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Will city of Wells take over Wellington Estates property?

By Staff | Sep 8, 2019

What was once the Wells Municipal Hospital, above, later became the Wellington Estates apartment complex.

The Wells City Council spoke in their meeting last month about the seemingly abandoned Wellington Estates property. Seemingly abandoned because even though it is empty and still burned up from its 2017 fire, it is still owned by someone who thinks they can make a profit off of the property.

The building, itself, has an extensive history, and local city groups wonder if there is any value in purchasing the property, even if the building on the property were to come down.

Wellington Estates has been an apartment building for 20 years and prior to that, the building was known as the Wells Municipal Hospital.

The 32-bed hospital was started in early 1945 when the president of the Wells Civic and Commerce Association appointed a committee to make a survey of the community in an attempt to determine what projects would be included in the city’s post-World?War II planning program.

The committee reported that 90 percent of the replies they received indicated a wish for a community hospital.

After a fire in 2017, damages to the building have yet to be repaired, leaving an eye sore in the opinion of many Wells residents. City Council has yet to determine what to do with the property.

In February of 1949, bids were called for the construction of the building. Members of the hospital planning committee and the first Hospital Board members congregated to put their plan into action. Even Governor Luther Youngdahl came to Wells to do the dedication of the hospital on Labor Day, Sept. 4, 1950.

Nearly 2,000 visitors passed through the new hospital that day, but the hospital didn’t actually open until Oct. 30. That was because the Korean conflict created a shortage of steel and the hospital’s bedroom furniture was delayed in arriving for approximately 30 days.

The first patient admitted to the hospital was Art Carlson, and the first baby born in the hospital was a boy born to Mr. and Mrs. Donald Thomas of Minnesota Lake. The first surgical procedure, an open reduction of a compound fracture of the arm, was done on Stanley Jenkins on Nov. 1.

The first staff of doctors for the hospital were Dr. R.P.?Virnig, chief of staff; Dr. W.H. Barr, vice president and Dr. M.P Virnig, secretary-treasurer.

It was the only hospital within 25 miles. There were four doctors on staff at all times, and the nursery and patient beds were full. In its first year of existence, there had been over 1,000 patients and 239 babies were born.

In 1992, the hospital could no longer compete with the surrounding area hospitals and clinics, and was having a difficult time bringing physicians to the small, rural community.

One news article stated, “the hospital was ready to close its doors in the mid-80s, when Naeve Health Care Association stepped in, and leased the facility from the city of Wells.” At first, a profit showed, but in 1989 a steady operating loss of $700,000 was reported on the Wells facility. On Friday, Nov. 13, 42 years and 12 days later, the Wells hospital closed its doors.

The last hospital patient went home a week prior to its closing, while the clinic remained open until that Friday at noon, and the emergency room closed its doors at 3 p.m. that day.

After the hospital closed its doors, the building was sold to another interested party who had planned on purchasing the space and restoring it to apartments.

Wellington Estates was then developed with 14 apartments, and a complete remodel of the building to establish it as an apartment residence, with the help of TIF dollars from the city.

Unfortunately, in 2017, the Wellington Estates caught fire in the early morning of Saturday, Aug. 5. Thankfully, no one was seriously harmed during the fire. Eight fire departments from around the area quickly responded to the call as did other emergency personnel. It was determined the cause of the fire was electrical, according to the State Fire Marshall, who stated most of the fire was in the roof area between the hospital’s already existing roof, and the remodeled roof for the apartments.

The community of Wells banded together to help individuals and families who were affected by the fire, and the churches of Wells also assisted in fundraising. Many people and businesses donated items to victims of the fire.

Since that day, the property was cleaned out only of residents and their belongings with little clean up done to the building, which was soaked with over 92 tons of water, and endured an entire year’s worth of weather with minimal covering to the still damaged roof, creating mold and other hazardous issues.

With the current owner of the property unable to move forward with the project, the Wells EDA and Wells City Council still wonder what is to become of the property. The city plans to pursue a hazardous building process in order for the owner of the building to address the mold and damage issues to the building. The City Council will have to vote on approving the hazardous building process. Only time will tell what will happen to the property.