Valley Baptist History

A History of Compassionate Service and Care

Both Valley Baptist Medical Center locations in Harlingen and Brownsville had humble beginnings in the early days of the 20th century. Each hospital can trace its roots back to dedicated doctors and visionary citizens in their respective communities.


It was 1913 when in Brownsville, Texas, Miss Nora Kelly opened the Charity Home on Madison Street to serve the homeless. Two years later, the Mexican Revolution brought about the need for a place that could provide medical care. People were fleeing north across the border into Brownsville, some needing treatment for wartime injuries, while others were suffering from diseases such as yellow fever and diphtheria.

Ms. Kelly received a donation of $14,000 from the Stillman Family — one of the founding families of Brownsville — to address this problem. In 1917, Divine Providence Hospital opened with the Sisters of Mercy at the helm. This facility quickly proved to be too small for a growing Brownsville.


mercy-hospital-1920s-run08545Thanks to a donation of land from James Stillman, and the generosity of other Brownsville residents, Mercy Hospital opened in July 1923. That same year, 25 miles away in Harlingen, another hospital was being formed by a group of dedicated citizens who saw the need for a modern medical facility.

These residents, including Dr. N. A. Davidson, Dr. G.W. Letzerick, S. G. Stringer and Judge Fred Bennett, set out to build on a foundation that had been laid by Harlingen’s original 10-bed hospital on "F" Street, between Harrison and Tyler streets, in a converted frame house owned by Mrs. Ida Gilbert. Harlingen’s new 36-bed hospital was also built on "F" Street, a few blocks away from the original facility. Valley Baptist Hospital, owned by the Lower Rio Grande Valley Baptist Association, opened as a not-for-profit community hospital on January 22, 1925.


1920s-on-f-street-valley-baptist-hospitalOver the years, both hospitals experienced rapid growth and changes in ownership. In Harlingen, the Baptist General Convention of Texas acquired the hospital in 1945. It moved to its present location, on Pease Street off Ed Carey Drive, in 1956.

In Brownsville, a new wing and major renovations were added in 1952, resulting in an emergency room, a pediatric unit, a new laboratory and an operating room. In 1963, 52 more beds, a labor and delivery area, surgical suites and a radiology department were added. The hospital was operated by the Sisters of Mercy and known as Mercy Hospital or “La Merced” for 50 years until 1973, when it came under corporate ownership and became Brownsville Medical Center.


A six-story South Tower was built at Valley Baptist—Harlingen in the 1980s, followed by the four-story East Tower in 1998. The East Tower features the Valley’s first Children’s Center for pediatric patients, the only Pediatric Intensive Care Unit in Cameron County; a “Mother-Baby” obstetrical unit that emphasizes family-centered maternity care; a 32-bed gynecology unit; Harlingen’s only Newborn Intensive Care Unit; convenient areas for outpatient services; a 30-bed Day Surgery Center; new operating rooms, a 32-room state-of-the-art Emergency Department; and a roof-top heliport. This increased the total beds at Valley Baptist—Harlingen to 586 — making it by far the largest hospital in Cameron County.

Valley Baptist—Brownsville had part of the original 1923 building demolished and replaced with a three-story patient tower in 1983. In 1999, the third floor of a Women’s Center and Emergency Department three-story tower opened. This addition included 10 Labor/Delivery/Recovery Suites, four Women’s Surgery Suites, observation areas and an expanded 34-bed neonatal intensive care nursery. In 1999, the Edelstein Professional Building opened on the Brownsville campus, housing additional physician offices.


In Harlingen, a six-story Medical Arts Pavilion for physician offices was built in 2001, while from 2003 to 2004 in Brownsville, we expanded our radiology department. In the last decade, the Edelstein Professional Building opened on the Brownsville campus, housing additional physician offices. Valley Baptist-Brownsville now has 243 beds at its main campus at Central Blvd. and West Jefferson, making it the largest hospital in Brownsville.

In 2011, Valley Baptist—Harlingen became certified specifically for knee and hip replacement surgeries by the national accrediting organization, The Joint Commission. ;To this day, patients from across the country come to Valley Baptist for orthopedic surgery.

Also in 2011, Valley Baptist—Brownsville completed construction to new surgery suites, which benefit patients who need a wide variety of surgeries, including laparoscopic and other minimally invasive surgeries.

In 2012, both Valley Baptist—Harlingen and Valley Baptist—Brownsville added new state-of-the-art robots. The more precise surgery with Valley Baptist’s da Vinci® Si robotic system meant smaller incisions, less pain and faster recoveries for patients in many cases. Valley Baptist hospitals remain the only facilities in Cameron County offering robotic surgery.

That same year, Valley Baptist—Harlingen became the first Valley hospital to offer lifesaving interventional stroke procedures, in which medications to reverse a stroke are administered through catheters (thin tubes) directly to arteries supplying blood to a patient’s brain. Valley Baptist—Harlingen and Valley Baptist—Brownsville were also the first Rio Grande Valley hospitals to be accredited as “Primary Stroke Centers” by the national accrediting organization for health care facilities, The Joint Commission, and by the State of Texas.

Over the last four years, Valley Baptist has not stopped bringing new services to the communities we serve, and being recognized for our achievements. In 2016, Valley Baptist- Harlingen was again certified by the Joint Commission for knee and hip care. Valley Baptist- Brownsville has offered Navio robotic assisted knee replacement since 2013, and now has the medical staff and equipment for anterior hip replacements. Both hospitals received regional recognition in 2015 from US News and World Reports, and both hospitals were voted “Best of the Best” by the communities they serve

The Future of Valley Baptist Care

Looking to the future together, Valley Baptist—Harlingen and Valley Baptist—Brownsville remain committed to continuing a tradition of excellence and to serving our communities with advances in medicine and state-of-the-art equipment, capably handled through the caring, human touch of our dedicated doctors, nurses and staff.