Historic Preservation

Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte Memorial Hospital

Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte is one of the most extraordinary yet little-known figures in U.S. history. Not only was she the first Native American licensed to practice medicine, but she constructed the first hospital on a reservation without a penny of federal funding. Built in 1913 on the Omaha Indian Reservation in the village of Walthill, NE, it was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1993 for her pioneering efforts in providing health care for Native Americans. For over 30 years, a small group of Walthill residents has been struggling to maintain the building. Due to vacancy and neglect, it nearly was lost because of severe water damage and structural deterioration.

Now, a new effort is underway to preserve the legacy of Dr. Picotte through rehabilitation of the hospital.  In 2017, a partnership was formed including the Omaha Tribe, the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs, Dr. Picotte descendants, community leaders, and BVH Architecture. Led by the non-profit Picotte Center Board, a broad based planning effort was undertaken resulting in a renovation master plan, prepared by BVH, recommending a three phase stabilization and rehabilitation effort. To date, Phase 1-Emergency Roof Stabilization and Phase 2-Exterior Rehabilitation have been implemented.

Phase 3-the Interior Rehabilitation, when completed will:

  • Rehabilitate the hospital in compliance with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards with functional/sustainable new uses compatible with the historic configuration.
  • Mitigate the threats of severe water and structural deterioration, abate hazardous materials and mold infestation.
  • Provide accessibility and life safety improvements including automatic fire protection, smoke detection as well as new electrical, mechanical, plumbing systems and data/internet systems.
  • Transform the building and site into a vibrant center for the Omaha tribe, the Walthill community and northeast Nebraska. Provide space to support much needed community health and wellness services, youth activities, Native arts and cultural activities, community meeting spaces, and interpretive exhibits.
  • Improve and modernize the infrastructure of the Village of Walthill and the hospital through construction of new site utilities, energy, water and soil conservation treatments and soil/vegetation management concepts.
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