Indianapolis has been the location of a vast Veterans Administration (VA) hospital system since 1932. Through the efforts of Indiana congressman Louis L. Ludlow and local veterans organizations, the first Veterans Administration hospital in Indianapolis opened that year. The hospital was built on about 30 acres of land along Cold Spring Road, which William Fortune gave to the United States government in 1931. This $500,000 facility (over $9.4 million in 2020) was the first general medical and surgical VA hospital in the state.

The four-story hospital is made of brick and stone. Dormer windows are along the roof. The main entrance has three arched doors. A cupola tops the roof. A flagpole is in front of the building.
The Veterans Administration Hospital on Cold Spring Road, 1932 Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source

Between 1932 and 1939, the hospital expanded its original 172-bed capacity to 342 beds on three floors. By the end of World War II, however, there were serious overcrowding problems. Rather than expand the existing facility once more, the VA solved this dilemma by establishing a new 500-bed hospital on West 10th  Street near the Indiana University School Of Medicine. The former Billings U.S. Army General Hospital at Fort Benjamin Harrison served as a temporary VA hospital during the construction of the new facility, from 1946 to 1953. In 1952, the new hospital opened, making it one of the most modern facilities in the VA system. The following year, the Cold Spring Road hospital was converted into a special tuberculosis treatment center.

In 1956, the VA consolidated the Cold Spring Road and 10th  street hospitals into a single management system, the Indianapolis Veterans Administration Medical Center.

A nine-story brick hospital building.
Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital at West 10th Street, 1952 Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source

Throughout the late 1960s, many changes were made to the Cold Spring Road facility. In 1965, the second floor of the hospital was converted into a nursing home care unit. After both a renal dialysis unit and an intermediate care unit were added in 1967, the hospital was reclassified as a general medical and surgical hospital making it the last VA hospital designated for tuberculosis.

The Indianapolis Veterans Administration Medical Center was the largest VA General Medical and Surgical hospital in the state by 1969. It had 717 beds, 1000 staff, 1500 volunteers, 7 surgical rooms, a clinical and pathology laboratory, a radiology department, a pharmacy, rehabilitation services, dental services, and ongoing research projects.

A modern hospital building with glass entrance.
Roudebush VA Hospital, 2005 Credit: Indiana University Indianapolis View Source

In 1982, the VA renamed the medical center the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center in honor of former Indiana congressman and VA administrator Richard L. Roudebush.

Many changes came throughout the mid-1990s, among which included $72 million worth of renovations as well as extended services offered to the spouses and dependents of veterans. In 1995, the Cold Spring Road facility, which by now included psychiatric and addiction services, was marked for closure despite the $20 million that had been put into renovations there. Patients were sent to the 10th  street location, and by 1996, the Cold Spring Road hospital was taken over by Larue Carter Hospital.

After consolidating to a single hospital, Roudebush VA Medical Center began expanding its outpatient services, totaling six satellite clinics by 2016. The VA medical center provides both inpatient and outpatient care through multiple locations in Central Indiana. The center provides nearly 70,000 Veterans and their dependents with medical, surgical, psychiatric, neurological, and rehabilitation services annually.

Revised March 2021

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