Though major, public-healthcare facilities in Los Angeles were not legally segregated, African Americans were typically underserved and their physicians unwelcome as staff members. Dr. Richard S. Whitaker tried to solve this problem in 1924 by opening the first, minority-owned, private hospital in Los Angeles—the 20-bed Dunbar Hospital. Dunbar Hospital operated until 1938 providing healthcare to the growing, minority population with a nurturing, collegial atmosphere for the few African American physicians in the area. (Jennifer Vanore, The Call to Care: Religion and the Making of Modern Healthcare Industry, 1930-1980)
When Dunbar Hospital closed, a group of 25, African American, healthcare professionals recognized that the minority population would again be underserved. The Los Angeles' physicians and dentists each pledged $1,000 to fund planning and construction of a new hospital. West View Hospital was to be the first “interracial, non-sectarian, non-profit hospital, open to every race, creed and color in the finest tradition of American democracy.” (The Negro’s Who’s Who In California, 1948)
The West View Hospital Association purchased property on Main Street and began to raise money for a 300-bed hospital in their community. “West View will be a modern up-to-the-minute hospital serving Los Angeles in its entirety and providing South Los Angeles with its only class-A Hospital. It will be operated by the community for the community on a nonprofit basis, its non-sectarian, inter-racial policy will serve as an example, that men and women of different races and religions can work side by side for the welfare of all people.” The group selected Paul R. Williams to design the hospital.
The Association found it difficult to raise funds exclusively from the African American community. In 1946 Harpo Marx, an actor and comedian, became aware of the fund-raising drive and made it one of his philanthropic priorities. Using his elite status in Hollywood, he enlisted friends in the Jewish and entertainment communities along with many social agencies (such as the Junior League) to adopt the project. Marx successfully promoted the hospital project and the Los Angeles Daily News (March 8, 1946) named it The Cause of the Year. Benefits and concerts were held across the city.
Despite Marx’s efforts, by 1950 only $200,000 of the needed $1.2 million was raised to meet the deadline for Federal government matching funds. (Toledo Blade, September 26) A group of 100 civic leaders met in an emergency meeting at the Ambassador Hotel to relaunch the campaign. They christened the new campaign, Let's Finish It. Post Master Michael D. Fanning served as Chairman and said in a Los Angeles Times (September 17, 1950) interview, the "response of those attending tonight's affair indicates not only tremendous interest but tremendous energy and willingness to see the job through."
Archbishop J. Francis McIntyre used the influence of the Catholic Church to further the funding drive. In a series of interviews he stressed the importance of the new medical facility for the health of the city and its underserved minority neighborhoods. The Archbishop offered the services of the Roman Catholic Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart, experienced professional hospital administrators, to operate the facility. Paul R. Williams was again selected in 1951 to redesign a smaller 100-bed St. Augustine Westview Hospital. The “nonsectarian and nonprofit hospital will be erected in the center of an area…which has 300,000 residents, but no general hospital to serve them.”
Harpo Marx and his Hollywood friends announced an additional series of benefits supporting the new hospital drive. Shortly thereafter, the Federal government slashed support to California hospitals including funding for new facilities. To keep their hopes of a new hospital alive, "Volunteers held an all-day cleanup party to remove weeds and debris from the site." (Los Angeles Times, October 21, 1950)
Efforts would continue through 1952 but the hospital was never completed.