May 30, 2012
LIMA — It was commissioned in 1903, and it continues today.A statue titled “The Dawn of a New Era: Dr. Jenner Vaccinating His Son, A.D. 1798” stands at Lima Memorial Health System. Now partially enclosed to protect it from the elements, the sandstone statue was commissioned by the Drs. Steiner.The Steiner family produced many physicians serving this area. Isaac Steiner was born March 16, 1830, in Wayne County. He and his second wife produced four physicians. Dr. David W. Steiner died of typhoid, and Dr. Samuel Gideon “Gideon” Steiner practiced in New Orleans. But this area came to know Dr. Isaac Franklin “Frank” Steiner and Dr. Oliver Silas Steiner well. Further, one non-medical son produced Dr. David L. Steiner. This man would go on to practice medicine with his uncles Frank and Oliver.Brothers David, Oliver and Frank Steiner commissioned the statue from an unknown sculptor from Toledo for their new office building on North Elizabeth Street. “Work was commenced today on the removal of the old frame dwelling house situated immediately north of the Trinity church parsonage on North Elizabeth Street, preparatory to the construction of a three-story brick block that will be built by the Drs. Steiner. The building will be three stories high, will have a frontage of 50 feet on Elizabeth Street and a depth of 70 feet. The first floor will be devoted to office and consultation rooms that will be occupied by the physicians and the second and third floors will be arranged by tenement flats,” according to a Sept. 4, 1902, newspaper story.Two years later, an item reported the Drs. Steiner had bought more property to secure the place for their new building. It was what today is just north of the downtown Kewpee location. It went from the alley (Cherry Alley) north.“While the new building is projected to occupy only the north half of this plot it is known to be only a question of time when Dr. David Steiner will build upon his ground lying immediately north of the flat building, thus solidly filling the frontage from the alley north of the Trinity property to High Street,” a July 25, 1911, story spectulated.The building eventually became retail space on the ground floor, offices on the middle floors and apartments on the top floors. It was remodeled often to suit the needs of the stores on the first floor. A second building later went up to the north.When the original was finished, it was built with a niche facing the street on the first-floor level specially made to hold the Jenner statue. The Drs. Steiner had a print depicting the scene with Jenner and his son in their offices — and that was significant because Jenner was proving his belief in the efficacy of the smallpox vaccine he had invented.In 1927, however, a remodel again was called for. It was decided that the first floor offices should be lowered to street level. Early photographs show the original architecture featured a main entrance with one small set of stairs from the street. Why the doctors decided to remodel the building so drastically is unknown — but what is known is the remodel added windows, which necessitated the removal of the statue and its niche.The project became drastically bigger a few years later, when the Metropolitan Bank took residence in that first floor. It would eventually buy the building and later raze the original Steiner building altogether to make room for progress.But what of the statue? It found a home at Lima Memorial Hospital.“This inscription, appearing on a stone tablet behind an impressive statue in front of the new Lima Memorial Hospital, is doubly significant. It not only is symbolic of a fearless pioneer of preventive medicine, as the donors of the statue, Drs. Oliver and Frank Steiner, Lima, pointed out, but is apropos because it heralds the dawn of a new hospitalization era in Lima. This is not the first time the statue, depicting the physician holding his son on his knee ... has won recognition in Lima. Nearly 30 years ago, a world-famous sculptor, according to Dr. Oliver Steiner, obtained a picture of the medical operation, as it then was known, from the office of Dr. Steiner, and from this, the artist made a plaster model. Using the model for a guide, the sculptor hewed the statue from a solid block of sandstone at the site of the old Steiner building on North Elizabeth Street. It was placed above the entrance to the building and remained there until carefully removed about eight years ago under the supervision of Lyman T. Strong, Lima architect. It was turned over the board of trustees of City Hospital by the Lima physician about two years ago,” a story reported May 29, 1933.In 1942, the Drs. Steiner closed their medical practice. Dr. David L. Steiner, the nephew, was called to service in the Navy. Dr. Oliver Steiner had suffered a heart attack. Dr. Frank Steiner had retired a few years prior.In the 1950s, the Steiner Drug Store operated in the Steiner building before the Metropolitan Bank needed room to grow. The original building came down in the early 1960s, but the statue survives. Today, it stands between the main entrance and the emergency department. It's in disrepair, and there are tentative plans to remove it and erect a plaque commemorating the donation.Before the nursing school was closed in 1971, the nurses used to kid new hospital operators, said Ruby Kreher, secretary/treasurer of the Lima Memorial Hospital School of Nursing Alumna. She said they'd call and ask for Dr. Jenner to be paged.