William Henry Eustis, born in 1845 in New York State, was a prominent philanthropist, entrepreneur, and politician in Minnesota. After graduating from Columbia University’s law school, Eustis practiced in New York City and in Minneapolis, moving to Minnesota in 1881. Eustis served a single term as mayor of Minneapolis from 1893-1895. In addition to his law practice, Eustis built a fortune in real estate acquisition and development in partnership with his brother Gardner T. Eustis, also of Minneapolis. Eustis never married. He died on Thanksgiving Day 1928 at the age of 83.
Modeling himself after Andrew Carnegie, Eustis believed his wealth should be passed along to those in need. After suffering a debilitating accident at the age of fifteen, Eustis focused his gift giving to institutions that provided benefits to disabled children. During his life, Eustis gave large portions of his estate to the Dowling School in Minneapolis and provided the funds to establish the Minnesota Hospital and Home for Crippled Children. Construction began at the University in 1928 and the hospital included an outpatient department, two floors for hospitalized children with a space for an on site school, and an amphitheater for teaching purposes. In total, Eustis gave over $1 million dollars to the University, primarily for health care services. Eustis agreed to the University’s request to name the hospital and facilities after him in recognition of his generosity only after first refusing their overture.
Eustis saw the city of Minneapolis as a secularized manifestation of the proverbial City on the Hill, albeit with a river running through it. In a 1926 letter to the Board of Regents accompanying his gift of his final interest in the Flour and Corn Exchange Building, Eustis predicted,
The time is ripe under your guidance to establish here one of the great medical centers of the World. The helpful generosity of the Rockefeller Foundation, the genius of the University, and the old time spirit of Minneapolis united and working in the closest accord, bearing aloft the banner of Excelsior would establish here a beacon light of medical science and research that shall for all ages redound to the glory of man’s genius and the highest welfare of his being.
Only yesterday the barbers were our surgeons and the pharmacists our physicians. The time is short and the distance long between the barber’s pole and the Mayo clinic…The tide is at its flood. The golden opportunity is here, and I cannot believe that the heroic, civic spirit that once dominated Minneapolis will now be weighed in the balance and found wanting.
By the early 1930s, the Eustis Children’s Hospital and the Elliot Memorial Hospital with its newly expanded Christian and Todd wings provided inpatient care with outpatient and rehabilitation services at the University of Minnesota.
Elliot Hospital (center) and Eustis Hospital under construction (right), circa 1929.
In 1954 the Mayo Memorial Building opened as a consolidated health care delivery and education facility. The construction process of Mayo incorporated the Elliot and Eustis Hospitals as wings of the new health sciences center. Some services and operations that previously took place in Eustis Hospital were moved to other locations within Mayo. However, the Eustis Wing of Mayo still had an active hospital station (Station #35), audiology and dental clinics, and medical educational rooms including the Eustis Amphitheater.