr. Bluitt graduated from Wiley College, the second college established for African Americans in Texas.[5] He then attended Meharry Medical School in Nashville, Tennessee.[6]

 

     Dr. Bluitt was the first African American surgeon in Texas. He married Cornelia J. Ford in Nashville and returned to Dallas. Cornelia was very active in the Dallas community. He was a member of the Republican Party and was the Chairman of the Dallas County Executive Committee. Dr. Bluitte was very active within Dallas’s black community. He was active in the Lone Star State Medical Association and served as its president in 1906.[7]

 

     The relevance of this sanitarium to Dallas lies within the heart of the African American community. With the plight of racial injustice towards the African American community and segregation in place for education and medical services. Physicians and hospitals refused services to “coloreds” so, out of necessity, people created separate medical facilities. Dr. Bluitt built the first black-owned and operated sanatarium in Dallas.[8]

 

     Dr. Bluitt purchased the site at 504 Commerce Street in 1904 and built his building. In 1906 he received his licence to operate the sanitarium.[9] He practiced at this location until late 1913 or 1914 when he moved out of the building and relocated his medical practice further into Deep Ellum at 2411-1/2 Main Street.[10] The closure of the Bluitt Sanitarium deprived the African American community of a sanitarium for several years until another opened in the area.[11]

 

     The opening of this practice allowed the first African American surgeon in Texas to employed nurses and other physicians to better help the Dallas community. Although the sanitarium had been shut down in 1914 the practice had an impact on the African American community.

 

     Although the sanitarium has long been gone, the building still remains in present day Dallas. This location is a Dallas historical landmark and was listed on the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places in 2006.[12] It serves as a reminder how far health care amongst a racially segregated southern state has come. Even with post-emancipation, health care was harder to access for people of color.

 

     Accessible health care for African Americans has come a long way since 1906, but there is still room for more progress. Today in Dallas, African American are underrepresented in medical professions compared to the African American proportion of the population.[13]

  

 

Works Cited

 

National Register of Historic Places, 7/26/2006. National Park Service.

 

Anderson, Jennifer. “Bluitt Sanitarium,” City of Dallas Office of Historic Preservation, February 5, 2021. https://cityofdallaspreservation.wordpress.com/2021/02/05/bluitt-sanitarium/

 

Hyson, John M. “Doctors Five: African-American Contract Surgeons in the Spanish-American War,” Military Medicine 164, no. 6 (June 1999): 435-441.

 

Quimby, Marcel. “Dr. Benjamin Bluitt and the Bluitt Sanitarium,” Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas 19, no. 1 (Spring 2007).

 

King, Joyce. “Health Care Inequity Persists despite a Century of Hard Work by Black Doctors.” Dallas News, The Dallas Morning News, 10 Jan. 2018, www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2018/01/10/health-care-inequity-persists-despite-a-century-of-hard-work-by-black-doctors

                              Footnotes

[1] Now 2036 Commerce Street.

 

[2] Jennifer Bridges, “Bluitt, Benjamin Rufus (1864-1946),” Texas State Historical Association Handbook of Texas, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/bluitt-benjamin-rufus

 

[3] Discrepancies are probably due to his birth around the end of the Civil War when birth and death records were seldom kept by African Americans. National Park Service Certification dated 7/26/2006, 8.

 

[4] Bridges; John M. Hyson, “Doctors Five: African-American Contract Surgeons in the Spanish-American War,” Military Medicine 164, no. 6 (June 1999): 435.

 

[5] National Park Service Certification dated 7/26/2006, 9.

 

[6] Marcel Quimby, “Dr. Benjamin Bluitt and the Bluitt Sanitarium,” Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas 19, no. 1 (Spring 2007): 17.

 

[7] Bridges.

 

[8] Joyce King, “Health Care Inequity Persists despite a Century of Hard Work by Black Doctors.” Dallas News, The Dallas Morning News, 10 Jan. 2018.

 

[9] National Park Service Certification dated 7/26/2006, 13.

 

[10] Jennifer Anderson, “Bluitt Sanitarium,” City of Dallas Office of Historic Preservation, February 5, 2021. https://cityofdallaspreservation.wordpress.com/2021/02/05/bluitt-sanitarium/ ; National Park Service Certification dated 7/26/2006, 8, 14.

 

[11] National Park Service Certification dated 7/26/2006, 14.

 

[12] Bridges. National Park Service Certification dated 7/26/2006.

 

[13] King.

Street Address:

2036 Commerce Street, Dallas [map]

Cite this Page:

Bhanu Pamidimukkala, “Bluitt Sanitarium,” Human Rights Dallas Maps, accessed July 17, 2024, https://humanrightsdallasmaps.com/items/show/36.

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