Historical Timeline & Milestones
Since we admitted our first patients in 1874, Maine Medical Center has continuously evolved to meet the needs of the communities we serve. We are dedicated to caring for our communities, educating tomorrow's caregivers, and researching new ways to provide care in service.
We are the state’s largest medical center, licensed for 700 beds and employing more than 7,000 people. Our unique role as both a community hospital and a referral center requires an unparalleled depth and breadth of services, including the state’s only medical school, through a partnership with Tufts University School of Medicine, and a world-class biomedical research center, the MaineHealth Institute for Research.
Every evolution of our facilities, technology, and clinical procedures is rooted in our mission and vision, propelling Maine Medical Center to provide the safe, high-quality patient care we're known for throughout northern New England. The information below, although just a snapshot, can help you understand how healthcare and Maine Medical Center have evolved over time.
In February 1868, the State of Maine Passes “An Act to incorporate the Maine General Hospital.” Officers are elected, and the process of building a hospital on Bramhall’s Hill begins. Renowned architect Francis Fassett is selected to design the new Maine General Hospital. His original concept includes four pavilions around a central administration building. When the first patient is admitted on November 9, 1874, only the East pavilion and two outbuildings are complete. Two years later, the Central Building is added. After additional fundraising, the West pavilion and the Superintendent’s house are finished in 1892. The Italian Gothic design is brought into balance with the symmetry of several towers on the slate roof. Maine General Hospital is now an architectural landmark in Portland, as well as the new provider of the most up-to-date medical care available for the citizens of Maine.
From the hospital’s pavilions, patients have elevated views of the mountains, the sea, or the city. Most of the nursing care is given by students of the Maine General Hospital Training School for Nurses, which graduates its first class in 1887. Electricity replaces kerosene in 1892, though surgeons prefer using natural light whenever possible. In the new surgical amphitheater, nursing and medical students observe procedures and work alongside the most skilled practitioners in the state. Maine General Hospital becomes the clinical facility for the Portland School for Medical Instruction and the medical School of Maine at Bowdoin College. This reflects the vision of the 1867 Committee on the State General Hospital for MGH to be a school of “ . . . observation and instruction furnishing . . . the best means for proficiency and skill in the different departments of medicine and surgery.”
Doctors travel by horse and carriage as they visit hospitals and private homes in the early 1900s. In addition to attending patients in their offices, physicians often have privileges at facilities such as The Children’s Hospital, Maine Eye and Ear Infirmary, and St. Barnabas Hospital, as well as Maine General Hospital. From more widespread use of the x-ray to the medical advances made during the horrific combat of World War I, this is a time of significant improvement in diagnosis and treatment. New surgical procedures are developed, and physicians begin to specialize in areas such as orthopedics, obstetrics, and pathology. Medicine at Maine General Hospital moves from the “horse and buggy” days into an era of rapid clinical and technological progress.
The 1920s and 1930s are a time for considerable expansion at Maine General Hospital. New medical and surgical services are offered for X-ray, cardiology, and cancer, while a clinic is opened on India Street to care for patients. The hospital is rapidly outgrowing the original facility. A third pavilion is added in 1931 to provide private patient rooms and the latest advances in medical technology and treatment. The rest of the hospital is renovated to create space for special clinics and the various clinical disciplines. There are additional operating rooms and a new emergency department located directly behind the original hospital building. Among the new equipment are adjustable beds and an “iron lung” for the treatment of polio.
The outbreak of World War II is followed by the departure of many of our nurses and physicians as officers in the 67th General Hospital Unit. During the War, the hospital suffers shortages in resources and personnel, resulting in a dramatic increase in the need for the services of volunteers. The visiting Board of the Children’s Hospital, founded in 1910, continues fundraising activities at Maine General Hospital after the young patients are moved here in 1948. Years later, members help support the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital through sales from The Flower Box. In 1951, Maine General Hospital, the Maine Eye and Ear Infirmary, and Children’s Hospital merge to become Maine Medical Center.
The need for additional space requires several construction projects as we enter our second century of service. Nuclear medicine is available at Maine Medical Center with the completion of the Cobalt Unit in 1963. Eleven years later, the joint efforts of several hospitals, banks, and other organizations result in the opening of the Southern Maine Radiation Therapy Institute. Advances in cardiology lead to the first implantation of a miniature pacemaker here in 1963, the development of a cardiac intensive care unit (CICU) in 1967, and coronary bypass surgery in 1972. Ten years after the purchase of its first artificial kidney, Maine’s first kidney transplant is performed at Maine Medical Center. Home dialysis treatment is a possible option for some patients.
Completion of the L.L. Bean Building in 1985 provides expansion space for the Hatch Pavilion, a new Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, operating suites, and specialty departments. The Gibson pavilion for cancer patients and the inpatient unit of The Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital are added to the Bean Building in 1998. In 1991, the Maine Medical Center Research Institute is established to support the bench research that has been conducted at Maine Medical Center for decades. Ten years later, a new MMCRI facility is built on the Scarborough campus, creating a contemporary environment for bench, outcomes, and translational research. During the 1980s and 1990s, MMC establishes associations with hospitals from Sanford to Farmington, and a merger between the medical center and Brighton Medical Center is completed. Our parent organization, the Maine Medical Center Foundation, evolves and becomes MaineHealth, the state’s largest integrated health system. Special centers and clinics open around Greater Portland, allowing MMC to offer expanded services in more convenient settings.
We have been named one of “America’s Best Hospitals” by U.S. News & World Report, and is consistently listed among the top 100 cardiovascular hospitals. Advances at MMC include the 1,000th kidney transplant, the first pancreas transplant in Maine, widespread use of robotic surgery, and adoption of a safe patient and family centered care culture. Construction of MMC’s sister hospital for psychiatric care, Spring Harbor Hospital in Westbrook, is followed by the opening of Scarborough Surgery Center. The expansion of Maine Medical Center’s Emergency Department into the new Coulombe Family Tower helps meet the increasing needs of its community and the state. MMC’s Trauma Center is the busiest in Maine, serving as a gateway to the most advanced tertiary care in the state.
Surgery 2 is opened in 2015, which includes five new state-of-the-art operating rooms that were built to better meet the demand for routine and complex procedures performed today. Construction for the vertical expansion on top of the medical center’s lower Bean Building near the Emergency Department began in February 2014. The $40 million investment in a 41,361 sq. ft. expansion also includes 20 new spaces for surgery prep and recovery.
Planning for a $512 million expansion started in 2017. This will modernize the medical center’s facilities and ensure its ability to care for Maine’s sickest patients. The project increases the number of single rooms available to patients, replaces outdated surgical and treatment areas with ones that conform to 21st century standards and also invests $50 million in primary care and other outpatient facilities. The project also replaces the employee parking garage and will add capacity for additional patient parking. Learn more about our Modernization Project.
In 2022, the Maine Medical Center Research Institute is re-named the MaineHealth Institute for Research.