THR Harris Fort Worth Expands With Loyal Friend Louella Baker Martin at Its Side

In the early part of 1929, the local newspaper in town featured a full-page ad beseeching her fellow citizens to get involved in a pivotal project.

Its banner headline read: “At the wise insistence of the business leaders of Fort Worth, it is now planned to raise $500,000 to complete and open this entire building.”

Included was a picture of the proposed Methodist Hospital. The body copy continued with the rest of this urgent message: “Aside from a very few loyal farsighted citizens, the response during the first three days of the campaign has been unsatisfactory and indicates a lack of interest which is hard to believe of our citizenship.

“This appeal is now made to arouse us to action — and to giving — in order that our hospital needs may be met and the good name of Fort Worth protected against the charge of failure or of claiming success under the guise of a half-completed job.

“Fort Worth needs the entire Methodist Hospital in operation and our responsibility cannot be discharged until this is made possible by the raising of $500,000.”

It seems likely that that ad came by way of directive of Amon Carter, the publisher of the Star-Telegram and at the head of the committee raising the money.

That capital campaign eventually raised more than $1 million — just as the Great Depression formed its hardened grip on society that fall — for the $1.5 million Methodist Hospital that opened in 1930. Today, the building is the Harris Tower of Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth.

One who has never needed any cajoling or arm twisting is the family of Louella “Lou” Baker Martin, who has over the past 100 years given generously to civic and Methodist causes.

Martin’s parents, Edward and Maxine Baker — two of those “farsighted citizens” — gave plentifully for the construction of Methodist Hospital and almost 100 years later that affiliation remains as strong today as then with Martin’s formative gift to the soon-to-open Jane and John Justin Tower, which will welcome its first patients on April 2.

This too was a pivotal project for a community encountering the challenges that come with substantial growth.

The tower represents the largest construction project in the history of THR, said president Joseph DeLeon, adding 144 beds, 15 surgery suites and new pre- and postoperative services. In total, the nine-story building will add 400,000 square feet to the 1.7 million square feet of the Harris campus downtown. The total cost of the project was $300 million.

Justin Tower will increase surgical capacity by almost 30%, with dedicated neurosurgery and orthopedics operating suites. The advanced surgical suites are twice the size of existing operating rooms to accommodate modern, state-of-the-art robotic and imaging technology and are sized to accommodate even larger equipment in the future. They feature stainless steel walls to aid in environmental sterility. The additional surgical capacity will reduce patient wait times.

All 144 patient rooms are private and can be modified to provide varying levels of care, from general medical-surgical to critical care. Additionally, the eighth floor features 36 patient rooms that can be made into isolation rooms. Other design elements include the use of natural light, patient-friendly wayfinding, indoor and outdoor spaces for visitors, artwork — all from 15 local artists — and a soothing, home-like environment.

Additionally, there’s room to increase capacity with additional floors in the future to meet the continuing population surge that we are only beginning to experience. Tarrant County’s population is 1.2 million and growing like a weed.

“It’s going to be an incredible value asset to Fort Worth,” said DeLeon.

To demonstrate appreciation for Martin’s generous support, the tower’s lobby will be named The Baker Martin Lobby, which gives the most welcoming feel to guests with abstract art elements, including glass, representing the calming flow of the Trinity River. All of the ground floor includes artwork representative of Fort Worth and her culture.

“From its beginnings to present day, Texas Health Fort Worth exists, grows and continues to evolve to meet the needs of those it serves thanks to the support and commitment of community members like Lou Baker Martin and her family,” said DeLeon. “We are a better hospital because of their generosity.”

Martin made her gift through the Louella Martin Charitable Fund at the North Texas Community Foundation.

“We’ve always based our philosophy on the fact that we’ve been so blessed, we’d been given so much, that we need to give back to the community,” Martin said. “That’s the Methodist creed really.”

For Martin, that ethos had been handed down through the generations. Her great-grandmother and namesake, Louella Bales, used to deliver food and share the word of God to those in need in Fort Worth by horse and buggy. Bales and Martin’s grandfather, James Baker, helped build the First United Methodist Church of Fort Worth’s original one-story chapel at the corner of Fourth and Jones Street in downtown Fort Worth.

Later, James Baker served as the building committee chairman for the present church. James Baker founded Baker Bros. Nursery, which was taken over by his sons Edward and J.B. The Bakers furnished the elm tree that President Theodore Roosevelt planted in front of the Fort Worth Public Library downtown in 1904. (It was moved to the Will Rogers Memorial Center grounds but has since disappeared from the landscape, according to the city.)

Edward Baker was also active in real estate development and home construction. His development initiatives included the Wedgewood neighborhood, Richland Hills, and the Richland Hills Industrial Park.

Baker was also twice elected to the Fort Worth City Council and a board member of the hospital. He died in 1969 at age 65. Maxine passed away in 1985. 

“The generosity of Lou Martin and her family extends far beyond Texas Health,” said Laura McWhorter, president of the Texas Health Resources Foundation. “Their contributions through the years have helped shape Fort Worth into the community that it is today and will continue to improve the lives of its residents for generations to come.”

Martin said supporting Texas Health Fort Worth is important because of the role the hospital has played in the community and to her own family.

“It’s just a wonderful hospital,” she said. Supporting the construction of the Justin Tower, she said, was also a way to honor the memories of Jane and John Justin Jr., longtime supporters of the First United Methodist Church whose foundation provided the lead gift for the project.

“We Methodists stick together,” Martin quipped.

Amen to that.

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