Cullinan established a fund for hospital construction in honor of his son John Halm Cullinan, a World War I casualty, and in gratitude to the black soldiers who tended his son before he died.
Riverside General Hospital, originally known as the Houston Negro Hospital, was founded in 1927. The hospital has contributed to the local community, most notably the underserved populations, for 90 years. In the early 1900s a group of black doctors petitioned for a hospital to be opened in Houston’s Third Ward to serve patients who would not be treated elsewhere due to financial or racial reasons. The group of doctors – RUPERT ROETT, CHARLES JACKSON, BENJAMIN COVINGTON, HENRY LEE and F. F. STONE – were able to begin construction in 1925 as a result of funds from JOSEPH S. CULLINAN, Houston philanthropist and founder of the Texas Company. Cullinan established a fund for hospital construction in honor of his son John Halm Cullinan, a World War I casualty, and in gratitude to the black soldiers who tended his son before he died. The City of Houston donated land for the hospital, which was dedicated on June 19, 1926, and officially opened in July 1927.
Houston Negro Hospital had the distinction of being Houston’s first nonprofit hospital for African American patients. The facility was staffed with all black physicians and had an all-black board of directors. In 1931 Houston Negro Hospital Nursing School opened on the grounds. The school was established to train black nurses and was the first educational institution of its kind in Houston.
Originally, the hospital did not attract as many patients as it had hoped. By the mid-1930s financial problems and the lack of patients forced the nursing school to close and even threatened the entire facility. Funds from Houston’s Community Chest aided the hospital to a financial recovery. After adding such improvements as an x-ray facility and laboratory in conjunction with beginning a new form of insurance that guaranteed treatment for all individuals, the number of patients increased drastically. For more than 40 years the hospital’s founders and physicians attempted to introduce and perfect their healthcare system. In 1957 a new wing was added. Ultimately, the original structures of the hospital were allocated as historical sites. The new building, which was completed in 1961, was named Riverside General Hospital.
During the 1970s Riverside suffered more difficulties as physicians left to practice in other major hospitals in the city, taking their patients with them. Efforts were made to renovate the building during the 1980s and 1990s. Riverside also increased its substance abuse treatment and expanded programs and support groups with a special focus on addiction and mental health disorders. In 1995 the hospital purchased other properties in Harris County. In the 21st century, Riverside General Hospital remained committed to the underserved populations of the region and provided medical treatment for individuals who were not able to receive the services elsewhere.