Nix Hospital


By: William V. Scott

Type: General Entry

Published: July 20, 2022

Updated: July 20, 2022


The Nix Hospital, which opened as the J. M. Nix Professional Building and was later known as the Nix Medical Center, was a 208-bed acute care hospital located at 414 Navarro Street in downtown San Antonio. When opened in 1930, the Nix Professional Building cost more than $1.5 million. Designed by architect Henry T. Phelps, the Nix was a Gothic-style structure, reaching twenty-four stories from the banks of the San Antonio River, and was deemed “the first of its kind in the world.” Businessman and developer Joseph Madison Nix had bought the property from the heirs of Ferdinand Ludwig Herff in 1920. The site, which the San Antonio Light in 1909 described as the “most valuable piece of residential property in San Antonio,” was the former homesite of the distinguished surgeon. At its completion the Nix was the largest and tallest hospital in the United States and during its formal opening on November 16, 1930, boasted of a basement with a cafeteria, tailor shop, and barbershop; a main lobby with marble floors and brass fixtures; eight floors of parking space; ten floors for office space; and a 200-bed hospital on the top six floors. It was the only hospital with doctor's offices, hospital beds, and a parking garage all in one building. This idea of a vertical “medical mall” was the one-stop health care concept of J. M. Nix, who was also a major investor in the Medical Arts Building and other landmarks in San Antonio. The Nix Hospital stood as one of the tallest buildings in San Antonio for many years. Because of the building's sharp angles, the famed view from the River Walk presents an optical illusion that the facing wall is one-dimensional. The Nix’s first patient was admitted on November 1, 1930, and the state-of-the-art building was dedicated later that month.

By 1941, in its first decade of operation, the Nix Hospital had admitted 44,000 patients. Though J. M. Nix died from a stroke in May 1932, the Nix family continued to own and manage the hospital until 1984. During the fifty-four-year tenure of the Nix family, the hospital was upgraded with central air-conditioning, modernized medical equipment, and brand new operating rooms. In 1984 the hospital was purchased by local physicians and businessmen, and between 1984 and 2004 the Nix was one of only a few investor-owned, independent hospitals operating in the nation. In 1985 the Nix was a seventy-eight-bed medical-surgical hospital. On March 15, 2004, the Nix Medical Center was sold to Merit Health Systems, LLC, a medical management firm based in Louisville, Kentucky.

From its beginning, the Nix was lauded as a “high-end facility,” that housed many of San Antonio’s most respected physicians. Through the years the hospital boasted some of the city’s first medical advancements, including the first cardiac catheterization, first intravenous feeding, first cobalt therapy for cancer patients, along with advancements in snakebite treatment and orthopedics. In later years the Nix included the MRI, endocardiology lab, a bone-density machine, mammography, nuclear medicine, and ultrasound. In fall 2004 the radiology department, housed on the fifteenth floor, was installed with an advanced Philips Brilliance 40 slice computed tomography (CT) scanner. The state-of-the-art technology attracted patients from across Texas and Mexico to utilize this service. In November 2005 the Nix Hospital celebrated its seventy-fifth anniversary.

Merit Health Systems sold the Nix Medical Center to the Los Angeles-based company Prospect Medical Holdings in 2012. In September 2019 Prospect Medical Holdings announced that it would close the ninety-year-old hospital due to "a decline in community demand for its acute care services at the downtown location.” When Nix Health was deemed to close, as many as 585 jobs would be eliminated. Effective December 2, 2019, all entities of Nix Health were closed, including Nix Medical Center, Nix Alamo Heights, Nix Behavioral Health Center, Nix Sleep Clinic, Nix Specialty Health Center-Behavioral, and Nix Home Care. In January 2020 InnJoy San Antonio LLC, a company of Innjoy Hospitality, a South Texas hotel management enterprise, purchased the historic downtown building that previously housed Nix Medical Center and planned to convert the structure into a mixed-use facility for housing and business use.

Among the famous people born at the Nix Hospital are Carol Burnett, an American actress, comedian, singer, and writer; Lt. Col. Oliver North, a combat-decorated U.S. Marine officer, author, and political commentator; and Henry Cisneros, who served as San Antonio's former mayor from 1981 to 1989, and as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in the administration of President Bill Clinton from 1993 to 1997. The Nix Professional Building was designated a historic landmark by the city of San Antonio.

William J. Hillis, M.D., comp., Jan Schubert, ed., Stories of the Nix Hospital, 1930–2005 (San Antonio: Nix Health Care Foundation, 2005). Nix Health (https://www.nixhealth.com/), accessed July 5, 2022. San Antonio Current, January 3, 2020. San Antonio Express, November 16, 1930. San Antonio Express-News, April 18, 2015; August 9, 2019; September 3, 2019. SBG San Antonio Staff Reports, “The Nix Professional Building becomes largest and tallest hospital in the world in 1930,” NEWS4SA, November 16, 2020 (https://news4sanantonio.com/news/local/the-nix-professional-building-becomes-largest-and-tallest-hospital-in-the-world-in-1930), accessed July 5, 2022. Staff of the San Antonio Express-News, San Antonio: Our Story of 150 Years (San Antonio: Trinity University Press, 2015).

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

William V. Scott, “Nix Hospital,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 18, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/nix-hospital.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

July 20, 2022
July 20, 2022

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: