Why the Grunow Memorial Medical Center Remains a Favorite Among Local Historians
Born of necessity, the historic Grunow Memorial Medical Center remains a gift to Phoenix.
By Robrt L. Pela | Photography by Carl Schultz
Sometimes,” says local historian John Jacquemart, “good things can come from tragedy.”
Jacquemart is referring to the Grunow Memorial Medical Center, named for Lois Anita Grunow, who died of a ruptured appendix in 1929. She was only 7 years old. Her parents built the clinic two years later, in their daughter’s memory. Lois’s portrait, by noted artist Maximilian Aurel Reinitz Rasko, hangs in the building’s magnificent lobby. “Her condition was misdiagnosed,” says Jacquemart of the little girl. “The Grunows believed that more medical research and a better medical facility would keep that sort of thing from happening again.”
Established as the first medical clinic in the Southwest, the stunning Spanish Colonial Revival at 10th Street and McDowell is a favorite among Arizona historians and preservationists. Built with a $1 million grant from Grunow, a wealthy Chicago businessman, the clinic opened doors both to better health care for its community and to local physicians.
“There were more than 100 practicing doctors in Phoenix when Grunow opened,” says Jacquemart, who in 1985 authored the first written history of the building. “At Grunow, they could work out of a proper medical facility instead of out of their homes.”
“Grunow was interested in bringing medicine and good medical practice to everyone, not just the wealthy,” according to Mayor’s Office City Historian Steve Schumacher. “That’s why it’s situated where it is. Back then, that area, the Coronado neighborhood, is where most of the working class lived.”
Not everyone in the neighborhood was thrilled at the prospect of local healthcare in 1931. “One of the neighbors tried to sue the city,” Jacquemart says, “because he thought his property values would go down if there were a lot of sick people coming around.”
The clinic, situated just across the street from Arizona Deaconess Hospital (now Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center), offered Phoenicians 13 specialists, a medical lab, a radiology department and a research center. “Grunow also had the first medical library in the state,” Schumacher says. “At the time it was one of the best in the country.”
The building’s stunning bas-relief Spanish Colonial Revival façade, etched with elaborate stone carvings, was designed by legendary Arizona architect Lester Byron. The intricate exterior molding of its entrance arch and several windows are carved with medical symbols and are inspired by California’s late 18th- and early 19th-century Spanish missions. Its lobby, renovated by Phoenix’s KQ Architects in 2019, features four murals depicting important moments in American medical history. Appointed with period-correct Mission-style furniture, the room is illuminated by high-ceilinged windows that fill the space with sunlight.
The building has changed hands over the years and seen several additions and expansions. Byron designed a rear extension of the clinic in 1952, and the firm of Haver, Nunn and Jensen added a several-story building in the late 1960s, expanding the two-story original into 51,000 square feet of medical complex. Formerly L-shaped, Grunow is now shaped more like a square, with an interior patio for staff and clients to enjoy.
“Grunow was interested in bringing medicine and good medical practice to everyone, not just the wealthy.”
—Steve Schumacher, Mayor’s Office City Historian
“Fortunately,” Jacquemart says, “Grunow has always been owned by people who care about it and haven’t tried to update or change its facade.” In 2017, the facility was purchased by Meridian, a California-based real estate developer intent on maintaining the building’s original character and purpose. In fact, Grunow is Phoenix’s only historic building to retain its
“Grunow Clinic is all the more impressive when you consider why it’s here,” Schumacher says. “It’s one of Phoenix’s architectural gems, a truly beautiful building. The idea that it’s been serving the good of the community for generations, and that it came out of a family’s grief over the death of their child, makes it feel even more like a gift to the city.”