Hospital overview and history

Our hospital has a long and proud history as a health care provider and innovator in Minneapolis. The following tells the story of how Abbott Northwestern was built from a collection of great health care organizations into a leading regional medical center and the Twin Cities largest non-profit hospital.



1882 Northwestern Hospital

It was a wintry November day in 1882 when Harriet Walker summoned 44 women to lay plans for what would become Northwestern Hospital for Women and Children. Opened in a small rented house one month later as a charity hospital, Northwestern Hospital dedicated the first structure built specifically for hospital use on June 10, 1887, at the corner of Chicago Avenue and 27th Street in Minneapolis.


1902 Abbott Hospital for Women

Somewhat prophetically, Dr. Amos Abbott was named consulting physician to Northwestern's first medical staff. Twenty years after joining Northwestern Hospital in 1902 (and less than a mile away), Dr. Abbott left to start a community hospital for women bearing his name. While it was not founded as a charity hospital, Dr. Abbott's kindness often caused him to reduce or waive fees for those who could not afford to pay.

1911 Eitel Hospital

Dr. George G. Eitel established "a first rate hospital" when he founded Eitel Hospital. When it opened in 1912 on "beautiful Loring Park" in Minneapolis, it featured sun porches outfitted with Navajo rugs, and deluxe private rooms with brass beds and mahogany furniture. Jeanne Eitel, his surgical nurse and wife, directed the hospital's nursing school.

1940 Sister Kenny Institute

Australia native Sister Elizabeth Kenny (nurses were called "sister") brought her brash dedication to treating polio patients to Abbott Hospital in the summer of 1940. Some physicians were put off by her style, but the volume of patients and people wanting to be trained in her methods quickly outstripped the capabilities of the hospital. So Sister Kenny took her pioneering rehabilitation efforts to the old Lymanhurst School, six blocks north of Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis. It was here that the original Sister Kenny Institute was dedicated in 1942. In 2013, Sister Kenny Institute merged with Courage Center to become Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute.


1966 Minneapolis Medical Center, Inc.

In October 1966, a desire to increase the quality of patient care in a cost-effective manner led to the formation of Minneapolis Medical Center, Inc. (MMCI), Northwestern Hospital and three other health care facilities along Chicago Avenue were the nucleus of an organization which would grow significantly in the ensuing decade. MMCI's joint planning function created the Children's Health Center (today called Children's Health Care - Minneapolis®) which opened in January 1973. One month later, pediatric patients from Abbott and Northwestern hospitals were moved into the new MMCI facility.

1970 Abbott and Northwestern

Abbott and Northwestern hospitals were merged into the Abbott-Northwestern Hospital Corporation in 1970. The merger was seen as prudent and constructive, since both hospitals had faced similar challenges over the years, served similar constituencies and shared many physicians among their attending staffs. And both had grown from modest beginnings to achieve widespread recognition individually as outstanding medical institutions.

1975 Abbott Northwestern and Sister Kenny Institute

In 1973, the Sister Kenny Institute received permission from the hospital corporation and the Metropolitan Council to build new facilities next to Northwestern Hospital. But when the boards of the hospital and the Institute's parent company -- the American Rehabilitation Foundation -- realized that the missions of both facilities were complementary, the Institute merged with Abbott Northwestern in 1975. This provided added resources and support services for coordinated care of patients needing physical rehabilitation. In 2013, Sister Kenny Institute merged with Courage Center to become Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute.

1980 The New Hospital Campus

An Abbott-Northwestern Hospital Corporation study later in 1975 recommended consolidating Abbott and Northwestern operations into a single location; the Northwestern campus on Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis was selected. The last patients moved into the new Abbott Northwestern Hospital facilities on Jan. 26, 1980.

1982 LifeSpan

In 1982, Abbott Northwestern's Board of Directors approved the creation of a new parent corporation, LifeSpan Inc. It was designed so other hospitals and companies could join it in the future. LifeSpan originally included Abbott Northwestern Hospital, Sister Kenny Institute and Eitel Hospital.

1993 HealthSpan

LifeSpan merged with Health One on March 1, 1993 to form HealthSpan Health Systems Corporation, the second largest, not-for-profit secular health care system in the United States. Twin Cities metropolitan area hospitals involved in the merger were Abbott Northwestern in Minneapolis, United in St. Paul, Unity in Fridley and Mercy in Coon Rapids.

1993 Allina Health System

On Dec. 7, 1993, the boards of directors of HealthSpan and Medica approved a letter of intent to merge the two organizations and form Allina Health System, a not-for-profit integrated health care system committed to enhancing the health status of the communities it serves. The hospitals and clinics division owns or manages 17 hospitals, two nursing homes, and clinics in more than 40 locations throughout Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota. The Medica division offers a broad range of self-funded and fully insured health plan products to meet the diverse needs of its more than one million members.


2001 Allina Hospitals & Clinics

In July 2001, Allina Health System was restructured into two, independent, non-profit entities: Medica, a health plan organization, and Allina Hospitals & Clinics, a healthcare delivery organization.

A board of community and physician members leads Allina Hospitals & Clinics, a network of hospitals, clinics and other health care delivery services throughout Minnesota and western Wisconsin. Twin Cities metropolitan area hospitals within Allina Hospitals & Clinics include Abbott Northwestern in Minneapolis, United in St. Paul, Unity in Fridley and Mercy in Coon Rapids.

2005 Abbott Northwestern's Heart Hospital

In spring 2005, the renowned cardiovascular services of Abbott Northwestern Hospital and the Minneapolis Heart Institute came together to create Abbott Northwestern's Heart Hospital. The heart hospital is a 256-bed facility that provides new, expanded space for the cardiovascular program, and new inpatient space for neuroscience, orthopedic and spine services.

History of Nursing and Medical Education

Nursing education dates from Harriet Walker's Training School for Nurses, which began with the founding of Northwestern Hospital in 1882. Abbott Hospital also had its own nursing program, and the two merged in September 1970. The combined program graduated its last nurse in 1978, and today the focus is on continuing education for staff nurses.

Medical education began with early Northwestern Hospital physicians serving as part-time faculty at the University of Minnesota Medical School. Some University interns also served one-year bed-side internships at Northwestern. After residency programs expanded to four years to meet specialized needs, the University and Northwestern Hospital officially affiliated their post-graduate residency programs in 1965. In the 1970s, an extensive Continuing Medical Education program was launched to serve physicians throughout the Midwest. Today, the internal medicine residency program -- now more than a quarter of a century old with more than 30 residents trained each year -- continues the strong medical education tradition at Abbott Northwestern.