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The first local-history question I remember being asked nearly 40 years ago was, “What became of General Hospital?”

I did not know, yet I answered, “Has it changed channels?” I was, of course, alluding to the TV soap opera, “General Hospital.”

The real Seattle General Hospital had its beginnings in 1895 when a group of women rallied on behalf of creating a second, Protestant, hospital for the city. After operating at two other locations, the hospital opened in November 1900 in the building pictured here, on Fifth Avenue.

In those days, local papers would report on the progress of patients, and Seattle General garnered lots of news. For instance, in The Seattle Times of March 26, 1905, we learn that “Mrs. George B. McCulloch, who underwent a successful operation for appendicitis Tuesday, is at the Seattle General Hospital, where she will remain until convalescent.” News about celebrity appendectomies, like that on April 1, 1903, for Puget Mills owner E.G. Ames, were often headlined in bold type.

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But after 70 years of serving on Fifth, directly across Marion Street from its spiritual and fiscal adviser, the First Methodist Church, this brick landmark was sold to the Bank of California for about $1 million. Patients were moved to the former Maynard Hospital on First Hill, and demolition began on April 29, 1971. Soon the slender bank, which can be seen in part in the repeat, took to the sky. And the old brick landmark? It was missed, and in those early years I was asked about it often.

In October 1975 the governing boards of three Seattle hospitals — Doctors, Swedish and Seattle General — agreed to merge under the name Swedish Medical Center. To me, a Dane, the Scandinavian choice was a wise one, with connotations of competence and compassion. By now we know Swedish very well, but it seems no one — or only a few — still asks about Seattle General.

As for the other “General Hospital,” it is the oldest TV soap opera still breathing.

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