Mary Greeley Medical Center, which opened in 1916, was a gift to Ames from Captain Wallace Greeley, an officer in the Union Army during the Civil War who went on to become a prominent banker, businessman and mayor of Ames during the 19th and early 20th centuries. His beloved wife, Mary, died in 1914, leading her grieving husband to build the hospital and give it to the community.
At the hospital’s dedication on September 24, 1916, which was attended by more than 2,000 people, Captain Greeley eulogized his wife by saying, "It affords me great pleasure, more than words can express, that I contribute something towards the welfare of not only those now in need, but also for those who will be here long after we have passed away."
Wallace Greeley was born on a farm in Orleans County, on the south side of Lake Ontario, in New York, in 1838. He was a second cousin of the famous New York Times editor Horace Greeley. Wallace volunteered in the Union Army in 1861 during the Civil War. By the war's end, he had attained the rank of major, but preferred to be called captain.
Mary Victoria Young was born in Villanova, New York, on February 27, 1847.
Mary was a teacher and met Wallace at a teacher's institute in Ellicottville, New York He was a schoolmaster at the time.
On November 8, 1866, Mary, 19, and Wallace, 27, were married. Two years later, they moved to a farm in Ames, Iowa, and had two children, both of whom passed away in infancy. Mary died in their home on December 31, 1914, after a long illness.
Not long after arriving in Ames – it was a village of 100 people at the time – Wallace used $3,200 in Union Army pay he had saved to purchase 200 acres of farmland in Section 16 of Washington Township. Today, the Gateway Center, the Green Hills Retirement complex, a number of condominiums and part of the Highway 30 interchange with University Boulevard are on the land.
In 1881, Captain Greeley founded Ames' first corporate bank, originally the Union Bank. Today it is known as US Bank. He was the mayor of Ames from 1881 to 1890. He served three terms in the Iowa Legislature. He was also on the Ames school board and with his wife, served on the Ames Public Library board.
In 1882, the Greeleys built their home at 502 Douglas Ave. Because Mary was only 4 feet 10 inches tall, all the doorknobs were two and one-half feet off the ground, compared to the three-foot standard. The former Greeley residence is now a funeral home. Among the wealthiest couples in Ames, the Greeleys entertained and had public social gatherings in their home. Though a shy and private person, Mary gave an annual soiree, which was a prominent Ames event.
Mary had a deep appreciation for the arts. She was a self-taught painter, and many of her pieces adorned the walls in her home. She had the first grand piano in Ames. It was through this love of the arts that the Greeleys donated the original site for the Ames Public Library, which is now the site of the Octagon Center.
Greeley's Vision Achieved
Memorial Hospital, 1916
After Mary's death, Wallace began to envision a memorial hospital, which he announced on July 29, 1915. At the time, there were 10 medical physicians and two osteopathic physicians in Ames. Captain Greeley consulted with these physicians about where to locate the new hospital and what to include in the building. He also brought in a medical specialist from Chicago who was nationally known as a consultant in design and construction of hospitals.
The Iowa Agricultural College, now Iowa State University, had a small hospital on campus that was open half days beginning in 1885. But prior to 1916, Ames had no hospital facilities for its citizens. The closest hospital was the sanitarium, operated by the Seventh Day Adventists in the nearby community of Nevada. The Ames physician group advised Captain Greeley to purchase the land between Eleventh and Twelfth streets on the east side of Douglas. Among the advantages of that site was that it would provide the opportunity for future expansion. On December 29, 1915, construction began on the Mary Greeley Memorial Hospital building. The original cost of the Mary Greeley Memorial Hospital was $80,000, plus a $3,000 personal check from Captain Greeley to be used for equipment and furnishings.
Four months after the opening of Mary Greeley Memorial Hospital, Captain Greeley passed away in his home on February 15, 1917, of a stroke. He is entombed with his wife and her parents in a mausoleum in the Ames Municipal Cemetery.